Islam Makhachev reigns supreme at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi

UFC 294 rocks the Middle East as heavy favourites Islam Makhachev, Khamzat Chimaev, Ikram Aliskerov, and Muhammad Mokaev win in emphatic fashion.

UFC 294’s main and co-main events were significantly altered just 12 days before they were supposed to fight. Insert two of the promotion’s most respected fighters and we’ve got ourselves a banger. 

One fight silenced doubters and the other raised a lot of questions on whether or not the right man won.

Makhachev ends the rivalry and finishes Volkanovski in Round 1

Islam Makhachev didn’t want to leave any doubt this time as he ended the main event with a skull-crushing blow. He also ended the debate on whether or not he should be the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Makhachev (25-1) finished featherweight champion Alexander “the Great” Volkanovski (26-3) with a vaporizing left high kick three minutes and six seconds into the very first round. Silencing critics and successfully defending the lightweight belt for the third time in a row.

A short notice replacement for the injured Charles Oliveira, Volkanovksi seemed a little too timid when striking with the lightweight champion. To his defence, he had only 12 days to prepare for the biggest rematch of his life. Volkanovski started a little sluggish as he tried to get reads on whether or not Machachev would shoot. Even though the shot never came, the latter prevailed from the moment the fight began. He set up the high kick by attacking the calf on two separate occasions, poked away at the body and then finally slipped a left high kick over Volkanovski’s guard. The kick landed directly on his right eyebrow and wobbled him instantly. Makhachev didn’t let up and continued teeing off with a barrage of punches and hammerfists until the fight was stopped by referee Marc Goddard.

The 31-year-old Makhachev might just be the biggest name in the UFC after Jon Jones or Conor McGregor. His 13-fight win streak is tied for third in the promotion’s history. It doesn’t look like anyone can stop him—he’s already on his way to surpassing Khabib Nurmagomedov as the lightweight division’s GOAT.

Khamzat Chimaev remains undefeated and beats former welterweight champion in a back-and-forth affair

The seemingly unstoppable force Khamzat Chimaev (13-0) faced his toughest challenge yet, going head-to-head with former welterweight champion and late-notice replacement Kamaru Usman.

The hype around this fight was undeniable even though Paulo Costa was forced to pull-out due to a staph infection in his elbow 10 days prior. However, Chimaev wasn’t going to let his long-awaited return be spoiled. He hadn’t fought since September 2022 and “The Wolf” was hungry for anyone. Insert wily veteran Kamaru Usman and we got ourselves a barnburner.

Or so we thought.

Khamzat dominated Round 1, taking the former NCAA Division II National Champion down with ease as he controlled his back threatening submissions. Chimaev locked him up with a body triangle and worked his way around his neck and back, attempting to unload some heavy ground and pound. Even with the arena against him and an absolute beast on his back, Usman defended very well. Not too bad for someone who took a fight against one of the scariest men in the division on 10 days’ notice.

The second round is where things got very interesting.

Usman weathered the storm and used his patented jab along with some crushing calf kicks to keep Khamzat at bay. Even though this round wasn’t as eventful, it showed that both these men have massive respect for each other. Weary of each other’s power, Usman and Chimaev each attempted to steal the round by doing the most damage they could without getting countered. In the end, most people had Usman winning the second round  as he inflicted more damage and avoided multiple takedowns.

Moving onto Round 3, the duo matched in a much livelier battle on their feet. Usman definitely pushed the pace more between the two fighters, but all was nullified when Chimaev scored another takedown midway through the round. Usman was able to leverage a hip and get up, but it wasn’t enough to garner the victory.

The 36-year-old former champion now finds himself on a three-fight losing streak that started in August 2022.

Chimaev ultimately won by majority decision, potentially setting up a date with newly minted middleweight champion Sean Strickland.

Right for the challenge: Dagestan’s Ikram Aliskerov proves that he’s ready for a ranked opponent next

Ikram Aliskerov (15-1) makes light work of Warlley Alves (15-7) with a combination of stiff jabs, one-twos and a devastating knee that lead to the demise of the former winner of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. Aliskerov’s only loss was to Khamzat Chimaev back in 2019, and now the 30-year-old has won seven fights in a row—six of them being finishes—amassing a 3-0 record in the UFC.

The Kasumkent native will definitely be fighting a ranked opponent as he continues to climb the ladder in the middleweight division.

Two time’s the charm?

A bizarre no-contest on the main card almost led to bedlam in the Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1 1 NC) versus Johnny Walker (21-7-0 1 NC) fight as referee Daniel Movahedi was forced to call for the stoppage at the 3:13 mark of Round 1. Due to an illegal knee strike by Ankalaev, Movahedi was advised by the ringside physician that Walker could not continue.

According to Walker’s coach John Kavanagh, the doctor asked Johnny where he was and he responded by saying “I’m in the desert”.

We all know Johnny Walker’s a weird dude, but by no means should you take that answer as definitive evidence that he’s been concussed. English isn’t even his first language.

When the fight was called off, Walker began yelling and almost started a full-on brawl in attempts to start the fight up again. Cooler heads prevailed when UFC president Dana White stepped in to calm the 6’6 Brazilian down.

The same ringside physician was seen earlier in the day as he questioned if Victor Henry (23-6-0 1 NC) was actually in pain when he was clearly hit with an illegal groin strike. That fight also resulted in a no-contest, but not without sparking debates.

Another exciting PPV card in Abu Dhabi

Octobers, the UFC, and Abu Dhabi have become synonymous as another successful card leaves UFC fans wanting more. Does the newly crowned P4P king go up to challenge for the welterweight title or does he fight Oliviera again? I’d prefer that he defends his lightweight title a couple times before attempting to become the fifth double champ in UFC history. 

The UFC returns on November 4th in São Paulo when perennial heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis will take on rising superstar Jailton Almeida. 

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