• Drew Pierce

UFC Vegas 19 full of high-level grappling, stunning main event knockout

Photo: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Saturday’s UFC event in Las Vegas was a showcase of grappling and solid matchmaking, headlined by a huge underdog knockout.

Ground game was at the forefront of the action throughout the evening of fights. The then was kicked off with a surprise rear-naked choke submission by heavyweight Tom Aspinall. Him and veteran Andrei Arlovski duked it out in the first round before Aspinall took his opponent by surprise with a quick takedown and submission.

Although that bout was not meant to highlight high-level grappling, it lead to Aspinall’s first submission victory since 2015.

This was followed by middleweight Phil Hawes notching four takedowns and defeating Nassourdine Imavov via decision. Hawes was nearly knocked out in the final minute, but still weathered the storm and got the job done.

Fast forward to the matchup between featherweights Darrick Minner and Charles Rosa. This was one of the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu matchups the UFC has seen in a while. Although Minner was in control a majority of the time, the two black belts battled it out for the whole 15 minutes.

Rosa spent most of the bout on his back, with Minner constantly changing positions and looking for opportunities. There were several instances where knee and arm bars were very close to being secured. At the end, it was Minner’s dominance that granted him the win.

“Even though I didn’t get the finish, I deserve [$50,000 bonus],” Minner said. “I always go for the finish. I am in this game. I am an entertainer.”

The co-main event followed along with this trend as Bantamweights Ketlen Vieira and Yana Kunitskaya engaged in a back-and-forth grappling match with a bit more ground-and-pound than the others. The judges favored Kunitskaya despite Vieira’s three takedowns and ground control. This is probably due to Kunitskaya out-striking her opponent 215-35.

The ironic part of the evening came in the main event between No. 2 heavyweight Curtis Blaydes and No. 4 Derrick Lewis. Everyone expected Blaydes to shoot for early takedowns and out-wrestle the known striker in Lewis. He tried it early, but Lewis tagged him on the way in.

Blaydes handily won the first round, but the second was an entirely different story. The slow start did not deter Lewis, and he knew he only needed one clean look.

“Even in warmups, I couldn’t get my body going,“ Lewis said in the post-fight interview. “That was the only punch I was waiting for the whole fight. I didn’t care about throwing the 1-2, the jab or anything.”

Early into the round, Blaydes shot in and Lewis perfectly timed an uppercut that put his opponent out cold. At a +330 favorite, this cemented Lewis into the top few contenders in the division.

This knockout also puts Lewis tied for the most knockouts in UFC Heavyweight history.

In a main card highlighted by incredible grappling, it is only right that the known grappler gets knocked out without even having the chance to showcase his ground game.

There will be yet another UFC Fight Night next Saturday headlined by No. 3 heavyweight Jairzinho Rozenstruik and No. 7 contender Ciryl Gane.

Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis: KO/TKO- 1:26 Rd. 2

Ketlen Vieira vs. Yana Kunitskaya: Unanimous Decision

Charles Rosa vs. Darrick Minner: Unanimous Decision

Aleksei Oleinik vs. Chris Daukaus: KO/TKO- 4:55 Rd. 1

Phil Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imavov: Unanimous Decision

Andrei Arlovski vs. Tom Aspinall: Rear-naked choke- 1:10 Rd. 2

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