UFC 294 Review (22/10/2023)
By Mick Robson
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Had a big weekend on the pro wrestling side of things, and in between shows, there was a massive MMA card happening in Abu Dhabi. The world leader in mixed martial arts, UFC, managed to make chicken salad out of chicken crap with this matchmaking. Cursed with injuries, the replacements arguably gave us a better card on paper than what was originally scheduled!
The main event was originally set to be Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira in a rematch for the lightweight title. Unfortunately, Oliveira suffered a nasty cut in training, and was forced to withdraw. Stepping up on 12 days notice... the UFC Featherweight Champion, Alexander Volkanovski. Volko gave Islam the toughest fight of his career earlier this year in Perth, and looks to become champ-champ in this last-second opportunity on what is largely seen as Islam's home turf.
The shake-ups didn't stop there, as in the co-main event, Paulo Costa was set to fight surging middleweight contender, Khamzat Chimaev. Costa required elbow surgery the week before the fight, leading to former UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman stepping up a weight class on equally short notice.
A chaotic time for the UFC, but still a massive card.
Let's do this!
Fight 1: (185) Shara Magomedov def. Bruno Silva via unanimous decision (30-27 X 3)
Thoughts: A very fun fight. Magomedov- making his UFC debut- has a wild striking style, and although Silva took him down and had ground control, Magomedov attacked frequently from the bottom with elbows and up kicks. Very impressive performance.
Fight 2: (Catchweight- 116.6) Victoria Dudakova def. JInh Yu Frey via UD (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Aggressive striking attack from Dudakova, who hurt Frey badly right at the end of the first. R2 saw Frey get a takedown and control to claim that round, then mostly on the feet in the 3rd. Apparently Dudakova fought with a staph infection, which Dana White was not pleased about.
Fight 3: (145) Muhammad Naimov def. Nathaniel Wood via UD (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Competitive back and forth battle. Naimov cracks Wood with an early hook that boosted his confidence and allowed him to constantly keep up pressure. We lose time and mometum after a low blow in the clinch to Wood. Wood comes back fired up and stuns Naimov! Naimov gets some ground control- and a couple of unpunished fouls- but Woods comes back later to land some bombs annd almost finish the fight in the final seconds! Fun in small doses throughout here.
Fight 4: (Catchweight- 159.5) Mike Breeden def. Anshul Jubli via KO (punches) at 3:00 of R3
Thoughts: Jubli looked great in the first couple of rounds with a technical and accurate striking attack, hurting Breeden multiple times. Then Breeden came out in the third knowing he needed a finish, taking the fight to Jubli while barking like a dog. What the hell? Jubli seemed bewildered and generally shook by this, and Breeden landed the shot to make him faceplant. Wild comeback!
Fight 5: (185) Sedriques Dumas def. Abu Azaitar via UD (29-28 X 3)
Thoughts: Bit shocked at that result, had it as Dumas in the first, with Azaitar taking R2 and R3 with striking and aggression. R3 was a little closer, with Dumas landing a late head kick, but still, the decision doesn't sit that well with me. Kind of pedestrian fight either way.
Fight 6: (135) Javid Basharat vs. Victor Henry ends in No Contest (groin strike) at 0:15 of R2
Thoughts: Good first round with competitive striking and some grappling- then the groin strike happens right at the start of the second. The doctor tries to say it doesn't hit low, but Henry is in agony and can't continue after taking the full 5 minutes. Awful.
Fight 7: (155) Trevor Peek def. Mohammad Yahya via UD (29-28, 30-27 X 2)
Thoughts: Peek is a very aggressive fighter, constantly storming with flurries of punches. As for Yahya, although he came close at the end of R1 with a D"Arce choke, otherwise he seemed to have a lot of trouble getting going offensively. Great performance by Peek overall.
Fight 8: (125) Muhammad Mokaev def. Tim Elliott via submission (arm triangle choke) at 3:03 of R3
Thoughts: High level fight between the #10 and #11 ranked flyweights. Mokaev started with strong striking, then shows himself to be adept in the grappling realm, getting top position, avoiding and escaping Elliott's submission attempts, and finally working his way to the arm triangle. Excellent performance.
Fight 1: (135) Said Nurmagomedov def. Muin Gafurov via sub (guillotine choke) at 1:13 of R1
Thoughts: Incredibly impressive work by Nurmagomedov. Threw out a couple of kicks to find range, but ultimately just waits for Gafurov to close the distance, and the second he does, boom, guillotine. Quick, exciting finish to open up the PPV card after a lot of decisions on the prelims.
Fight 2: (185) Ikram Aliskerov def. Warlley Alves via TKO (flying knee and punches) at 2:07 of R1
Thoughts: Another huge, fast finish here, although both guys throw heavy strikes in this one. Aliskerov starts to land with more intent, and after a jab snaps Alves' head back, the flying knee comes in to rock, followed by the flurry of punches against the cage until he drops. Awesome display by Aliskerov!
Fight 3: (205) Magomed Ankalev vs. Johnny Walker end in No Contest (illegal knee) at 3:13 of R1
Thoughts: More ridiculousness from the doctor in Abu Dhabi. After Walker took the knee to the head, the doctor asked him where he was. When he replied "the desert", that apparently wasn't good enough and he waved the fight off. Bullshit. Walker was pissed, and Dana White actually had to get in the Octagon to calm him down, but hopefully they re-book that fight soon.
Fight 4: (185) Khamzat Chimaev def. Kamaru Usman via majority decision (29-27, 28-28)
Thoughts: Khamzat dominated Usman. I'm not sure how one judge scored it a draw. The most Usman could say is that he survived, which is still impressive given the ferocity of Khamzat's attack. Usman did have a good little flurry late, but this was all Khamzat, and I don't think you can attribute that kind of sustained domination across all areas as just short notice.
Main Event: UFC Lightweight Championship- Islam Makhachev (c) def. Alexander Volkanovski via KO (head kick and punches) at 3:06 of R1
Thoughts: A heartbreaking result for this Aussie UFC fan. Would have loved the fairytale story of Volkanovski coming back from his family holiday, stepping in and winning another championship and avenging his lone UFC career loss on 12 days notice... but the reality is much different. Islam showed a good game plan, scoring with leg and body kicks, setting up the finish where he went high. It was so well done that even though the guard was up, Islam was able to get over it. Volko was classy in defeat, but his lightweight dreams appear to have ended.
Until next time, take care.