Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev has retained his title with a first-round stoppage of Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 294, an Ultimate Fighting Championship event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The Saturday night fight was a rematch from UFC 284 in February, when Makhachev of Russia won by unanimous decision.
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Featherweight champion Volkanovski of Australia, taking the fight on just 11 days’ notice, moved up to the 155-pound (70.3kg) limit to be a replacement for former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, who suffered an injury during training.
This fight did not get past 3:06 of the first round. The 31-year-old Makhachev (25-1-0, five KOs) took down the 35-year-old Volkanovski (26-3, 13 KOs) with a head kick and finished him off with strikes on the ground.
“I have a great team. We always did this in the locker room, in the training – pushed me very hard,” Makhachev said. “I showed him a couple of low kicks, couple of body kicks and then changed to head kick. I want to say thank you to this guy [Volkanovski]. He’s a real champion.”
The victory brought closure to a rivalry that started when Volkanovski gave Makhachev what might have been the toughest test of his career in their epic 155-pound championship bout at UFC 284 in February.
Makhachev defeated Volkanovski with what many felt was a controversial unanimous decision after five competitive rounds.
On Saturday, Makhachev left no doubt.
“Great setup, good kick,” Volkanovski said. “It’s hard, never like losing. He’s a great champion, what are you going to do? Credit it to him.”
Makhachev’s win ties him for the third-longest win streak in UFC history (13).
Asked who he wanted next, Makhachev replied: “I never choose. [UFC president] Dana [White], give me someone.”
Chimaev defeats Usman in co-main event
In the co-main event, Chechen middleweight Khamzat Chimaev defeated Kamaru Usman by majority decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28).
Usman, 36, regarded as one of the best fighters of his generation and a former UFC welterweight champion, had taken the fight on 11 days’ notice. The Nigeria native and Florida resident filled in after two other fighters, Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier, were injured.
Chimaev, 29, improved to 7-0 in UFC by dominating the first round, losing momentum in the second and getting a takedown in the third before a flurry of action to the final bell.
“I was a school kid when he was fighting,” Chimaev said of Usman. “This bout to me means big things.”
On the undercard, the light heavyweight bout between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker of Brazil was declared a “no contest” because of the former’s accidental foul at 3:13 of Round 1.
Walker took the unintentional and illegal knee to the head while his knee was touching the canvas. Walker wanted to continue the bout but the cage-side physician ruled him ineligible, much to his displeasure, and he motioned Ankalaev to keep fighting before the situation was controlled.
After audio replays indicated Walker was dazed and confused during a brief exchange with ringside physician Garry Hartstein, the bout was stopped.
Walker was visibly upset and had to be held back from charging Ankalaev before UFC CEO Dana White finally entered the ring and was able to simmer down the situation.
The match was thought to provide a potential title shot for the winner.
In a middleweight battle, Ikram Aliskerov (15-1-0) used a quick jab to wobble Warlley Alves (15-7-0) and then dazed him with a vicious flying knee. Aliskerov then used a barrage of punches to win by TKO, a technical knockout, at the 2:07 mark of the first round. It was Aliskerov’s seventh straight win and third in a row in the first round.
Said Nurmagomedov (18-3-0) opened the main card by making quick work of Muin Gafurov (18-6-0), getting the bantamweight win via a guillotine choke at the 1:13 mark of the first round.