Islam Makhachev retained the UFC lightweight title in spectacular fashion in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night, defeating Alexander Volkanovski in their rematch at UFC 294.
The Dagestani, who captured the belt in the capital last October, registered a first-round TKO at a sold-out Etihad Arena, stunning his opponent with a superb head kick before finishing the fight with vicious ground and pound.
The triumph, coming off the back of his victory against Volkanovski in February, lifted Makhachev’s win streak to 13. The belt-holder was initially to rematch Charles Oliveira, a repeat of the headline bout in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago, but the Brazilian was forced to withdraw earlier this month through injury.
Volkanovski, the current featherweight champion, stepped in on 11 days’ notice.
Speaking inside the octagon immediately after the win, Makhachev said: “I have a great team. We always did this in the locker room, in the training — pushed me very hard. 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.”
Asked who he wanted to face next, Makhachev said: “I never choose. [UFC CEO] Dana [White], you have to give me some job. Give me someone.”
In the night’s co-main event, middleweight contender Khamzat Chimaev came through a majority decision against former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. The judges scored the bout 29-27, 29-27, 28-28.
The win means Chimaev, who was competing for the first time in 13 months, remains unbeaten in all 13 pro fights. He is expected to next challenge middleweight champion Sean Strickland for the title at some stage in 2024.
Elsewhere on the card, UAE history-maker Mohammed Yahya lost a unanimous decision to Trevor Peek, with the judges scoring the contest 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 in the American’s favour. Yahya, from Dubai, became the first Emirati to compete in the UFC.
Also, Muhammad Mokaev extended his unbeaten run through both the amateur and professional ranks with a third-round submission victory against American veteran Tim Elliott.
Mokaev, aged 23, maintains not only his unblemished record – he is 11-0 as a pro – but his quest to become the youngest champion in UFC history.
There was some controversy on night, too, when the light-heavyweight bout between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker was declared a no contest because of an accidental foul three minutes into Round 1.
Walker received an illegal knee to the head from Ankalev while his own knee was touching the canvas. The Brazilian demanded to continue, but the cage-side physician ruled that he could not go on, much to his annoyance, and the packed Etihad Arena.