Kennedy Nzechukwu Smashes Ion Cutelaba in Makeshift UFC Fight Night 215 Headliner

Kennedy Nzechukwu shined under the glare of an altogether unexpected spotlight.

The monstrous 6-foot-5 Fortis MMA rep overcame an inauspicious start and took another step forward in the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight division, as he chopped down Ion Cutelaba with a knee strike and follow-up punches in the second round of their makeshift UFC Fight Night 215 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Nzechukwu (11-3, 5-3 UFC) finished it 62 seconds into Round 2, stepping up to shoulder the marquee when the original Derrick Lewis-Sergey Spivak main event fell apart in the hours leading up to the show.


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Cutelaba (16-9-1, 5-8-1 UFC) dazed the “African Savage” with a thudding right hand in the first round, tripped him to the floor and climbed to full mount. Nzechukwu stayed composed under duress and worked back to his feet before being returned to the mat via a head-and-arm throw. Cutelaba threatened with a scarf hold armlock but failed to pin down the submission. Early in the second round, Nzechukwu clipped him with a perfectly timed knee, gave chase with punches and reset. A second knee sent Cutelaba careening into the fence, where he was met by power punches from both hands until referee Keith Peterson had seen enough.

Undefeated Cortes-Acosta Moves to 9-0

A penetrating jab and concussive power punches carried former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion Waldo Cortes-Acosta to a unanimous decision over Chase Sherman in the three-round heavyweight co-main event. Cortes-Acosta (9-0, 2-0 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the cageside judges.

Sherman (16-11, 4-10 UFC) enjoyed some success with hearty leg kicks through much of the first round but utilized them less and less often as the fight progressed. Cortes-Acosta operated behind his jab and flurried when the opportunity presented itself. He peaked in the second round, where he had Sherman reeling more than once with debilitating shots to the head. The Sanford MMA rep somehow survived but lacked the necessary fuel to respond in Round 3. Cortes-Acosta was more measured down the stretch, his caution perhaps a byproduct of fatigue, but managed to get enough done to leave little doubt about the decision.

The 33-year-old Sherman has lost five of his past six bouts.

Salikhov Storms Past Fialho

American Top Team’s Muslim Salikhov took out Andre Fialho with a spinning wheel kick and follow-up punches in the third round of their welterweight attraction. Salikhov (19-3, 6-2 UFC) slammed the door 1:03 into Round 3, as he recorded his sixth victory in seven appearances.

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Fialho (16-6, 2-3 UFC) was effective in spurts and damaged the sanda stylist’s left eye with an overhand right in the first round. However, momentum shifted dramatically in the middle stanza, where Salikhov landed a spinning back kick to the body and a spinning backfist upstairs before setting the Sanford MMA export on unsteady legs with a Superman punch. He forced the dazed Fialho to retreat to the canvas, where he met him with a series of hammerfists. The respite between rounds did not provide enough time for recovery. Salikhov resumed his assault at the start of Round 3, doubled over Fialho with a spinning back kick to the body, connected with a jarring wheel kick upstairs and followed up with punches to prompt a standing stoppage.

Salikhov has secured 13 of his 19 career wins by knockout or technical knockout.

Della Maddalena Routs Overmatched Roberts

Fast-rising 2021 Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Jack Della Maddalena put away Danny Roberts with punches in the first round of their welterweight showcase. Della Maddalena (13-2, 3-0 UFC) drew the curtain 3:24 into Round 1 and did so in emphatic fashion.

Roberts (18-7, 7-6 UFC) endured three-plus minutes of torment and torture before he finally wilted. Della Maddalena flurried with crisp combinations right out of the gate, floored his Next Generation MMA-trained opponent with a right uppercut and allowed him to stand when the opportunity to finish did not present itself on the ground. Clearly in survival mode, Roberts failed to mount a meaningful counterattack. Della Maddalena backed him to the fence, froze him with hooks to the body and closed it out with unanswered punches.

The 26-year-old Della Maddalena has won 13 fights in a row, 12 of them via knockout, technical knockout or submission.

Johnson Tops Slumping Zhumagulov

Former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion Charles Johnson rebounded from a July 23 loss to Muhammad Mokaev with a split decision over Zhalgas Zhumagulov in a foul-filled flyweight feature. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Douglas Crosby for Zhumagulov, Derek Cleary and Sal D’Amato for Johnson.

The three-round clash was interrupted on multiple occasions by low blows and eye pokes. Zhumagulov (14-8, 1-5 UFC) pieced together effective punching combinations and did real damage to his opponent’s legs through his commitment to low kicks. The American Top Team product also attacked the body with aplomb, firing hooks from both hands into Johnson’s exposed ribcage. Nevertheless, Zhumagulov’s work went for naught. Johnson (12-3, 1-1 UFC turned up the heat in a dominant third round, where he stepped into right hands, pressured the Kazakhstan native backward and connected with front and side kicks to the body.

Zhumagulov, 34, now finds himself on a three-fight losing streak.

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