The UFC will look to unify their lightweight belts on Saturday when UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov faces interim champ Justin Gaethje. Follow along throughout the evening for the live coverage of UFC 254, which comes live from “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Early Prelims (11:00AM EDT / 7:00PM GST) (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)
Preliminary Card (12:00PM EDT / 8:00PM GST) (ESPN+ / TSN 5)
Main Card (2:00PM EDT / 10:00PM GST) (PPV)
Bout 12: Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) vs. Justin Gaethje (22-2) (UFC Lightweight Championship)
Nurmagomedov Announces Retirement Following Second Round Win Against Gaethje
Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after retaining his UFC Lightweight Championship in the main event of UFC 254 over Justin Gaethje. Nurmagomedov won the fight in the second round, putting Gaethje to sleep with a triangle choke.
The quick second-round submission win for Nurmagomedov was an emotional one, as it was his first since his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov passed away.
“No way I’m going to come here after my father[‘s passing],” said Nurmagomedov in his post-fight interview after saying he would retire.
The fight was Nurmagomedov’s third title defence, with the two previous victories being stoppage wins over Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
“Today is my last fight here in the UFC,” said Nurmagomedov while he dropped his MMA gloves in the ring, a gesture in the sport recognized as declaring retirement.
Gaethje was supportive after the fight, hugging him shortly after the fight when he was crying, and sticking around afterwards to give him credit for the fight.
“I know he made his father so proud,” said Gaethje, who entered the cage as the interim lightweight champion after a win in May over Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.
Bout 11: Robert Whittaker (21-5) vs. Jared Cannonier (13-4) (Middleweight)
Whittaker Takes Decision Win Against Cannonier, Puts Himself Into Championship Spot
Robert Whittaker defeated Jared Cannonier in the co-main event of the evening via decision, potentially putting him in a position to rematch UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya.
Whittaker’s best round was the last one, landing a head kick at the end of a combination which wobbled Cannonier and eventually caused him to fall down.
The win was Whittaker’s second since losing the middleweight belt in Fall of 2019. The previous fight was a main event victory over Darren Till in July.
Whittaker didn’t mention what could be next for him after the win, focusing more on how he looks forward to return to Australia and be with his family.
Cannonier took his first loss in four fights, ending a run of wins up the rankings in 2019.
Bout 10: Alexander Volkov (31-8) vs. Walt Harris (13-8) (Heavyweight)
Body Kick From Volkov Stops Harris In The Second Round
Alexander Volkov bounced back from a previous loss on the main card, stopping Walt Harris in the second round with a body kick. The kick dropped Harris to his knees, ending the fight.
Volkov showed powerful strikes in the first round of the fight as well.
Volkov’s previous fight was a loss, dropping a five-round decision to Curtis Blaydes in June.
Volkov called out Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruick after his fight in hopes to continue his campaign to a title shot.
Harris was in a headlining spot in his previous fight as well, losing to Alistair Overeem in May.
Bout 9: Phil Hawes (8-2) vs. Jacob Malkoun (4-0) (Middleweight)
Hawes Makes UFC Debut With 18 Second Win
Phil Hawes made an explosive entrance to the UFC on the main card, stopping Jacob Malkoun within a minute with punches. Hawes wobbled Malkoun early with a right hook, dropping him with follow-up punches after to stop the fight.
Malkoun was able to get onto a stool after the result, although he was not present for the official decision after the fight.
Hawes earned a UFC contract in September, stopping Khadzimurat Bestaev within a round with punches.
The fight was also the debut of Malkoun, who was undefeated through four fights prior to the win.
Bout 8: Lauren Murphy (13-4) vs. Liliya Shakirova (8-1) (Flyweight)
Murphy Defeats Short-Notice Opponent Shakirova, Makes Bid For Title Shot
Lauren Murphy stopped short-notice opponent Liliya Shakirova with a rear naked choke in the second round of action on the main card. The win for Murphy was her fourth-straight win and third victory in 2020.
The finish, the first submission victory for Murphy as a pro, came against a short-notice opponent in Shakirova, who was replacing Cynthia Calvillo.
“I can do it all. I can grapple, I can wrestle, I can strike,” said Murphy in her post-fight interview.
Murphy’s previous win was in June over veteran fighter Roxanne Modafferi.
Murphy called for a title shot after the win.
“The next time to step in this cage I will be fighting for a UFC belt,” claimed Murphy after the fight.
Bout 7: Magomed Ankalaev (13-1) vs. Ion Cutelaba (15-5) (Light Heavyweight)
Ankalaev Knocks Cutelaba Out In The First Round, Ends Rivalry
Magomed Ankalaev finished his rivalry with Ion Cutelaba to kick off the main card, stopping him with punches late in the first round to win.
Ankalaev dropped Cutelaba with a two hook combination in the final minute of the round, landing ground and pound that put Cutelaba unconcious.
“I wanted to make a statement for a long time and I finally did it,” said Ankalaev’s translator in the post-fight interview.
Ankalaev had dropped Cutelaba in the minute before with a left hand as well.
The fight was a rematch from a controversial February bout between the two.
The first fight between them ended early, as the referee stopped the fight within the first minute to give Ankalaev the win despite Cutelaba claiming he was still in the fight immediately afterwards.
The rematch was attempted to be booked on three different occasions before it finally landed on the UFC 254 main card.
Ankalaev is now on a five-fight streak of wins.
Bout 6: Stefan Struve (29-12) vs. Tai Tuivasa (10-3) (Heavyweight)
Tuivasa Ends Three-Fight Skid With Win Over Struve
Tai Tuivasa ended a three-fight skid to end the prelims, stopping Stefan Struve late in the first round with punches. The stoppage came after Tuivasa hurt Struve with punches in a clinch, dropping him eventually with strikes to end the fight.
The win for Tuivasa was his first since 2018.
“It’s been a while. Good to be back,” said Tuivasa in his post-fight interview.
Tuivasa’s previous fight was a loss in October of 2019 to Serghei Spivac.
The loss for Struve was his second-straight, with his previous one being a controversial stoppage against Ben Rothwell.
Bout 5: Casey Kenney (15-2-1) vs. Nathaniel Wood (17-4) (Catchweight 140 lbs)
Kenney Wins Second Fight Within Month
A quick and damaging striking battle saw Casey Kenney defeat Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision on the prelims. The win was Kenney’s third-straight in 2020 and second in October.
“I wanted to stand up and trade with him, make an exciting fight for everybody,” said Kenney in his post-fight interview.
The fighters threw a high volume of punches in the first two rounds of the fight. Kenney landed the higher impact shots throughout the round, although Wood was also answering back.
With the fight slowing down in the third round, Kenney controlled a large part of the round with takedown attempts, putting Wood on the defence.
Bout 4: Alex Oliveira (22-8-1) vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (12-0) (Welterweight)
Rakhmonov Wins UFC Debut, Stops Oliveira Within A Round
Shavkat Rakhmonov had a strong UFC debut on the prelims, catching Alex Oliveira late in the first round with a guillotine choke to win. The choke came shortly after Oliveira attempted a takedown, causing Rakhmonov to pull guard with the guillotine before Olviera tapped out.
Rakhmonov showcased his striking ability earlier in the round, rocking Oliveira with a knee to the body before entering a clinch earlier in the round.
The fight was the long-awaited promotional debut for Rakhmonov. The undefeated former M-1 Welterweight Champion had three previous UFC bookings fall through since March.
Oliveira was a short-notice replacement for Elizeu Zaleski.
Oliveira missed weight for the fight, coming in two pounds over the non-championship welterweight limit.
The loss for Oliveira broke a two-fight win streak.
Bout 3: Da Un Jung (13-2) vs. Sam Alvey (33-14) (Light Heavyweight)
Jung And Alvey Fight To Draw on the Feet
Mixed scorecards resulted in light heavyweights Da Un Jung and Sam Alvey fighting to a draw on the prelims. The mainly striking battle between the fighters saw both competitors have their moments in the fight.
Alvey had a stronger first two rounds, landing a higher volume of punches while Jung chased him down.
Jung’s best round was his last, where he started to connect with elbows that wobbled Alvey twice and floored him in the first minute of the round. One of the judges seemingly scored the round 10-8, resulting in one of the scorecards being 28-28 in total.
Albeit not a win, the tie for Alvey snapped a four-fight losing streak that he had developed from 2018 to 2020.
The fight was Jung’s first in the UFC that wasn’t a victory. His previous appearances were wins over Mike Rodriguez and Khadis Ibragimov.
Bout 2: Liana Jojua (8-3) vs. Miranda Maverick (7-2) (Flyweight)
Doctor Stoppage Earns Maverick UFC Debut Win
A cut on the nose of Liana Jojua caused the doctors to stop the fight and give Miranda Maverick her first UFC win.
The stoppage came after a round of striking where Maverick landed a high volume of punches.
“I wanted to show more,” said Maverick in her post-fight interview.
Maverick previously had a nine-fight run in Invicta FC. Part of her time in the all-womens promotion saw Maverick win a one-night eight-fighter tournament.
Jojua’s previous fight was a win over Diana Belbita, defeating in the first round with an armbar.
Bout 1: Joel Alvarez (17-2) vs. Alexander Yakovlev (25-10-1) (Lightweight)
Alvarez Catches Yakovlev Early
An armbar put a quick end to the opening bout of the evening, with Joel Alvarez picking up a win over Alexander Yakovlev. The armbar came in the third minute of the fight, only moments after Yakovlev scored a takedown.
“One more [submission] for the books,” said Alvarez’s translator in his post-fight interview.
The win was Alvarez’s third-straight in the UFC. He had a previous win in 2020, defeating now-retired Joe Duffy.
“I’m going to take some time off then see what they put in front of me,” said the translator for Alvarez.
Yakovlev has now on a two-fight losing streak.