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411’s UFC 254 Report: Khabib Wins

October 24, 2020 | Posted by Robert Winfree
UFC 254

MAIN CARD (Pay-per-view, 2 p.m. ET)
(c) Khabib Nurmagomedov (155 lbs.) vs. (ic) Justin Gaethje (155 lbs.) – for lightweight title
#2 Jared Cannonier (185 lbs.) vs. #1 Robert Whittaker (186 lbs. lbs.)
#10 Walt Harris (254 lbs.) vs. #7 Alexander Volkov (265 lbs.)
Phil Hawes (186 lbs.) vs. Jacob Malkoun (186 lbs.)
#5 Lauren Murphy (126 lbs.) vs. Liliya Shakirova (126 lbs.)
#11 Magomed Ankalaev (205 lbs.) vs. Ion Cutelaba (205.5 lbs.)

Stefan Struve (265 lbs.) vs. Tai Tuivasa (265 lbs.)
Casey Kenney (140 lbs.) vs. Nathaniel Wood (140 lbs.)
Alex Oliveira (173 lbs.)* vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (171 lbs.)
Sam Alvey (206 lbs.) vs. Da Un Jung (206 lbs.)

Liana Jojua (126 lbs.) vs. Miranda Maverick (126 lbs.)
Joel Alvarez (159.5 lbs.)* vs. Alexander Yakovlev (155.5 lbs.)

Hello everyone and welcome to 411mania’s LIVE coverage of UFC 254. I’m Robert Winfree and I’ll be your host, relaying all of the action to you just as I see it. The UFC wraps up their current stint in the UAE with this event, and they brought a heck of a title fight for the main event. Undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is after the third successful defense of his title and a win would essentially solidify his claim to lightweight GOAT status. Standing in his way is MMA’s most violent man, the current interim champion Justin Gaethje fresh off of his drubbing of Tony Ferguson. Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje might be the best fight on paper all year, certainly it represents insane stakes for both fighters. The co-main event is pretty solid as well when former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker battles surging contender Jared Cannonier with the winner the presumptive next title challenger to Israel Adesanya. Beyond that we’ve got stuff, the rematch between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba is finally happening (allegedly), but my pick for undercard fight to keep your eye on is Nathaniel Wood vs. Casey Kenney. Both Wood and Kenney are rising bantamweight prospects but only one will take that step towards contender status here.

UFC 254 comes to the world from the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. On commentary we have Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier with Megan Olivi doing reporting duty. As for the rules we’re under a hybrid set, most of the changes have been adopted but you still need only one hand on the mat to be considered downed and instant replay can only be used on fight ending sequences.

Joel Alvarez has gone 2-1 in the UFC but is on a two fight winning streak coming into this fight. Alvarez missed weight rather badly and so needs a win to help smooth over that gaff. Alexander Yakovlev is just 1-3 in his last four fights but is 1-1 since returning to lightweight, he’s coming off of a loss and is trying to avoid another losing streak. Alvarez is the favorite at -160 to +140 on Yakovlev.

Lightweight Bout: Joel Alvarez (17-2, 159.5 lbs.) vs. Alexander Yakovlev (24-9-1, 155.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: These two are the same height while Alvarez has three inches of reach advantage, plus he missed weight. Southpaw for Yakovlev, and they touch gloves to get things started. Both men bouncing and feinting early, and probing with some kicks. Alvarez working leg kicks, Yakovlev gets a single leg but Alvarez grabs a guillotine on the way down. That’s pretty tight and Alvarez is working to adjust things but the left side of his neck is being more and more exposed. Alvarez keeps adjusting, he’s really squeezing and could gas his arms badly if he doesn’t finish this. Yakovlev pulls his head out and starts working in the guard of Alvarez. Both men land blows, Yakovlev working body to head while Alvarez is trying elbows. Alvarez spins for an armbar, that’s tight and getting extended but Yakovlev is defending so far. They roll as Yakovlev tries to sink back and escape but he winds up tapping out.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Joel Alvarez via Submission, armbar, at 3:00 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Alvarez for his work this morning. They try to interview Alvarez but it looks like there isn’t a readily available translator for Spanish. They find one, Alvarez says he’s an expert submission artist and is happy to continue getting them. He talks us through the finish, noting both men are very long limbed so he trained for this one. To close he notes he’s 3-0 in the UFC and wants to see what the UFC will put in front of him.

Yakovlev gets a little complacent in the guard here, Alvarez traps the arm with his right arm and hooks the leg with his left to help turn and hit the angle with his hips for the armbar. Yakovlev tries to defend but once they sink back and Alvarez gets more perpendicular that’s more difficult, Yakovlev tries to walk around the head but he only moves his legs and can’t get his arm or shoulders in motion and thus the pressure is never released and he has to tap.

Liana Jojua has gone 1-1 in the UFC but she is coming off of a win and looking to get her first UFC winning streak up and running. Miranda Maverick brings a three fight winning streak into her UFC debut, and she’s hoping to make a good first impression on the UFC audience. Maverick is a big favorite at -420 to a +350 payout on Jojua.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Liana Jojua (8-3, 126 lbs.) vs. Miranda Maverick (7-2, 126 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Jojua is half an inch taller while Maverick has three and a half inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going, Maverick fighting southpaw. Both women probing with the lead hand early. Jojua with a bit of a right. Another right from Jojua, Maverick is a little wide with her punches and Jojua is getting to the target faster. Maverick lands a bit of a left. Body kick from Maverick. Maverick is working combinations now, that’s working well for her and Jojua is bleeding from the nose. Jojua lands a counter right but she’s still working in limited numbers while Maverick is flowing nicely. Combination from Maverick, she’s found her footing very quickly. Maverick lands a body kick. Body kick and left from Maverick. Jojua lands a right to the body, and a bit of an overhand. Maverick doesn’t seem to have much fear about the power coming at her and she’s working combinations. Left from Maverick lands. Some side kicks from Maverick now. More power hand punches are traded, Maverick lands an elbow and Jojua’s nose is cut now as well. Maverick lands a body kick. That will end the round, Jojua’s nose is a bit of a mess.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Maverick

ROUND TWO: The doctor called this off between rounds, that gash on Jojua’s nose wouldn’t stop bleeding after the cutman did everything he could and the doc waved it off.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Miranda Maverick via TKO, doctor stoppage, at 5:00 Round 1

No issues with that stoppage, that was a pretty bad cut that’s still leaking as they announce things. Mic time for Maverick, she wanted to show more of what she can do and wants to be the next big thing in a division that needs one. She’s not wrong about flyweight. She gives love to her family and thanks everyone for their support. Talking us through the finish she puts over her coaches. Asked about the future as she’s fighting while working on her PhD, she wants to fight next month and can’t wait to see what she can do once she’s able to focus exclusively on fighting.

Here’s the blow that caused all the issues, a rear hand upward elbow from Maverick. There’s a pretty good right from Jojua on the back end of that exchange but she doesn’t have the power to truly hurt Maverick and the damage is done.

A look at the damage that caused the stoppage. That thing would not stop bleeding, I can live with the stoppage.

Da Un Jung is on a twelve fight winning streak including two wins in the UFC, he’s been out of action for a bit but is trying to extend that streak here and start looking for some ranked opposition next time. Sam Alvey is on a four fight losing streak, and could easily be cut from the UFC if he drops to 0-5 here. It shouldn’t be surprising that Jung is a heavy favorite at -360 to +300 for Alvey.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Sam Alvey (33-14 1 NC, 206 lbs.) vs. Da Un Jung (13-2, 206 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Jung is two inches taller and has three inches of reach advantage. Alvey fighting southpaw, and backing up immediately per usual. Jung stalking forward. Both men just probing early, trying to find an avenue for attack. Some leg kicks go back and forth but nothing serious yet. Alvey lands a left to the body. Combination from Jung mostly lands. Left from Alvey wobbles Jung for a second but he’s back on the offense. They tie up and trade in the clinch for a bit. Elbow from Jung as they break. One two from Jung, then an uppercut as well. Both men land in close. Alvey lands a right hook. Another brawling exchange just before the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Alvey but a close one

ROUND TWO: Jung back to forward pressure. A couple of rights from Jung land. There’s an exchange of rights. Jung lands an inside leg kick. Right to the body from Jung. High kick from Jung is blocked. Bit of a right from Jung. Alvey lands a calf kick, he’s landed a few of those throughout the fight. Jung lands a right. Bit of a combination from Alvey. Jung lands a left hook, Alvey responds with a calf kick and those are adding up at this point. Alvey is bleeding from the nose and around the right eye I think. Alvey lands an uppercut. They both miss blows as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Alvey but another close round

ROUND THREE: They touch gloves for the final round. Jung pressuring again but he needs some kind of paradigm shift as he’s struggled with the countering. Jung lands a right elbow that drops Alvey, he unloads on the ground as Alvey wall walks. Alvey trying to recover as Jung holds a rear waist lock. Some more rights from Jung. They break without incident. More pressure from Jung. Alvey looks to brawl, he lands a couple of uppercuts and Jung fires back. Another uppercut from Alvey. They trade rights, Alvey is really leaning on the lead hand uppercut and there’s a counter if Jung can find it. Another right from Jung wobbles Alvey and he’s pressing forward. They wind up clinched on the fence. Jung keeps looking for the same outside trip and Alvey is defending. Elbow from Jung on the break wobbles Alvey again. One last exchange punctuates the fight.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Jung, 29-28 Alvey overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – DRAW, split (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)

Not sure I can get to a 10-8 for Jung in the 3rd, but I don’t hate the outcome. No interview for either man.

Alex Oliveira missed weight for this fight, but he’s won his last two fights and if he wants to make a run in a division this deep he can ill afford a loss here. Shavkat Rakhmonov is undefeated coming into his UFC debut, he’s been out of action for over a year but he’s had three scheduled fights fall out this year and now finally gets to try and showcase his skills on the biggest stage the sport offers. The odds are close but favor Rakhmonov at -130 to +110 for Oliveira.

Welterweight Bout: Alex Oliveira (22-8-1 2 NC, 173 lbs.) vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (12-0, 171 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Rakhmonov is two inches taller and has half an inch of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get things started. Both men feinting around early. Oliveira with a right. Rakhmonov lands a leg kick. Calf kick from Rakhmonov. Oliveira lands a leg kick. Another leg kick from Rakhmonov. Quick right and left from Rakhmonov, he’s got Oliveira backing up. Rakhmonov lands a knee to the body and they start trading in the clinch. More knees from Rakhmonov, he’s also threatening with trips occasionally. Oliveira with the knees now. Oliveira drops for a takedown, Rakhmonov defends and keeps the clinch. Another knee from Rakhmonov, Oliveira tries another takedown but can’t finish it. Rakhmonov jumps for a guillotine choke, it’s arm in but he’s got it tight and Oliveira has to tap.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Shavkat Rakhmonov via Submission, guillotine choke, at 4:40 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Rakhmonov for his work this morning. Mic time for Rakhmonov and his translator, he is thrilled to have won for his country and puts over Oliveira as a tough opponent but he plans on beating even tougher ones in the future. He talks us through the finish, and feels like his guillotine choke is strong. Asked who he’d like next he plans on not rushing just taking things step by step all the way to the title.

You can see Rakhmonov adjusting his grip on the feet, and he doesn’t jump guard until he’s confident in the grip around the neck. On the mat watch how he finishes things, with the arm in you can’t just pull back and try to stretch for the choke (that’s more a no arm variant thing) you have to kind of crunch up with your torso and compress everything. Oliveira is able to resist until Rakhmonov adjusts and crunches up, then he has to tap.

Nathaniel Wood has gone 3-1 in the UFC and while he suffered loss earlier this year he bounced back and is hoping to close his 2020 campaign with a win that could set up a step up in class next. Casey Kenney has gone 4-1 in the UFC, only dropping a bout with Merab Dvalishvili. Kenney is on a two fight winning streak and could likewise start the move from prospect to contender with a definitive win here. Kenney is a slight -170 favorite to +150 on Wood.

Catchweight Bout: Casey Kenney (15-2-1, 140 lbs.) vs. Nathaniel Wood (17-4, 140 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Kenney is an inch taller while Wood has an inch of reach advantage. Southpaw for Kenney, and they touch gloves to start. Wood opens with an inside leg kick and a combination to follow. Kenney lands a body kick. Wood is working in longer combinations, they’re both throwing a lot. Kenney with a right hook, body kick, and Wood lands a left hook. Wood working inside leg kicks, Kenney responds with some body kicks. This pace is pretty crazy. Left from Kenney lands. Spinning elbow from Kenney partially successful. Kenney with a one two. Wood back to leg kicks, but eats a right hook. Kenney lands a left. Some stance switching from Kenney, he lands a left to the body. Both men land in close but Kenney seems to have more power in his punches. Stiff left from Kenney lands. Spinning back kick from Kenney. Kenney is working the body with kicks, he’s backing Wood up. Wood lands a combination, and eats some counters. They trade one final time before that furious round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Kenney

ROUND TWO: Wood lands an inside leg kick and looks to come forward but Kenney is countering him. Kenney lands a left. Both men still working leg kicks. Both men land lefts, then Wood lands some leg kicks. Kenney lands a body kick. Both men land power hand punches. Wood is trying to get his jab going while moving around. Another body kick from Kenney. Kenney lands a right hook. Wood with a left. Both men land three punch combinations. Kenney lands a left to the body. They clinch up, but Wood gets free almost immediately. Counter left from Kenney lands, and a right behind it. Bit of a knee from Kenney in close. Wood lands a counter right and a few behind it. Wood is out working Kenney a bit now, he’s landed more blows. Inside leg kick from Kenney. That will be the last blow of the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Wood, 19-19 overall

ROUND THREE: They touch gloves for the final round. Kenney with a bit of a leg kick. Wood jabbing and moving again. They trade kicks. Kenney lands a left to the body then a body kick. Wood is still working the jab and trying to keep Kenney at distance. Kenney fakes a takedown and gets around behind Wood and rides him to the mat. Wood trying to wall walk, Kenney in the ride position. Some knees to the body from Kenney as he’s looking for a mat return. Wood tries to hit a switch but can’t finish it and Kenney is still on his back landing short elbows. Wood back up and he’s able to get free. Kenney lands a left then a body kick. Both men land punches in close, Kenney trips Wood down then lands a punch as he regains his feet. Kenney shoots a single leg, but Wood is able to defend it. Hard left from Kenney lands. Wood lands a right, and then a left hook behind it. Kenney lands another left then a left body kick. They clinch up after Wood lands some punches, and trade in close again. They break after that exchange and time runs down.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Kenney, 29-28 Kenney overall but a darn good fight

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Casey Kenney via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

That’s the front runner for Fight of the Night so far, great stuff from both men. I don’t agree with 30-27 but that’s a minor complaint. Mic time for Kenney, he puts over Wood and is glad to have had an exciting fight. He doesn’t like fights going the distance but does try to secure rounds when he needs to. Asked what’s next, he just wants a drink after the fight and hopes to get one more fight in before the end of the year.

Stefan Struve has been with the UFC since 2009, but he’s just 1-4 in his last five fights and needs a win badly to try and salvage his career as continues winding down. Tai Tuivasa has gone 3-3 in the UFC but he’s on a three fight losing streak and needs a win to salvage his career. The odds here are fairly close but lean towards Tuivasa at -125 to a +105 payout on Struve.

Heavyweight Bout: Stefan Struve (29-12, 265 lbs.) vs. Tai Tuivasa (9-3, 265 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Struve is comically larger, ten inches taller and with nine and a half inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get us going. Struve with some front kicks early. Tuivasa is swinging a little wild and not yet finding the target. Leg kick from Tuivasa. They clinch up on the fence, Tuivasa working the body in close. They break without incident. Glancing right from Tuivasa. Tuivasa lands a leg kick. Struve lands a leg kick. Head kick from Struve lands, Tuivasa just eats it. Tuivasa punches into the clinch again and resumes hitting to the body and head. There’s a quick flurry from Tuivasa as they break. Some leg kicks go back and forth. Struve is doing some stance switching now. Body kick from Struve. Tuivasa lands another leg kick. Tuivasa tries to unload in close, he shucks Struve down and unloads as Struve tries to stand, flooring him with one of those punches and we’re done here.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Tai Tuivasa via KO, punches, at 4:59 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Tuivasa for his work this morning. Mic time for Tuivasa who notes it’s been a while since he won a fight and puts over Struve. He feels pressure makes him work harder, and he knew his back was against the wall coming into this one. He walks us through the finish, and says it’s good to win and notes the size of Struve and having to deal with it. Asked about the future he wants to fight again but notes 2020 has been a terrible year.

Struve has never dealt with pressure well, he just covers up along the fence and Tuivasa unloads to get the finish.

That wraps up preliminary action, we’re on to PPV for the main card.

Magomed Ankalaev has gone 4-1 in the UFC and is on a four fight winning streak, he’s one of the few rising talents in the division and could find himself in line for a bigger fight going forward if he can win here. Ion Cutelaba is 3-2 in his last five fights, he’s coming off of a loss to Ankalaev but the stoppage was pretty bad and now he’s got a chance to score arguably his biggest UFC win. Ankalaev is the -335 favorite to a +250 comeback on Cutelaba.

Light Heavyweight Bout: #11 Magomed Ankalaev (14-1, 205 lbs.) vs. Ion Cutelaba (15-5 1 NC, 205.5 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Ankalaev is two inches taller but the reach is identical. Southpaw for Ankalaev, both men start out circling. Cutelaba stalking forward but not cage cutting. Ankalaev lands a leg kick. Front kick to the face from Ankalaev and a bit of a left behind it. Cutelaba is still coming forward but just following, not cutting things off. Bit of an overhead punch from Cutelaba. Jab from Ankalaev to counter an overhand from Cutelaba. Ankalaev lands a body kick. Little bit of a counter combination from Ankalaev. One two from Ankalaev, he’s the better fighter but Cutelaba’s power is a serious equalizer. Knee from Ankalaev in close. Ankalaev lands a straight left. Cutelaba still just following, it’s becoming a real problem for him. Left from Ankalaev sits Cutelaba down, Cutelaba back up and at distance but he got tagged there. Right then a left from Ankalaev floors Cutelaba, the ref decides he wants to see blood and makes Ankalaev knock Cutelaba out cold. Late stoppage.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Magomed Ankalaev via KO, punches, at 4:19 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Ankalaev for his work this morning. Mic time for Ankalaev after that, he wanted to make a statement and feels he did so while making his coaches proud. He talks us through the finish, noting Cutelaba was slower than him so he could time things easier.

The timing from Ankalaev is great, his right hook guides Cutelaba into the left that floors him. Could have stopped it right then, but the ref wanted a soul and Ankalaev is happy to oblige.

Lauren Murphy has gone 4-1 since moving to flyweight, she’s on a three fight winning streak and is hoping to defend her top ranking. Liliya Shakirova took this fight on about ten days notice when Cynthia Calvillo fell out, but she’s on a three fight winning streak and could immediately find herself in the title picture if she takes out the fifth ranked contender. Between the short notice change and better UFC experience Murphy is the -215 favorite while the +170 comeback on Shakirova might tempt a few bettors.

Women’s Flyweight Bout: #5 Lauren Murphy (13-4, 126 lbs.) vs. Liliya Shakirova (8-1, 126 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Murphy is an inch taller and has an inch and a half of reach advantage. Circling to start, both women feinting as well. Shakirova showing kicks early while she’s started stance switching. Jab from Murphy. Body kick from Shakirova. Shakirova lands a right. Murphy still coming forward, very methodical approach from her thus far. Spinning back fist from Shakirova glances off the head of Murphy. Both women with some glancing punches, neither woman really landing clean. Bit of a right from Shakirova. Both women block body kicks. Shakirova grabs a single leg and drives Murphy to the fence. Murphy with elbows while Shakirova tries to switch to a double leg. They wind up clinched on the fence. Some knees go back and forth, Murphy lands an elbow as they break. Shakirova lands a couple of body kicks. That will basically end the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Murphy I guess

ROUND TWO: Sorry guys, having some feed issues. Murphy is backing Shakirova up, she lands some knees to the body. Both women trying to jab but not finding the target much yet. Shakirova lands a body kick. Murphy with short uppercuts as they clinch up and hit the fence. Murphy gets a body lock takedown into full guard. Some elbows from Murphy, Shakirova is trying to work her guard but isn’t all that close to anything. Shakirova to her knees but Murphy dives on the back, locks up the choke and Shakirova has to tap.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Lauren Murphy via Submission, rear naked choke, at 3:31 of Round 2

Murphy would have a claim on a title shot except Jessica Andrade showed up and did what she did last week. Mic time for Murphy, she thanks a lot of brass and is grateful to have gotten her first submission win. She feels she’s one of the most well rounded fighters in the sport and can fight anywhere, she runs down her case for a title shot and wants the next crack at the belt. To close she promises her next fight will be for the title, I find that unlikely but take your shot.

Jacob Malkoun is undefeated coming into his UFC debut despite being relatively inexperienced he has just the one chance to make a good first impression. Phil Hawes is on a four fight winning streak and makes his UFC debut on the back of a win in his second fight on the Contender Series, now he’s looking for that all important first UFC win. Hawes is your favorite at -250 to a +195 comeback on Malkoun.

Middleweight Bout: Phil Hawes (8-2, 186 lbs.) vs. Jacob Malkoun (4-0, 186 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Hawes is three inches taller and has four and a half inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get things going. Hawes stalking forward early, he’s got Malkoun on the fence. Hawes with a flurry, he staggers Malkoun with a right and then flurries to make Malkoun face plant.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Phil Hawes via KO, punches, at :18 of Round 1

The First Round Finish Club thanks Mr. Hawes for his work this afternoon. Mic time for Hawes after that blitzkrieg, he gives glory to God and thanks his team for their work before saying he feels awesome. He talks us through the finish, feeling that if he lands someone is going to sleep. Asked what’s next for him he’s healthy and will be available for the upcoming shows in Las Vegas if necessary.

Malkoun gets backed onto the fence easily, the Hawes sneaks a right hand around the guard and behind the ear. From there he just unloads and melts Malkoun all the way to the mat.

The broadcast brings in Michael Chandler, who was the backup for the main event. He says being out here has been awesome and he got to spend time with his new co-workers. He says it finally felt like the right time to come into the UFC and wants to be UFC champion in the next 12-18 months. Asked about his UFC debut, he wants to keep doing what he’s been doing and wants a top five guy right away. He reiterates that now is the right time for her and he wants to test himself against the best. Asked about his physical condition he talks about his recent schedule, he fought back in August, he’s planning on taking opportunities when they come his way.

Alexander Volkov has been a top heavyweight for a while but has struggled in taking that final step to the truly elite level, he’s coming off of a loss against Curtis Blaydes and is trying to avoid his first UFC losing streak. Walt Harris just suffered his first loss in about three years when he was stopped by Alistair Overeem, now he’s trying to bounce back and climb a little higher in the rankings. The odds are with Volkov at -190 to +150 for Harris.

Heavyweight Bout: #10 Walt Harris (13-8 1 NC, 254 lbs.) vs. #7 Alexander Volkov (31-8, 265 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Volkov is two inches taller and has three inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves, Harris fighting southpaw. Volkov stalking forward. Both men miss some combinations then trade body kicks. Right and a left hook from Volkov. Stiff jab from Volkov. Volkov lands a left hook. Leg kick from Volkov then a right to the body. Harris with a bit of a right but Volkov is starting to slip and counter him. Harris lands a right hook. Volkov lands a body kick. Rights from Volkov in close, he’s breaking down Harris and is getting to him more often. Front kick from Volkov then an inside leg kick. Harris doesn’t seem to have a plan B at the moment, he’s getting slowly picked at by Volkov. Volkov lands a right. Combination of punches wobble Harris, Volkov looks to unload along the fence but Harris fires back enough to get him to back off. More pressure from Volkov, he lands a front kick to the body. They stare away the final seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Volkov

ROUND TWO: Harris circling, Volkov feinting forward again. Volkov avoids a takedown attempt. Right from Volkov lands. Front kick to the body/groin of Harris and he’s down. Volkov pounds things out on the mat and we’re done. Just need to confirm that the kick was legal. Replay confirms the front kick hit the solar plexus, great kick from Volkov.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Alexander Volkov via TKO, body kick and punches, at 1:15 of Round 2

Mic time for Volkov after that, he feels very good and is ready for the next challenge. He feels this was a good fight and is glad to have beaten a ranked opponent and that he gets to keep his spot. He talks about working the body a bit in close in the first and then building to more powerful kicks in the second, then thanks his family and team. Asked who he’d like next he wants a big name like Overeem or dos Santos or Rozenstruik as he wants to get to the title.

Check the aim on Volkov, he snaps that kick up through the guard and right into the solar plex area. To add insult to injury I think he timed it with Harris breathing in.

Robert Whittaker is the former middleweight champion, he suffered his first loss at 185 last year when Israel Adesanya knocked him out and took his title. Whittaker bounced back earlier this year by beating Darren Till via decision and now could get a chance at reclaiming his title with a win here. Jared Cannonier has gone 3-0 since dropping to middleweight, and is likewise probably getting a title shot if he’s able to take out the former champion. The odds here closed at a -110 pick ’em.

Middleweight Bout: #2 Jared Cannonier (13-4, 185 lbs.) vs. #1 Robert Whittaker (21-5, 186 lbs. lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Whittaker is an inch taller while Cannonier has four inches of reach advantage. They touch gloves to get things going. Leg kick from Cannonier. Some stance switching from Cannonier as they feint at each other. Whittaker looking to get his jab going. Hard leg kick from Cannonier sweeps Whittaker for a moment. Body kick from Whittaker. Cannonier blocks a high kick, Cannonier is doing a lot of fighting out of southpaw. More leg kicks from Cannonier, those are adding up quickly. Stepping left from Whittaker lands. Whittaker is starting to check the leg kicks, and he barely misses a head kick. Right from Whittaker staggers Cannonier for a second. Cannonier avoids a few punches, then Whittaker lands a jab. More leg kicks from Cannonier but Whittaker is landing his jab more frequently now. Whittaker lands another jab, and avoids a counter. Cannonier lands another leg kick. More jabs from Whittaker, then a head kick that’s partially blocked. Cannonier lands a couple of body kicks to close the round.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Whittaker

ROUND TWO: They touch gloves again. Whittaker lands a bit of a right. Cannonier lands another leg kick but eats a couple of jabs. A lot of stance switching from Cannonier, which helps his leg kick game but he’s eating jabs from both stances as well. Cannonier has a high kick blocked. Whittaker with a couple of short uppercuts in close, then Cannonier lands another leg kick. Whittaker’s jab really is awesome. Cannonier lands a right. Whittaker lands a right and they both land in close. Cannonier’s right eye is swelling from all those jabs, not bad enough to stop the fight but it bears watching. Right to the body from Cannonier. Stiff jab from Whittaker. Calf kick from Cannonier. They clinch and Whittaker gets a takedown then a rear waist lock and he tries a head kick as Cannonier breaks free. More leg kicks from Cannonier, Whittaker is feeling those. Jabs from Whittaker, then a right behind one of them. Double jab then a right from Whittaker, he’s really fighting well now. They feint away the final seconds.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Whittaker, 20-18 Whittaker overall

ROUND THREE: Whittaker with a one two immediately. That jab from Whittaker is skewering Cannonier. Hard jab from Whittaker. One two and a head kick from Whittaker badly hurts Cannonier, Cannonier falls down along the fence and Whittaker is on top trying to finish. Cannonier gets full guard and closes it, he survived that situation. Whittaker passes to half guard without much issue. Cannonier is trying to wall walk but Whittaker is keeping him down. Full mount now for Whittaker. Punches and elbows from Whittaker, he gets the back now as Cannonier tries to scramble. Cannonier is cut somewhere around the right eye, but he wall walks back up in the clinch. Knee and elbow from Cannonier. Whittaker spins free and they reset. Cannonier is trying to get close but he’s still walking into that wonderful Whittaker jab. Body kick from Cannonier. Right from Cannonier staggers Whittaker and he’s looking to press for a finish. They get close and trade then Whittaker forces a clinch. Cannonier slips trying to knee, he’s back up and they end things in the clinch.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Whittaker, 30-27 Whittaker overall

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER – Robert Whittaker via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)

Which round did Cannonier win? Mic time for Whittaker, he jokes that he feels pretty good and is grateful to be going home now that the work is done. He puts over Cannonier’s toughness, and then talks about his preparation for this fight. He’s just looking forward to Christmas with his family when asked about what he’s thinking about next.

The head kick from the third round, that one two into the head kick is a tough combination to reliably pull off and Whittaker nails it.

Justin Gaethje is the interim champion, a title he claimed when he battered and finished Tony Ferguson earlier this year. Gaethje is on an overall four fight winning streak and has finished all of those, now he’s trying to claim the undisputed title and set off on cementing his legacy as a UFC champion. Khabib Nurmagomedov is the undefeated UFC lightweight champion, and has a very strong claim to being the greatest lightweight fighter the UFC has ever seen. Nurmagomedov has defended his title twice and is looking to remain undefeated and continue building his legend with another win here. Unsurprisingly Nurmagomedov is the favorite, but at -315 the potential +250 payout for Gaethje is a tempting bet for anyone not afraid to lose.

UFC Lightweight Title Bout: (c) Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0, 155 lbs.) vs. (ic) Justin Gaethje (22-2, 155 lbs.)

ROUND ONE: Gaethje is an inch taller while the reach is identical. Circling to start from both men, taking their time. Gaethje lands an inside leg kick. There’s a lot of space between these two, both mindful of it. Another inside leg kick from Gaethje. They trade rights. Nurmagomedov lands a jab, he’s trying to back Gaethje up. Gaethje lands a calf kick. Nurmagomedov gets a clinch, Gaethje immediately spins free. Gaethje misses a couple of punches. More jabs from Nurmagomedov, bit of a right from Gaethje. Gaethje lands another leg kick. Nurmagomedov lands a front kick to the body and a jab. Knee from Nurmagomedov lands to the head. Gaethje circling but he’s closer and closer to the fence. They trade blows then Nurmagomedov lands a body kick. Nurmagomedov jabbing well now, then he lands a leg kick. Gaethje lands a leg kick. Nurmagomedov eats a left hook and lands a few lefts of his own. Gaethje with more leg kicks, those are adding up. Nurmagomedov just wont stop coming forward, he eats another left hook and shoots a double leg to get Gethje down. Gaethje sitting on the fence as Nurmagomedov has mounted the legs. Nurmagomedov moves to leg drag and lands some punches then gets full mount. Armbar attempt from Nurmagomedov, they wind up in spiderweb control as the round ends.

SCORECARD: 10-9 Nurmagomedov

ROUND TWO: Nurmagomedov back to moving forward, his pressure is nuts. Gaethje avoids a couple of punches. Leg kick from Nurmagomedov and a bit of a right behind it. Gaethje trying to circle off of the fence, he lands a hard calf kick. Nurmagomedov still coming forward, gets a double leg right to full mount. Nurmagomedov going for a mounted triangle, he rolls down for it and rolls for it and Gaethje taps but for some reason referee Jason Herzog wants Gaethje to sleep.

OFFICIAL RESULT: †WINNER and STILL UFC Lightweight Champion – Khabib Nurmagomedov via Technical Submission, triangle choke, at 1:34 of Round 2

Khabib breaks down after the finish, Gaethje goes over to share a moment with him. It’s hard to over sell Khabib at this point, the man is just exceptional and we’re all lucky to be watching his career. Mic time for Khabib, he’s emotional still and gives glory to God first and foremost. He thanks his team and his late father, he says this was his last fight as he doesn’t want to do this anymore without his father. He accepted the fight with Gaethje because he promised his mother this was his last one, and the only thing he wants from the UFC is to be on top of the pound for pound rankings when they update. As he runs down his career he thanks the UFC brass past and present for everything then thanks Gaethje for the fight and puts him over as a person. To close he gives more thanks and love to his team and places his gloves in the cage. Asked how hard the week was he says this was his fathers dream, notes he choked out both Dustin and Conor who are fighting later, now beat Gaethje and doesn’t think there’s much left for him. He goes into Russian that goes untranslated, I think he’s just repeating everything he already said.

Gaethje gets an interview now as well, he says he felt alive which is why he fights and says he stuck around to give Khabib props. He puts over Khabib’s strength and knows Abdulmanap is proud of his son. Asked about the future, he says the good thing about being choked out is there’s no real long term negative consequences, he said a few years ago he had five or so wars left in him but he hasn’t had a war since then so he’s looking forward to fighting again.

On that somber note, UFC 254 comes to a close. Thanks everyone here live on the early time, and also to everyone reading after the fact. We’ll be unpacking all the action from this event on the 411 Ground and Pound MMA Podcast this Sunday, plus looking ahead to UFC on ESPN+ 39 when Anderson Silva allegedly will have his final fight as well when he takes on Uriah Hall. I’ll be back next week for that event, so stop by on Halloween if you’re not too busy and say hello. Until then thank you all again, stay safe out there, and keep checking 411mania for all of your pop culture needs.

Leaving you all with this, they aired this earlier in the event. I’m not crying, shut up.

article topics :

UFC 254, Robert Winfree