The corner of Dominick Reyes was screaming at the referee that his opponent, Jiří Procházka, was knocked out by an upkick and the fight should be stopped.
Moments later, Reyes was laying unconscious face-first on the mat and Procházka was victorious in the main event of UFC on ESPN 23 at the Apex on Saturday night.
It was that kind of wild ride in the headliner.
The sequence began when a wobbly Procházka tried to take down Reyes, a two-time light heavyweight title challenger, in order to regain his wits. Procházka escaped a guillotine attempt and tried to springboard himself into a more favorable position only to get caught with an upkick and fall awkwardly on top of Reyes.
As the corner screamed for the referee to stop the bout, the fighters got back to their feet and Procházka backed Reyes into the cage and delivered a crushing spinning elbow that ended the contest at 4:29.
“I just want to show the beauty of the art, but sometimes I go very quickly for the win and by that I catch some punches and make mistakes,” Procházka said. “But I’m learning still from fight to fight.”
He’s proven to be a quick study.
Procházka has won 12 straight fights, including 11 by knockout. He is 2-0 with two impressive knockouts since signing with the UFC and is quickly a top contender in the division.
Reyes has now dropped three straight, but looked dangerous until the end. Both fighters had several chances to finish the fight
Procházka consistently came forward and landed strikes to push Reyes back to the cage only to have Reyes stop the momentum with powerful shots from his heels.
In the co-main event, Giga Chikadze dropped veteran Cub Swanson with a body kick and finished the fight with short right hands on the mat that made the referee step in to stop it at 1:03 of the first round.
It was the eight straight win for Chikadze and sixth consecutive victory since joining the UFC, who hopes he made a statement with the victory.
“I had to tell all the top-15 guys that I’m here,” he said. “If you didn’t know my name, now you know.”
It was just the second time Swanson had been knocked out in 39 professional fights and first since an :08 flying-knee finish against Jose Aldo in 2009.
Middleweight Sean Strickland extended his winning streak to four with a unanimous-decision win over Krzysztof Jotko.
Strickland mostly controlled the action with his jab, firmly establishing the range with it in the first round to keep Jotko at a distance. Jotko rallied with some big left hands early in the second before Strickland dug in his heels and regained control.
Three fights removed from a career-threatening motorcycle accident, Strickland hoped for a highlight-reel finish to boost his profile in the decision.
He had to settle for a solid victory.
“I understand there are ladders that need to be climbed and you’re only as good as your last win,” he said. “Sadly, I didn’t knock him out. When guys back up like that, it’s hard to connect. It’s back to the grind again.”
Light heavyweight Ion Cutelaba looked well on his way to snapping a two-fight losing streak with a dominant first round against Dustin Jacoby.
Cutelaba, however, ran out of gas and had to settle for a draw.
Bantamweight Merab Dvalishvili outlasted Cody Stamann to win his seventh straight fight, all by decision, to open the main card.
Stamann was able to find moments of success against the steady and consistent Dvalishvili, but not enough to threaten the winning streak.
“I just want to be busy and that was easy for me today,” Dvalishvili said. “I enjoyed the fight.”
Every preliminary bout went to decision except for newcomer Luana Pinheiro’s disqualification win over veteran women’s strawweight Randa Markos. It was the fourth straight loss for Markos, who was trailing late in the first round when she landed an illegal upkick that caused the fight to be stopped.
Loma Lookboonmee, Andreas Michailidis and Felipe Colares all picked up unanimous wins.
Featherweight T.J. Brown captured a split decision win over Kai Kamaka III, with Kamaka winning all three rounds on the dissenter’s scorecard, and Luana Carolina took two of three cards over Poliana Botelho.
Contact Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ Twitter.