The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday touched down in Wichita, Kansas, for the first time with what appeared to be a promising card. Over 7,000 fans jammed into the Intrust Bank Arena for UFC Fight Night 146 with hopes of seeing some high-level MMA capped by highlight-reel finishes. However, through the first 10 bouts, the fans were served lackluster action, watching seven fights go to the scorecards.
Those watching at home might have been tempted to turn off their streaming devices and scoot off to bed earlier -- especially with the clocks springing forward in the United States -- but those who stayed the course were treated to three spectacular stoppages to close out the show.
In the main event, former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos extended his winning streak to three fights with his bludgeoning of fan favorite Derrick Lewis. Dos Santos battered the New Orleans native with kicks and punches to the body, visibly hurting Lewis in the first round. Once the fight reached Round 2, dos Santos tagged Lewis with a well-timed overhand right that floored the “The Black Beast” and then finished off Lewis with ground-and-pound.
Despite the recent success, dos Santos may not be next in line for a title shot against reigning heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. That honor could go to current World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar. Seeing as though Lesnar has fought only once since December 2011 -- he defeated Mark Hunt at UFC 200, only to see the result overturned to a no-contest after he failed a United States Anti-Doping Agency test -- it seems understandable that dos Santos would take issue with the former champion being granted such an opportunity.
“He’s not even part of the sport right now,” dos Santos said. “He cannot come back and fight for the title. I know ‘DC’ wants to make money, but it doesn’t make sense.”
Another intriguing heavyweight battle could see dos Santos pitted against Francis Ngannou. They were scheduled to face one another at UFC 215 before “Cigano” was removed from the card due to a failed USADA test. Dos Santos was asked about a potential fight against Ngannou during the post-fight show on ESPN.
“I think that would be great,” he said. “It should have happened in the past. Because of something weird, it didn’t happen, but maybe now it can happen.”
Insult to Injury
Though Lewis may have suffered an injury to his midsection during the main event, it appears that he entered the cage at less than 100 percent. NBC Sports Radio host Helen Yee posted on Twitter the day after “The Black Beast” fought dos Santos that sources from within the Lewis camp told her that he competed with a torn meniscus, ACL and MCL. Yee claimed that his knee was giving out during the match.
Though the Lewis-dos Santos headliner won the “Fight of the Night” award, the scrap between Niko Price and Tim Means stole the show. The two welterweights hurt each other throughout their brief but violent encounter, and it appeared late in the first round that Means was taking over. “The Dirty Bird” backed up the Floridian with combinations before he walked headfirst into a counter right hook from Price, sending him crashing to the canvas. Price followed up with punches and hammerfists for good measure.
When Means hit the deck, his left ankle buckled awkwardly under his body. He revealed afterward that he had suffered a broken ankle and tibia, which required surgery.
Location, Location, Location
Welterweights Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Anthony Rocco Martin picked up victories at UFC Fight Night 146, and they already know when -- and where -- they want to return despite not having a particular opponent in mind.
“I already asked for opponents before [and] never got them. Give me a Top 5 opponent, and let me rise up the ranks,” Zaleski dos Santos said during a post-fight media scrum. “Rio [de Janeiro] is right around the corner. Didn’t get hurt, nothing happened. Let me fight in Rio against somebody ranked.”
Martin has found another gear since moving to welterweight and rattling off four consecutive victories. The American Top Team product also wants a top-ranked opponent, but instead of fighting in Rio de Janeiro, he wants to throw down in Minneapolis.
“I started my MMA career in Minnesota. I just think it is pure destiny. I have a school with Brock Larson in Minnesota. It fully makes sense,” Martin said. “That Minnesota card is just destiny. Right now, there isn’t a bigger star in Minnesota, and I think it is my time and my time to represent.”
The UFC heads to Rio de Janeiro on May 11, while Minneapolis will play host to MMA’s premier organization on June 29.