UFC Vegas 65: Kennedy Nzechukwu Finishes Ion Cuțelaba in Impromptu Main Event

Ion Cutelaba and Kennedy Nzechukwu, UFC Vegas 65
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 19: (R-L) Kennedy Nzechukwu of Nigeria punches Ion Cutelaba of Moldova in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 19, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

UFC Vegas 65 was not supposed to finish off the way it did, but the end result remained entertaining.

Ion Cutelaba vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu was promoted to be a three-round main event of Fight Night card after Derrick Lewis was unfortunately hospitalized on fight day. Regardless of the reason why, both fighters were sure to go out there and put it all on the line in their first main event opportunity that could earn them a spot in the rankings in the near future.

Cuțelaba has been ranked in the past but came into this one off of back-to-back losses to ranked foes. Still, Ion has always been known as one of the most chaotic fighters in the division, both at weigh-ins and in the octagon. Meanwhile, Nzechukwu came into this fight after a recent knockout win against Karl Roberson. Both fighters were knockout artists and the fight was unlikely to go the distance.

That prediction certainly proved accurate on Saturday.

Cuțelaba connected very early and stunned Nzechukwu against the fence, but shot for a takedown instead of following up. He had a rear body lock in the clinch and used a trip to land short punches before once again trying to drag Nzechukwu to the mat.

Finally Cuțelaba was able to trip his opponent and land on top in full mount, an extremely dangerous position. Kennedy was able to regain half guard, however, and then full. He finally pushed Cuțelaba off of him and got to his feet where he got stuck in the clinch.

Nzechukwu was able to get double underhooks and turn Ion but Cuțelaba used a head and arm throw to land on top in a scarf hold. Cuțelaba attempted to secure a straight arm lock. In Ion’s haste to secure it Kennedy was able to escape, get to his feet, and gain the dominant position in the clinch. Cuțelaba looked for a kimura trap on the feet but the clinch position was stalled with no damage aside from foot stomps from Ion as the last ten seconds in the round ticked away.

The second round began with Nzechukwu letting go with his hands more but landing infrequently as they traded in the pocket a few times. Ion got his wild man act on, throwing spinning backfists and putting himself off-balance. Nzechukwu took advantage of the bad position of his opponent to land a big, perfectly-timed knee that hurt Cuțelaba badly. When Kennedy went to swarm his opponent he got unlucky in the chaos and absorbed a bad groin strike from a kick. However the Nigerian refused to take the break he was owed, knowing he had his opponent hurt, and got back to swarming with strikes. Another big knee from Nzechukwu caught Cuțelaba and dropped him where ground strikes enabled Kennedy to finish the fight.

This was the biggest win in Kennedy Nzechukwu’s career and despite being a soft spoken, almost a gentle giant at times, he was starting to finally find the aggression that could carry him to the top with his imposing physicality. His post-fight speech discussed the trials that he went through to get here, how he has grown up in the UFC octagon, and his mother’s heartbreaking late stage ALS.

Official Result: Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Ion Cutelaba by TKO (knee to ground and pound), Round 2, 1:02