Donald Cerrone was in uncharted territory entering his UFC Fight Night 126 main event against Yancy Medeiros on Sunday in Austin, Texas. On a three-fight losing streak for the first time in his career, he had arrived at a potential crossroads. Medeiros turned out to be the perfect opponent for Cerrone, as he showed off the skills that have made him a fan favorite for years.
Cerrone’s game plan was evident from the start, as he appeared content to sit on the outside and allow Medeiros to dictate the pace with his aggressive standup. Meanwhile, “Cowboy” played to his back foot and looked to capitalize with a counter shot during one of the many wild exchanges that took place. Cerrone’s opportunity came at the 10-second warning, when he connected with a stiff right hook to the Hawaiian’s jaw. The impact put Medeiros on skates before he tumbled to the canvas and was met with fight-ending shots from Cerrone.
Afterward, relief emanated from the Cerrone corner. He not only broke out of a three-fight skid but tied Georges St. Pierre and Michael Bisping for first on the UFC’s all-time wins list with 20. When asked what was next, the Jackson-Wink MMA export remained true to the mantra by which he has lived: “You guys know the drill. Anytime, any place. All I need to know is when and where.”
Derrick Lewis walked into his co-headliner against Poland’s Marcin Tybura with a renewed sense of optimism. While he was on the rebound following his technical knockout loss to Mark Hunt in June, the Houston-based heavyweight felt healthy for the first time in recent memory. Lewis seems to have recovered from the back injury that hampered his development and impacted his performance.
Lewis enjoyed some early success with his power punches -- he even dropped Tybura at one point -- but could not manage to put away the former M-1 Global champion. Tybura had turned the tide by the end of Round 1, as he advanced to full mount and applied his ground-and-pound. He tightened his grip on the fight in the second round, and Lewis’ chance to deliver one of his signature knockouts seemed to be fading fast.
Tybura wandered into oncoming traffic in the third round. Lewis denied his bid for a takedown, pushed him to the fence and created the separation he needed to rattle the Pole with a crushing right hand to the jaw. Tybura slumped to the ground, where he was met with a burst of devastating punches that ended the fight. Lewis’ nine finishes rank second on the UFC’s all-time list for heavyweights, trailing only former champion Cain Velasquez.
A Maddening Ascent
James Vick marched into his main card battle against Brazilian veteran Francisco Trinaldo with a chip on his shoulder. At 8-1 and on a three-fight winning streak, he wondered what it might take to nail down a date with one of the lightweight division’s elite. Vick channeled his frustration into a systematic unanimous decision that left him on the cusp at 155 pounds. After the win, he called out everyone who is anyone in the lightweight division, from Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov to Conor McGregor and Kevin Lee.
Meanwhile, Curtis Millender made a lasting impression in his UFC debut opposite former welterweight title contender Thiago Alves. Millender dominated virtually every aspect of the fight, forcing Alves to circle on the outside against a taller and rangier opponent. The promotional newcomer dropped Alves in the first round and might have earned an earlier stoppage had he not paused to admire his work, his arms raised in celebration with the Brazilian not yet cooked. Nevertheless, Millender found his mark again in the second round, this time a brutal knee strike that sent Alves back to the mat and forced referee Jacob Montalvo to step in.
Elsewhere, Brandon Davis and Steven Peterson traded punches for three rounds and earned “Fight of the Night” honors. Davis countered effectively throughout, using Peterson’s aggression against him. He landed the most significant strike of the fight in the third round, where he connected with a step-in knee that had Peterson reeling around the cage while trying to regain his wits. Davis followed-up with punches and another knee strike that only seemed to invigorate Peterson. He settled for the unanimous decision.
Sage Northcutt won a hard-fought unanimous decision over Thibault Gouti. The 21-year-old Team Alpha Male prospect operated from the outside, utilized his unorthodox karate skills and looked to counter off of Gouti’s aggression. Northcutt was the busier fighter, whereas the Frenchman was content to grapple on the cage ... Carlos Diego Ferreira finished Jared Gordon in the first round of their lightweight scrap but not without controversy. Ferreira was warned twice for low blows. Soon after, he floored Gordon with a short left hook, quickly transitioned to the back and cinched the rear-naked choke ... Geoff Neal capitalized on his chances in his UFC debut opposite Camozzi, as he landed a number of pinpoint right hands before moving to the back and locking down the rear-naked choke ... Roberto Sanchez dispatched Joby Sanchez with a first-round rear-naked choke.