The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday kicked open the door to a new market with UFC Fight Night 166 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. Heavyweights headlined the event, as former champion Junior dos Santos toed the line against Curtis Blaydes. Some stocks surged, and others plummeted.
Curtis Blaydes: In picking up his third consecutive victory, Blaydes dispatched dos Santos in the second round with a well-timed overhand right, followed by a flurry of knees and more punches. Dos Santos headhunted early with uppercuts, but Blaydes adjusted by the second frame, eventually leading to the counter shot that finished the fight. Afterward, Blaydes called for a title shot against current champion Stipe Miocic while acknowledging the reality that Miocic may have unfinished business with Daniel Cormier. The 28-year-old Elevation Fight Team rep indicated that he had no qualms with waiting for his opportunity.
Michael Chiesa: In a co-main event that was short on entertainment value and long on grappling exchanges, Chiesa remained perfect since moving to the welterweight division with his third straight victory at 170 pounds—a unanimous decision over former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. The Washington native made good on his belief that his size and grappling skills would provide the difference against dos Anjos. The Brazilian simply could not free himself from Chiesa’s overwhelming pressure. In the aftermath, Chiesa kept his comments short and sweet, calling to be paired with Colby Covington. If it were made, the fight could cement “Maverick” as a legitimate welterweight contender.
Angela Hill: The former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder set her first winning streak since 2016 in motion with a second-round TKO of Hannah Cifers that saw Hill “put it all together” for one of the few times in her mixed martial arts career. The fight-ending sequence came mid-second round, where Hill tripped her opponent to the mat and landed in side-control. From there, Hill worked her way to mount and began raining punches and elbows that cut her opponent and resulted in the stoppage. It was her second straight victory and third in four appearances.
Junior dos Santos: This appears to be the beginning of the end for the former heavyweight champion, as a telegraphed uppercut resulted in dos Santos being countered and finished by Blaydes. At 35, “Cigano” has more good days behind him than he has in front of him. Considering all the damage he has absorbed over his career—most notably his two rematches with Cain Velasquez—it would be surprising to see dos Santos stick for many more blowout losses. The Brazilian was hesitant to make any immediate decisions regarding his career.
Rafael dos Anjos: After dos Anjos was saddled with his fourth defeat in five outings, it seems as if the book is out on the former lightweight champion—a development that could prevent him from rising any further in the 170-pound weight class. Dos Anjos has surrendered 34 takedowns across his past five fights, including six to Chiesa. He looks to carry the unfortunate “tweener” designation: too small to compete with the best of the best in the welterweight division, too large to compete at 155 pounds again. Where dos Anjos goes from here remains anyone’s guess, but he currently finds himself on the outside looking in.
Darko Stosic: When the Serbian judoka signed with the UFC, he drew immediate comparisons to heavyweight legend Mirko Filipovic due to his propensity for powerful kicks that made him a force on the regional circuit. The hype only increased after he needed a little more than three minutes to dismiss Jeremy Kimball in his promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 134 in July 2018. However, consecutive losses to Devin Clark, Kennedy Nzechukwu and Jamahal Hill mean Stosic could be headed to the unemployment line. He needs extensive work on his cardio and needs to learn how to better handle long, rangy fighters.