HOUSTON — Derrick Lewis, who will headline Saturday’s UFC 265 main event against Ciryl Gane, got his first UFC title shot three years ago against Daniel Cormier. The self-deprecating slugger mocked himself — and his heavyweight peers — ahead of that bout.
“If I’m the champion, the whole UFC division should be ashamed of themselves for a guy that had no damn skills being the champion,” Lewis said at the time. “They should all just go relocate somewhere. … Have you seen my fights? Have you seen my technique?”
Cormier beat Lewis at UFC 230 in November 2018 via second-round submission, but since then, the man who calls himself “The Black Beast” has improved immensely. He has won four straight, and Saturday he’ll get another shot at UFC gold when he fights for the interim heavyweight title at Toyota Center.
The card is built around Lewis, a Houston resident, who combines humor with some of the most frightening knockout power in UFC history. The Lewis vs. Gane winner is expected to be next up for heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou. ESPN has Lewis and Gane ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, at heavyweight.
Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) has the most KO/TKO victories in UFC heavyweight history (12). That mark also puts him in a three-way tie for the most knockouts in any division in the UFC ever, along with Vitor Belfort and Matt Brown. Lewis, 36, is coming off a second-round knockout win over Curtis Blaydes in February.
Gane (9-0) is one of the most promising up-and-coming fighters in all of the UFC. With a victory Saturday, Gane will become the first French-born fighter to win a UFC title. Gane, 31, has been training in MMA for only three years and sports an impressive 6-0 record in the UFC.
In the co-main event, a pair of bantamweight contenders will face off: MMA legend Jose Aldo and Pedro Munhoz. Aldo (29-7) is the former longtime UFC/WEC featherweight champion. Munhoz (19-5, 1 NC) has won four of his past six bouts. Also on the card, Vicente Luque meets Michael Chiesa in a battle of top welterweights, strawweight contenders Tecia Torres and Angela Hill face off and Casey Kenney takes on Song Yadong in a bout between promising up-and-coming bantamweights.
Follow live as Marc Raimondi and Brett Okamoto recap the fights from Houston or watch on ESPN+ PPV.
Fight in progress:
The feeling around Song is that at some point he will go from blue-chip prospect to legitimate contender. On Saturday, he got just a bit closer to that distinction.
Song pulled out a split decision win (29-28, 28-29, 30-27) over Kenney in a battle of two of the best up-and-coming fighters in the bantamweight division. Song used body kicks and combinations to keep Kenney at bay throughout.
The bout was very closely contested. At the bell, both Song and Kenney climbed onto the cage to celebrate, both thinking they won. The crowd was not happy about the decision — it booed when Song was announced as the winner. But the fans were partisan, chanting “USA!” for Kenney in two of the three rounds.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 8, 2021
Song, though, landed with more power. Kenney was sporting some blood on the bridge of his nose in the third round after a Song combo. The body kicks, which echoed through Toyota Center, were very effective. Kenney had some success with his left hand and a check right hook. He landed a left as Song threw a kick in the first round, which sent Song to the mat. That might have been Kenney’s best moment of the fight. He took Song down in the closing seconds of the final round, but there wasn’t enough time to do any significant damage.
Song, just 23 years old, is back on track after losing to Kyler Phillips back in March via unanimous decision. The China native is now 5-1-1 in the UFC and likely to get a contender next. Kenney, a 30-year-old Indiana native fighting out of Arizona, has dropped two straight split decisions — the last one against former champ Dominick Cruz — after winning three in a row.
Fiziev, of Kyrgyzstan, defeated Green in an instant classic.
Fiziev picked up judges’ scorecards of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. It was a tale of two halves, really. Fiziev beat Green to the punch early in the fight, and appeared to have him in trouble a handful of times with right hands along the fence. Green survived, however, and had his way more often than not in the final seven minutes.
WHAT A FIGHT!! Lads were bangin 👏 #UFC265
— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) August 8, 2021
The jab and lead right hand were highly effective for Green late, as Fiziev, perhaps tired from the effort of trying to put Green away earlier, started to slow down. Green also seemed to take inspiration from the Houston crowd, which chanted his name loudly in the second and third rounds.
Ultimately, however, the early work of Fiziev was enough to prevail. He applied a lot of pressure during the first half of the fight, and screamed into Green’s face at one point after a vicious elbow off the clinch. The entire fight played out on the feet, as neither lightweight looked for a single takedown.
Fiziev, 28, extends his UFC win streak to four. Green, of Inland Empire, California, drops his second in a row. His last 10 fights have gone the distance, during which he’s gone 4-5-1.
In an evenly matched contest, Morales did just enough late to seal the victory.
Morales defeated Rodriguez via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28), turning it on in the third round to pull it out. The difference seemed to be the volume. Both men had solid boxing, but Morales was landing combinations compared to Rodriguez’s preferred right-hand counters.
— UFC (@ufc) August 8, 2021
In the third, Morales landed several significant combinations, including one with a pretty uppercut that got through to Rodriguez’s chin. Rodriguez landed a nice counter right cross in the closing seconds, but it wasn’t enough to put Morales in any kind of trouble.
Morales, 30, snapped a two-fight losing streak with the victory. The Idaho native, who trains out of Las Vegas, picked up his first UFC win since May 2019. Rodriguez, a 25-year-old Texan fighting out of Iowa, is still looking for his first UFC victory. He has two straight losses since earning his way onto the roster in 2020 on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Menifield improved his 2021 record to 2-0 with a dominant, three-round decision over Herman.
Fighting out of Fortis MMA in Dallas, Menifield battered Herman with low leg kicks throughout, to a point the 40-year-old veteran could barely stand in the final round. Menifield stayed cautious late in the light heavyweight contest, and ultimately coasted to unanimous scores of 30-27.
— Aleksandar Rakic (@rakic_ufc) August 8, 2021
Herman, who is currently the longest-tenured fighter on the UFC’s roster, had a handful of successful exchanges, but Menifield obviously landed the cleaner offense. In addition to wrecking Herman’s calf with kicks, the 33-year-old hurt Herman at times with the right hand, and sought a finish along the fence midway through the second round.
Penne is writing a pretty incredible late-career comeback story.
In a fight against someone who was once a title challenger, Penne finished Kowalkiewicz with a beautiful armbar submission at 4:32 of the first round. Penne returned to the UFC earlier this year after four years away due to a dispute with USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner. This was Penne’s first finish since July 2013 when Penne was in Invicta FC.
“I thought I’d never be here again,” Penne said in her postfight interview. “I want to make the best out of every opportunity I have.”
“I’m so happy to be here. I thought I’d never be here again, so I want to make the best out of every opportunity that I have.” @JessicaPenne let her emotions out after a win at #UFC265 pic.twitter.com/oFCwLwCTQ5
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 8, 2021
Kowalkiewicz grabbed a Penne kick and took her down early. But she made a strategic error in following Penne down to the ground, where Penne is most dangerous. Penne was able to sweep and get into top position. Kowalkiewicz went for a leg lock, but Penne won a scramble and got into mount, then took Kowalkiewicz’s back. From there, Penne went for the armbar. Kowalkiewicz fought it hard, but Penne was too slick and torqued the arm to finish.
“I love the ground,” Penne said. “If anybody wants to go to the ground with me, I invite it. I was very happy about it.”
Penne, 38, had her USADA suspension reduced last year from four years to 20 months. The California native had tested positive for a trace amount of a steroid metabolite, which was her second doping violation in the UFC. USADA found that Penne was not attempting to cheat in an investigation. She returned to the cage in April with a split decision win over Lupita Godinez.
Kowalkiewicz, 35, had lost five straight. This was the Poland native’s first bout since February 2020. She challenged countrywoman Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the UFC women’s strawweight title at UFC 205 in November 2016.
Kape’s first win in the UFC took a little longer than he would have liked, but boy was it a memorable one.
Kape, who fights out of Portugal, scored a first-round TKO over Osbourne, of Jamaica, at the 4:44 mark with a clean flying knee. Osbourne fell to his back from the shot and Kape jumped on him with follow-up shots. The flyweight stoppage might have been a little quick, however it was obvious Osbourne was badly hurt from the shot.
OUT OF NOWHERE 🤯 @ManelKape
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 7, 2021
A former bantamweight champion in Asia, Kape missed weight for the 125-pound contest, but that was the only negative of the week. Kape utilized the entire Octagon in the victory and kept Osbourne guessing. The knockout is Kape’s first win since December 2019.
The 27-year-old opened his UFC career with back-to-back decision losses to Alexandre Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau, although Kape maintains the scorecards should have gone to him against Nicolau in March.
Miles Johns knocks out Anderson Dos Santos with an incredible combination in Round 3 of their bout.
Johns first took away Dos Santos’ lead leg. He later finished the job.
In a very impressive performance, Johns stopped Dos Santos via knockout at 1:16 of the third round. In the first round, Johns badly damaged Dos Santos’ left leg with kicks. Dos Santos was limping for the rest of the bout. In the third round, Johns crushed his vulnerable opponent with a left hook to the body followed by a missile of a right hand that put Dos Santos down for good.
Booommmmmm huge knockout!!! Beautiful body to head
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) August 7, 2021
Johns blasted Dos Santos’ lead leg early on. After the first round, Dos Santos, who was visibly gimpy, told his corner “I’m screwed” in reference to the leg. Dos Santos showed his toughness by hanging in there until the third round. But it was only a matter of time, and Johns put an exclamation point on the one-sided performance late.
Johns, 27, has won two in a row, both by KO. The Kansas native, who trains out of Fortis MMA in Dallas, is now 3-1 in the UFC. He is the former LFA bantamweight champion and looks like a real prospect in the 135-pound division. Dos Santos, a 36-year-old Brazilian, has dropped three of four.
Gatto, of São Paulo, Brazil, waited a long time to make her UFC debut, and she did not disappoint in a second-round finish of Leonardo.
Gatto picked up a TKO victory at the end of the second round, when cageside physicians ruled Leonardo, of Louisiana, could not continue due to an injured right arm. The doctor said it was broken. It was not immediately clear how Leonardo suffered the injury, although Gatto had attacked the arm with submissions earlier in the fight, and had thrown body kicks at Leonardo.
Can’t question @VLeo0216‘s toughness 💯
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 7, 2021
It was a long road for Gatto to make it to the Octagon. She was originally scheduled to make her debut in late 2019, but was forced to withdraw due to injury. She had two more fights canceled in 2020 due to various reasons.
Gatto was able to showcase her grappling and striking in the win. She took Leonardo’s back early, although failed to secure a submission finish. She held a clear striking advantage in the second round, popping Leonardo with right hands.
Johnny Munoz taps out Jamey Simmons in Round 2 to start off UFC 265 on an electric note.
Training at one of the hottest gyms in MMA has clearly done Munoz well.
After spending his training camp with the likes of Brandon Moreno at Entram Gym in Tijuana, Munoz picked up his first UFC win via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:35 of the second round.
Munoz with that Moreno style
— C H🖕🏽T O🇪🇨V E R A (@chitoveraUFC) August 7, 2021
“When it goes to the ground, nobody has nothing for me down there,” Munoz said.
Munoz got Simmons down to the mat late in the first round, but didn’t have enough time to work there. In the second, though, he took Simmons down just a minute into the frame. From there, Munoz took Simmons’ back, got the hooks in and applied the choke. Simmons had no choice but to tap.
Munoz, 28, lost the first fight of his career in his UFC debut last August against Nate Maness via unanimous decision. The California native is a former King of the Cage bantamweight champion. Simmons, a 28-year-old fighting out of Wisconsin, has dropped two straight and is still looking for his first UFC victory.
Still to come:
Interim heavyweight title fight: Derrick Lewis (25-7 1 NC, 16-5 UFC, +290) vs. Ciryl Gane (9-0, 6-0 UFC, -370)
Men’s bantamweight: Jose Aldo (29-7, 11-6 UFC, -120) vs. Pedro Munhoz (19-5 1 NC, 9-5 1 NC UFC, +100)
Welterweight: Michael Chiesa (18-4, 11-4 UFC, -105) vs. Vicente Luque (20-7-1, 13-3 UFC, -115)