Every time fighters step into the cage or ring, they’re looking to claim a win, make a statement and progress their careers toward a specific goal. Some are looking to climb the ladder. Others may have a score to settle. And the sport’s top athletes have their sights set on championship gold.

The MMA Junkie Power Index takes into account not just the most recent performances inside the cage, but the possibility fighters can stay front and center in the MMA consciousness even without fighting.

After a week that included UFC Fight Night 185, who made the biggest strides and delivered the week’s most powerful performances, in the cage or out of it?

Check out the MMA Junkie Power Index for Feb. 15-21.

Aiemann Zahabi

Montreal’s Aiemann Zahabi may have celebrated a knockout victory at UFC Fight Night 185, but his weekend brought much more than just another notch in his win column.

Zahabi returned to the octagon for the first time since May 2019 and scored a huge knockout win over debuting Contender Series graduate Drako Rodriguez. The victory not only gave Zahabi a winning return, it also snapped a two-fight skid dating back to 2017. It also earned the Canadian a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus.

But, perhaps more important than all of the above was the fact Zahabi now has a new UFC contract in his back pocket courtesy of UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby.

With his immediate fighting future on the big stage now secured, Zahabi will look to build another winning streak as he targets the ranked contenders in the UFC bantamweight division.

Darrick Minner

Underrated but undeterred, Darrick Minner produced arguably the best performance of his emerging UFC career to dominate Charles Rosa and claim his second win on the big stage.

Minner is one of a talented crop of fighters finding their form under the guidance of coach James Krause at Glory MMA and Fitness in Missouri, and the combination of Krause’s fight smarts and Minner’s grappling chops could well propel the 30-year-old toward the featherweight top 15 in 2021.

After defeating Rosa, a shot at either a ranked contender or someone on the fringes of the top 15 surely awaits. If he can continue his form, expect Minner to be a dangerous new threat to the top 10 by the end of the year.

Yana Kunitskaya

The UFC women’s bantamweight division is desperate for new contenders to take on all-conquering two-division champ Amanda Nunes, and Russia’s Yana Kunitskaya moved one step closer to the top of the division with a hard-earned win over highly-rated Ketlen Vieira.

Kunitskaya’s bloody win over Vieira showed the sort of grit required of a potential title contender, and with the list of fresh challengers to Nunes at 135 pounds beginning to shrink, the Russian could potentially push herself toward a title shot with another win or two.

Tom Aspinall and Chris Daukaus

On a weekend that saw a quartet of heavyweight fights on deck at UFC Fight Night 185, two relative newcomers to the UFC picked up hugely impressive victories to put the division’s established order on notice.

Tom Aspinall battered Andrei Arlovski in Round 1, then submitted him in Round 2 to claim the scalp of a former UFC heavyweight champion, while Chris Daukaus lit up Russian veteran Aleksei Oleinik in less than two minutes to score a big stoppage win of his own.

Both men are affable, straight-talking types who have been engaging personalities with the media over the past week, and they both offer a glimpse of what the future of the division might look like.

It’s looking like 2021 is going to be a big year for the heavyweight division and, while the top names are duking it out for the title at the sharp end, the likes of Aspinall and Daukaus are making inroads, and it may not be too long before one or both of them are right in the mix themselves. Don’t rule out a battle between the pair in the not-too-distant future, either.

Derrick Lewis

Make no mistake, Derrick Lewis is a legitimate title contender. With his entertaining, power-punching style, Lewis has always been a fan-favorite in the UFC heavyweight division, but perhaps wasn’t universally considered a serious title threat due to issues over his cardio and wrestling.

Well, that was then, and times have changed.

Lewis’ cardio has leveled up markedly, while his ability to keep the fight standing has also improved significantly. Matched with someone many thought would be a nightmare booking for Lewis, Curtis Blaydes, the Houston native faced an acid test of his all-round abilities, and he passed with flying colors, courtesy of a crushing uppercut.

The bout represented a win-or-bust scenario for both men’s title ambitions in the UFC, and it was “The Black Beast” rose to the occasion as he scored a huge knockout to starch Blaydes and leave no doubt that he’s ready for a title shot.

The imminent arrival of Jon Jones as a UFC heavyweight may mean Lewis has to wait – and probably beat another contender – before he gets another shot at the gold. But he’s right in the mix again, and he’s never looked better.