LAS VEGAS — Derrick Lewis became the greatest knockout artist in UFC history Saturday when he put Chris Daukaus out in the first round of their heavyweight bout in the main event of UFC Vegas 45 at Apex.
Lewis did his signature celebratory move after his 13th knockout, which broke a tie with Matt Brown and Vitor Belfort and put him on top of the UFC’s all-time KOs list.
But when he got up, not only did he do a little dance, but he celebrated by removing his protective cup and firing it into the crowd, where a man caught it (and apparently decided to keep it).
“That was the first time I threw my cup in the crowd, and I was surprised that a dude pushed a woman out of the way to grab my cup,” the always lighthearted Lewis said.
Lewis wasn’t too enamored with setting the record, nor did it erase the disappointment he felt at flopping so badly in front of his hometown crowd when he challenged Cyril Gane for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 265 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
It did, Lewis wryly admitted, feel good to beat up a police officer, or a recently retired one. Daukaus resigned as a Philadelphia police officer on Dec. 1 to concentrate full-time on his MMA career.
Before the fight, Lewis said he did not want to get “Rodney Kinged” on national television. Getting to hit Daukaus felt good, he said lightheartedly.
“That was for Rodney King,” Lewis said. “I’m fighting a police officer. C’mon man, that’s the only time you get a chance to punch a police officer in the mouth and get away with it and they get up and shake your hand. Sh**. That was a great feeling. Great feeling.”
Remember the name: Muhammad dominates ‘Wonderboy’
Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson lost five times in the UFC prior to meeting Belal Muhammad on Saturday on the undercard, but none of those fighters abused him the way Muhammad did in winning a runaway unanimous decision.
Muhammad used his wrestling and grappling to win by scores of 30-26 twice and 30-25 to defeat Thompson.
It caught the eye of UFC president Dana White.
“Belal looked great tonight,” White said. “When you were breaking this fight down, you saw that Wonderboy has great takedown defense. There have been tons of wrestlers who’ve tried to take him down. I thought Belal was going to have a lot of trouble tonight with Wonderboy staying on the outside and picking him apart. But that was not the case. Belal looked damn good.”
Muhammad entered the bout ranked 10th at welterweight, five spots behind Thompson. The fight wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, but it was highly effective. And Muhammad said he felt it did enough to earn a shot at champion Kamaru Usman.
“Who’s ever beaten Wonderboy 30-26? Who’s ever beaten Wonderboy in that style?” Muhammad said. “Nobody’s ever beaten him that way. Wonderboy’s fought for the title twice. Demian Maia’s fought for the title twice. I beat both of those guys in dominant fashion. Are you telling me Leon Edwards deserves it over me? He almost got knocked out by Nate Diaz. Nate Diaz didn’t lose that fight because Nate Diaz never loses a fight. But the way I beat Wonderboy, nobody’s ever done that to him.”
He simply has too many guys ahead of him to get the next shot, most likely. He dismissed a potential match with Khamzat Chimaev and said Edwards is the only other opponent who makes sense.
Fan shouts racist epithets at Muhammad
In the cage after the fight as he was being interviewed on television by UFC analyst Michael Bisping, Muhammad looked into the crowd and threatened to punch a fan who he said was making racist comments toward him.
“Some drunk hick was screaming out racist Arabic words,” Muhammad said at the post-fight news conference. “[During the fight] I said, ‘Wonderboy, are those your boys?’ He said, ‘Nah, they’re not my boys.’ And I was like, ‘All right, cool,’ [and I kept punching]. It’s small in Apex and so you hear everything. It was just weird. I could see who he was. I’m about to catch him on the Strip later today.”
Lemos-Hill scores were odd
Amanda Lemos won a split decision victory over Angela Hill in a highly competitive women’s strawweight bout. One judge had it 29-28 for Hill, while the other had it 29-28 for Lemos. It was judge Doug Crosby’s 30-27 score for Lemos that left most viewers bewildered, including White.
Hill seemed to clearly win the second round, and each of the other judges gave it to her.
“30-27 was insane either way,” White said.”There is no f***ing way — 29-28 either way, but not 30-27.”
UFC finishes record-setting year
Lewis' KO of Daukaus was the UFC's final bout of 2021, capping what White said was the company’s best year ever. According to statistics White provided to Yahoo Sports:
The UFC set a company record with most PPV buys in its history, topped by Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier III at UFC 264 in July.
UFC 261, 262 and 263 all set arena gate records.
UFC 264 was the most attended sporting event in T-Mobile Arena history, was the second-highest grossing bout in Las Vegas and was the third-highest-grossing bout in UFC history after UFC 205 and UFC 229.
An initial offering of 1 million NFT tokens sold out in hours.
UFC Fight Pass subscribers increased by 19 percent and revenues by 30 percent.
Sponsorships generated more money than any year in UFC history and were up 34 percent from 2020.
“Every way you could measure success this year, we did it,” White said.