Saturday’s UFC Wichita event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Kansas, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Intrust Bank Arena.
1 – Junior Dos Santos
The nicest guy in all of mixed martial arts won again on Saturday, and Junior Dos Santos’ return from his 2017 loss to Stipe Miocic is shaping up as one of the sport’s great comeback stories. Hey, who really believed that after “Cigano” dropped his second attempt at regaining the heavyweight title that he would be back here? But big wins over Blagoy Ivanov, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis have JDS in the title conversation, and he’s earned it.
2 – Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
A longtime favorite of this column, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos finally got his first UFC co-main event assignment, and in typical ZDS form, he scored an impressive finish, this one over Curtis Millender. That’s seven straight wins, three straight finishes, and he’s earned a top ten contender the next time out. Brazil’s “Capoeira” is the real deal and a threat to any of the elite at 170 pounds. And he’s exciting, to boot. It’s time.
3 – Beneil Dariush
Beneil Dariush is one of the good guys of the sport, so it was tough to watch him navigate an 0-2-1 stretch in 2017-18. And though he bounced back with a decision win over Thiago Moises in November, it was Saturday’s finish of Drew Dober that showed the Californian to truly be back in form, as he took some hard shots from the surging Dober, shook them off and got back down to business, submitting his foe in the second round. Previous wins over Anthony Rocco Martin, Diego Ferreira, James Vick, Jim Miller and Michael Johnson proved that Dariush is an elite 155-pounder. Now he’ll get those big fights again.
4 – Niko Price
Yes, I may be late to the party, but Niko Price has joined my list of folks I would pay to watch fight. And when it comes to the “Hybrid,” it really is all about attitude. This guy is willing to do whatever it takes to win and entertain, and that was evident in Wichita, as he took a series of flush bombs from Tim Means and kept marching forward until he landed his own finisher that ended the bout. There are wins and there are WINS in this sport, and Price is always chasing the WIN.
5 – Matt Schnell
Back in 2012, I saw Matt Schnell on the MTV reality series Caged and said I’m gonna watch this kid and see how he does in the MMA shark tank. Seven years later, he’s swimming with those sharks in the Octagon and more than holding his own. I didn’t know if that was going to be the case after he lost his first two UFC bouts by first-round knockout, but now he’s got a three-fight winning streak and a pretty bright future after submitting Louis Smolka on Saturday. It’s a reminder that first impressions aren’t always the most accurate ones.