UFC 254: Recap and Grade
UFC 254 took place yesterday at Yas Island, also known as Fight Island, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, making it the third time that the UFC has booked an event at Fight Island.
Before the main event of UFC 253 between Adesanya and Costa, the UFC announced the official fight card and time for UFC 254 along with its location being the same as UFC 253. Although UFC pay-per-views usually start around 10:00 p.m. ET, Dana White decided to push the event to an earlier time so more fans would be able to watch this big fight.
The headline of UFC 254 would be a champion vs champion main event bout between the undefeated UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Justin Gaethje, who won the interim belt earlier in the year against former interim champion Tony Ferguson.
This fight card consisted of a No. 1 contenders bout in the middleweight division between former champion Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier, a heavyweight matchup between Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris, another middleweight bout involving Jacob Malkoun and Phillip Hawes, a women’s flyweight bout between Lauren Murphy and Liliya Shakirova, and a light heavyweight rematch after a controversial stoppage the first time between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba.
Now you may ask yourselves, how did UFC 254 pan out?
Well here’s a recap of how the pay-per-view went down:
#11 Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba
Result: Ankalaev by TKO in Round 1
The UFC 254 main card kicks off with a light heavyweight rematch between the number 11th ranked Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba. Ankalaev won the first meeting between the two fighters due to a controversial, yet horrible, TKO stoppage in the first round. While Ankalaev looks to rack up another win and climb the divisional rankings, Cutelaba looks to avenge his loss and get back on track with a win.
The fight started with both fighters exchanging leg kicks. Ankalaev would then follow up with a nice front kick and right hook. Ankalaev would connect with a nice shot that would drop Cutelaba, but Cutelaba would get right back. Ankalaev would land a nice right hand that dropped Cutelaba and would finish him off with the ground and pound as Ankalaev picked up a huge win in the rematch and defeated his rival Cutelaba, pushing him into the top 10 of the light heavyweight division.
Who will take on Ankalaev next?
#5 Lauren Murphy vs Liliya Shakirova
Result: Murphy by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) in Round 2
We now shift our focus to the women’s flyweight division as the number five ranked fighter in the division Lauren Murphy takes on Liliya Shakirova. Both fighters are looking to keep their winning ways going as Murphy looks to jump into the title conversation in the division while Shakirova looks to finally punch her way into the top 15.
In the first round, Shakirova landed a decent body kick followed up with a right hand. SHakirova would then land a leg kick, then she would shoot for a takedown, but Murphy would defend it well. Murphy would land a solid counter right while pressuring Shakirova by coming forward. Murphy would then successfully defend another takedown attempt and land a few solid elbows. The first round ended with both fighters trying to read each other. A round with not much action, but a solid round for Shakirova.
The second round began with Shakirova swinging, but missing with the left hook. Murphy would land a decent combo while pressing forward on Shakirova. Murphy would then get Shakirova on the ground with a successful takedown. Shakirova would then give her back to Murphy, which led to Murphy successfully locking in a rear naked choke, forcing Shakirova to tap as Murphy picked up a huge win, likely pushing her into the title conversation.
Is Murphy next in line for a shot at the UFC women’s flyweight title?
Only time will tell
Jacob Malkoun vs Phillip Hawes
Result: Hawes by KO in Round 1
Our next fight is a Middleweight matchup between the undefeated 25-year-old Jacob Malkoun and Phillip Hawes.
At the beginning of the first round, Hawes landed a right hand that stunned Malkoun. Hawes would then continue to pour it on until referee Jason Herzog stepped in to stop the bout 18 seconds into the round.
Hawes picks up his first win in the UFC, a very impressive one nonetheless, ending Malkoun’s undefeated record.
#7 Alexander Volkov vs #10 Walt Harris
Result: Volkov by TKO in Round 2
We now head into a heavyweight bout between two fighters in the top 10, number seven ranked Alexander Volkov and number 10 Walt Harris. Both fighters look to bounce back after suffering losses at the likes of Curtis Blaydes and Alistair Overeem. While Volkov looks to pick up a big win to help him jump into the top five, Harris looks to earn a crucial win to help his pursuit for the UFC heavyweight championship.
Round one started off with Walt Harris landing a leg kick and both fighters swinging for the fences. Volkov would then land a nice jab. Harris would then connect with a right hand. Volkov would then land a solid combo, but Harris would answer with a flurry of punches of his own. The round ended with Harris blocking a knee from Volkov. A round that went in Volkov’s favor.
The fight heads into the second round with Harris shooting for a single leg, but Volkov would read the attempt well. Volkov would land a beautiful front kick to the body, which hurt Harris as Volkov continued to pour it on as that would end the fight.
Volkov picks up a huge win over Harris, most likely putting him back into the top five of the division.
On the other hand, a brutal loss for Harris as he loses his second straight, kicking him out of the top 10.
#1 Robert Whittaker vs #2 Jared Cannonier
Result: Whittaker by Unanimous Decision
We now move into the co-main event of UFC 254, which is a number one contender’s fight in the middleweight division between number one ranked Robert Whittaker and number two ranked Jared Cannonier. The winner will be next in line for a shot at Israel Adesanya for the UFC middleweight championship.
To start off the first round with Cannonier landing a solid leg kick along with another leg kick that dropped Whittaker, but Whittaker responded with a body kick. The fighters would then exchange both leg kicks. Cannonier would continue to attack Whittaker with the leg kicks. The round would with Cannonier landing a couple more leg kicks. A round that could have gone either way, but I would have to give it to Whittaker.
The second round began with Whittaker connecting with the right hand. However, Cannonier would continue to land with the leg kicks. Cannonier would land a nice counter right, but Whittaker would make his presence known with the jab. Cannonier would then follow up with a decent combination, but Whittaker would answer back. Whittaker would attempt a take down, but Cannonier would get back to his feet right away. Whittaker would continue to look good with his jabs and calculated strikes. The round would end with a double jab from Whittaker. A round that Whittaker
As the final round kicks off, Whittaker would stun Cannonier, getting him to the ground, but Cannonier would fight back and show his resilience. Whittaker would switch from full mount to taking Cannonier’s back. Cannonier would get back up to his feet busted open. Cannonier would answer with a body kick and would stun Whittaker. Whittaker would attempt to wrestle Cannonier, but the fight would end with both fighters tied up.
Whittaker would pick up a crucial unanimous decision victory over Cannonier. A fantastic performance by the number one ranked middleweight, making his case for a rematch with UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Will Whittaker get his shot next against Adesanya?
We shall see
Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) vs (ic) Justin Gaethje
Result: Nurmagomedov by Submission (Triangle choke) in Round 2
IT'S TIME FOR THE MAIN EVENT OF UFC 254 (Bruce Buffer voice). The fight that we have all been waiting for. It is finally here. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje, on paper, I thought this would be the fight of the year, if not the title fight of the year. Two world-class fighters going toe to toe for the UFC lightweight championship. Khabib looks to extend his undefeated record to 29-0 and successfully defend his championship, while Gaethje looks to become the first man to defeat Khabib and become the undisputed champion.
The first round kicked off with Gaethje landing a leg kick and a nice counter shot to Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov would land a solid jab, but Gaethje would answer with a leg kick and a right hand. Nurmagomedov would connect with a few jags. Nurmagomedov would land a nice left followed with an uppercut and leg kick. Nurmagomedov would end the round taking down Gaethje trying to attempt a late submission. A round that I thought Nurmagomedov won if it weren’t for the takedown.
The second round started with Nurmagomedov connecting with a leg kick, but Gaethje would answer with a left hand. Nurmagomedov would take Gaethje down and would get him in a triangle choke, forcing Gaethje to tap as Nurmagomedov kept his undefeated streak alive, successfully defending his belt once again. A huge win for Nurmagomedov coming months after his father passed away.
After the fight, Nurmagomedov would announce his retirement saying in an interview with UFC anchor Jon Anik that “this was his last fight in the UFC”. Nurmagomedov will be going out as a champion and as one of, if not the greatest fighter to ever step foot in the octagon.
As for Gaethje, tough loss but with Nurmagomedov retiring, another chance to capture the Lightweight strap, but this time it won’t be against Nurmagomedov.
Who will the UFC book next for the vacant UFC lightweight championship?
We will find out sooner than later.
Overall, I thought that UFC 254 went pretty well. Although I wish Cannonier made the fight better as opposed to late in the fight and I wish there was a bit more action in the fight, I can’t complain with how the pay-per-view went. The beginning was fun with the quick knockout finishes from Ankalaev, Hawes and Volkov along with a beautiful rear naked choke from Murphy. The best part however, was the main event and the post fight interview. Nurmagomedov not only successfully defended his belt once again, but went out as a champion and put it all on the line for his father. After the fight, Gaethje showed great class by going to Nurmagomedov, hugging him and showing him the respect he deserves.
UFC 254 was a success, but I can’t wait to see what UFC 255 has in store for us.