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UFC 294 roundup: Islam Makhachev KOs Alex Volkanovski with nasty head kick; Chimaev beats Usman

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 21: (R-L) Islam Makhachev of Russia kicks Alexander Volkanovski of Australia in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 21: (R-L) Islam Makhachev of Russia kicks Alexander Volkanovski of Australia in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Islam Makhachev ended any doubt in his rivalry with featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski, finishing him at 3:06 of the first round with a kick to the head and then some ground-and-pound in their bout for the lightweight title in the main event of UFC 294 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Makhachev defeated Volkanovski at UFC 284 in February, and the rematch was made when ex-champion Charles Oliveira got cut in training and had to drop out. Volkanovski took the fight on 11 days' notice.

Makhachev was in command throughout and didn’t need to use his vaunted wrestling skills to defeat the man who presented the biggest challenge of his career.

Volkanovski was attempting to become only the fourth man in UFC history and fifth person to hold two weight class titles simultaneously. He felt he deserved a decision at UFC 284 and jumped at the opportunity to challenge Makhachev again.

“I want to thank this guy,” Makhachev said. “I told you, you have to turn off the lights to beat this guy. He’s going to fight all five rounds. He’ll never give up. He’s a real champion.”

Volkanovski praised Makhachev for a great set-up on the knockout and said he hoped to be able to fight Ilia Topuria at featherweight in January. He had a big cut on his right eyebrow that might determine whether he’ll be able to return that quickly.

Makhachev was burning before the fight because he felt he’d won decisively the first time around, and then because Volkanovski was getting so much praise for taking the fight on short notice.

He showed Saturday that he was the better, more well-rounded fighter. He set it up by going to the body and then went high even though Volkanovski’s guard was up.

The kick landed on the top of Volkanovski’s head and sent him wobbling back to the cage. Makhachev was on top of him quickly and was landing hard hammer fists. Referee Marc Goddard jumped in to stop it, setting off a wild celebration.

Khamzat Chimaev extends Kamaru Usman's losing streak

Kamaru Usman is one of the great fighters in the UFC, not just of the current time but of all time. But on Saturday, he could muster very little against Khamzat Chimaev, whose grappling, striking and striking defense were all on point in their middleweight bout in the co-main event of UFC 294 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Chimaev won a majority decision over Usman, the former welterweight champion, by scores of 29-27 twice and 28-28. Yahoo Sports had it 29-27 for Chimaev.

Chimaev scored a 10-8 in the first, taking Usman down early in the round and controlling him nearly the rest of the way. He got Usman’s back and threatened for submissions, and though he never got the choke cinched in, he prevented Usman from mounting an offense of his own.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Khamzat Chimaev of the United Arab Emirates battles Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in a middleweight fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Usman won the second round by throwing strikes, but he never really got a lot of momentum going. Chimaev, who had been known in his past UFC fights to storm out of his corner and fight at a breakneck pace, was far more controlled and patient this time.

In the second, it’s almost like he took his foot off the gas and allowed Usman, who took the bout on 11 days’ notice, to get back into the fight.

Chimaev’s wrestling carried the day in the third and he held Usman down for most of the second half of the final round.

After pleading for peace in the world and talking about how much it hurt him to see children dying, Chimaev turned his attention to Usman and Usman’s coaches, Trevor Wittman and Henry Hooft, praising them for their skill and Usman for his willingness to accept the fight when Paulo Costa fell out.

He then thanked UFC CEO Dana White and Hunter Campbell, the UFC’s chief business officer, for helping him. He said he’d be living in a small room 2 meters by 2 meters were it not for them.

He’s next going to fight for the championship and if he wins that, he’ll be able to afford the biggest house he wants.

Illegal knee leads to disappointing no-contest

The light heavyweight bout between No. 2 Magomed Ankalaev and No. 7 Johnny Walker was living up to the hype in the early going before things got crazy.

After Walker missed a flying knee, he wound up on his knees with his back against the cage. Ankalaev threw some punches that landed on Walker’s face while he was trying to open room for a choke. Ankalaev tried to slide behind him and get his back, but Walker defended it by keeping his back against the cage.

Ankalaev gave up on the choke and threw a knee which was clearly illegal, as Walker was a downed opponent. Referee Dan Movahedi called time and brought ringside physician Dr. Garry Hartstein in to check on Walker.

He apparently asked Walker what country he was in, and Walker didn’t appear to answer. Then he asked Walker what round it was and again, there was no answer.

At that point, Hartstein turned to Movahedi and said Walker wasn’t good enough to continue. Movahedi then waved it off.

The fighters tried to get at each other after the stoppage, forcing UFC CEO Dana White to get into the cage. White spoke to Walker and said, “We’ll figure it out,” referencing what to do about the disappointing finish.

The most likely scenario is a rematch after both are healthy and have had a chance to recover from making weight.

Ikram Aliskerov impresses with TKO of Warlley Alves

Ikram Aliskerov has built a reputation as one of the most dangerous middleweights in the world, and simply added to that Saturday by taking apart Warlley Alves.

Aliskerov has everything he needs to be a legitimate contender at middleweight, and simply overwhelmed Alves, stopping him at 2:07 of the first round.

Aliskerov hurt Alves with a jab, sending the Brazilian wobbling back toward the cage. As Alves regained his balance, Aliskerov hit him with a flying knee, which essentially finished it. Alves slumped against the cage and Aliskerov fired punches until the referee stopped it.

It was an impressive performance for a man whose only loss came at the hands of Chimaev in 2019.

“I always aim to finish quickly,” Aliskerov said. “This is the second time I finished someone quickly in the first round. I’m looking for someone in the Top 10 [next].”

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Said Nurmagomedov of Russia secures a choke submission against Muin Gafurov of Tajikistan in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 21: (L-R) Said Nurmagomedov of Russia secures a choke submission against Muin Gafurov of Tajikistan in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Said Nurmagomedov puts Muin Gafurov to sleep

Said Nurmagomedov has one of the best guillotines in the UFC and he proved it by finishing Muin Gafurov in 73 seconds in the main card opener. Gafurov threw a left hook and a right hand, chasing Nurmagomedov, who was circling away trying to create distance.

When Gafurov threw the right, his head pressed into Nurmagomedov’s chest. He cinched the guillotine and Gafurov quickly tapped. However, it happened so quickly that referee Marc Goddard didn’t immediately see the tap.

Nurmagomedov felt Gafurov go out and released the choke before Goddard separated them.

He submitted Cody Stamman with the guillotine in 47 seconds at UFC 270.

Muhammad Mokaev proves himself a flyweight contender

Muhammad Mokaev was 4-0 in the UFC entering his bout Saturday against No. 10 Tim Elliott. The 23-year-old was highly impressive throughout, and stamped himself a contender in a loaded division with an arm-triangle submission of former title challenger Tim Elliott at 3:03 of the third round.

Mokaev scooped Elliott and slammed him while they were near the cage. While in the air, he shifted his weight so he’d come down on top. He then quickly moved in to catch Elliott with the arm triangle. Elliott wasted little time in tapping to his submission.

Mokaev showed great submission defense throughout the fight. Twice, Elliott caught him in guillotine chokes, both of which seemed deep, but Mokaev was patient and worked himself out of it.

He said he wanted a Top-10 opponent next and specifically mentioned Kai Kara-France. But when pressed on it, he said he didn’t care and just wanted someone ranked higher than he is.

But then he quickly changed subjects.

“Forget about it. Forget about that,” he said while excitedly discussing his next opponent. “I just want to send peace around the world. Stay safe my brothers and sisters in Palestine. Everyone. Stay safe, my little brothers, kids, women. I just want to send peace around the world.”