The Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE was home to a great night of fights at UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje. The card saw five (T)KOs, four submissions and three decisions, including a split-draw.
The preliminary card opened with Joel Alvarez snagging a first-round armbar over Alexander Yakovlev. That was followed by Miranda Maverick’s first-round TKO of Liana Jojua due to a cut that forced a doctor’s stoppage. Sam Alvey was transformed into a volume striker against Da-Un Jung and the two slugged it out to a split-draw. Shavket Rakhmonov locked a guillotine on Alex Oliveira in the first round to score the victory and Casey Kenney and Nathaniel Wood had a sensational scrap that ended with Kenney taking the unanimous decision. Tai Tuivasa stopped Stefan Struve with a buzzer beater KO at the end of the first round to finish out the undercard.
The main card kicked off with Magomed Ankalaev scoring a massive knockout over Ion Cutelaba in the first round. A huge left dropped the Moldovan and Magomed followed him to the ground to finish separating him from consciousness. Lauren Murphy logged her fourth-straight win, a second round rear-naked choke of Liliya Shakirova. Then Phil Hawes absolutely destroyed Jacob Malkoun in just 18 seconds via KO. Alexander Volkov launched a front kick to the bread basket in the second round that caused Walt Harris to double over in pain. Volkov was all over him, forcing the referee to intervene. Robert Whitaker and Jared Cannonier had an exciting scrap that ended in a unanimous decision for Robert Whittaker. He turned in a beautiful performance and was close to finishing Cannonier at one point. Fantastic performance from both men.
The main event was another master class by Khabib Nurmagomedov. The first round was a striking clinic by Khabib, who was surgical with that hard jab and combinations. In the second round, Khabib got Gaethje to the ground again and locked up a triangle that forced Gaethje to tap (on Khabib’s head!). And tap. And tap before the ref finally saw and called the action. Nurmagomedov then took the mic and retired, leaving his gloves in the cage. His only request was to be rated the pound-for-pound best in the world. I’d say he’s more than earned it. 29-0
Performance of the Night: Magomed Ankalaev, Khabib Nurmagomedov
Joel Alvarez (armbar, round 1 (3:00), Miranda Maverick (TKO (doctor’s stoppage - cut), round 1 (5:00), Shavket Rakhmonov (guillotine, round 1 (4:40), Tai Tuivasa (KO (punches), round 1 (4:59), Magomed Ankalaev (KO (strikes), 4:19 of round 1), Lauren Murphy (rear naked choke), 3:31 of round 2), Phil Hawes (KO (punches), :18 of round 1), Alexander Volkov (TKO (body kick and punches), 1:15 of round 2), and Khabib Nurmagomedov (triangle at 1:34 of Round 2) all scored finishes in their respective fights but it would be Magomed Ankalaev and Khabib Nurmagomedov that would take the night’s performance bonuses.
Fight of the Night: Kenney-Wood
Sam Alvey vs. Da un Jung ends in a split draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28), Casey Kenney (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), and Robert Whittaker (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) all went the distance in their respective bouts, but it would be Casey Kenney’s amazing battle with Nathaniel Wood that would take fight of the night honors.