Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Las Vegas, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at the UFC APEX.
1 – Kennedy Nzechukwu
The epitome of a young man speaking softly but carrying a big stick, Kennedy Nzechukwu is rapidly becoming “must see TV” in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, and if opponents think they’ve got him down, beware, because the Nigeria native is just getting warmed up. A prime example was his Saturday win over Ion Cutelaba, as he weathered a tough first round to turn everything around in the second stop the Moldovan veteran. That’s two in a row for a fighter that’s still a work progress, and that makes him one of the most intriguing talents to look out for in 2023.
2 – Jack Della Maddalena
Speaking of talents to watch in 2023, Jack Della Maddalena has looked so good so far in his three-fight UFC run that you have to wonder what the ceiling is for the Aussie welterweight. Sure, some believe the wrestling factor is always there, especially at 170 pounds, but against Ramazan Emeev, Della Maddalena proved that he can weather a grappling storm and put the fight back where he wants it. And for the record, he is a BJJ brown belt. UFC Rookie of the Year for 2022? It’s very, very possible.
3 – Muslim Salikhov
Yes, I am well aware that this is mixed martial arts, but oh, what a thing of beauty it is when “The King of Kung Fu,” Muslim Salikhov, gets into a striking match, and when he unleashed his arsenal on Andre Filho, we got to see standup at its most exciting and elite level. Yeah, at 38, he’s still a problem at 170 pounds.
4 – Natalia Silva
Remember when nobody knew who Natalia Silva was and assumed she was going to get run over by Jasmine Jasudavicius in her first fight in nearly three years? Yeah, me neither. That’s what two UFC wins will do for you, and after defeating Jasudavicius and Tereza Bleda, Silva has an interesting 2023 campaign ahead of her in the flyweight division. And who know, maybe we’ll be talking about her entering the title race at this time next year.
5 – Jennifer Maia
Stayin’ Alive. That should be the walkout song for Jennifer Maia’s next fight, and it’s an apt one, because the Brazilian veteran continues to find a way to keep herself in the mix at 125 pounds. Entering last weekend’s bout with Maryna Moroz, the former world title challenger dropped two straight to Katlyn Chookagian and Manon Fiorot, but she rebounded in style, halting Moroz’ three-fight winning streak in the process. Maia is a tough out for anyone in the division, and she’ll likely get the opportunities to prove that again in 2023.