5 Defining Moments: Omari Akhmedov

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Omari Akhmedov probably sees seven figures whenever his head hits the pillow and he closes his eyes.

The powerfully built 35-year-old Russian samboist will take on Rob Wilkinson in the Professional Fighters League light heavyweight final as part of the 2022 PFL Championships on Friday at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. The man who emerges with his hand raised receives a life-changing $1 million prize. Akhmedov steps into the cage with the wind of a three-fight winning streak at his back. An experienced and well-versed mixed martial artist, he has delivered 15 of his 24 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission—13 of them inside one round.

As Akhmedov pores over the remaining details associated with his forthcoming battle at 205 pounds, a look at five of the many moments that have come to define him:

1. Quieting the Natives

Akhmedov marched into hostile territory and made a successful Ultimate Fighting Championship debut when he punched out Thiago de Oliveira Perpetuo in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 32 middleweight prelim on Nov. 9, 2013 at Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil. Perpetuo succumbed to blows 3:31 into Round 1. An incidental clash of heads had Akhmedov reeling early on, but the sambo practitioner weathered the subsequent swarm and somehow recovered. Perpetuo later staggered the Octagon newcomer with a short right hand, only to have Akhmedov answer with a takedown before transitioning to the Brazilian’s back in search of a rear-naked choke. The two middleweights ultimately returned to their feet, where they continued to exchange pleasantries. Perpetuo stunned his counterpart again and sent him into a backpedal, but he grew overzealous in his pursuit of the finish. Akhmedov responded with a quick right hook that brought “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 1 semifinalist to his knees and followed it with a ringing right uppercut that sealed the deal.

2. Icelandic Necktie

Gunnar Nelson moved to 12-0-1 and used Akhmedov as a steppingstone when he disposed of the Russian sambo stylist with a guillotine choke in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 37 welterweight showcase on March 8, 2014 at the O2 Arena in London. Nelson drew the curtain 4:36 into Round 1. Akhmedov was never a factor in what amounted to a lost opportunity. Nelson drove him to the canvas behind a stiff straight left, moved immediately to mount and tore into him with a series of wicked elbows. Akhmedov was virtually defenseless. Nelson, a Renzo Gracie-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, snatched the guillotine during an ensuing scramble and forced the tapout. The setback was Akhmedov’s first in more than three years and closed the book on his career-best 11-fight winning streak.

3. Sin City Stalemate

Former Venator Fighting Championship titleholder Marvin Vettori settled for a majority draw with Akhmedov as part of the UFC 219 undercard on Dec. 30, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Judges Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks struck matching 28-28 scorecards, while Glenn Trowbridge saw it 29-28 for Vettori. Neither man was satisfied with the outcome. Akhmedov raced out to an early advantage by ripping kicks to the inside of the Italian’s lead leg and firing off winging punches from both hands. However, his high-velocity strikes failed to produce a finish and taxed his gas tank. Vettori capitalized on his fatiguing opponent in the second half of the fight and did his best work in the third round, where he lit up the American Top Team representative with a multi-punch volley, a jumping knee and swarming punches before stunning him later with a slashing straight left.

4. Running on Empty

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Chris Weidman returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in more than three years when he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Akhmedov in their grueling UFC Fight Night 174 co-main event on Aug. 8, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Scores were 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28. Akhmedov swung for the fences with sweeping punches and appeared to seize control in the second round, where the “All-American” grew visibly fatigued and conceded multiple takedowns. However, Weidman found the gas necessary to forge ahead in Round 3, as he tripped the American Top Team rep to the floor, advanced to the back and eventually achieved full mount under threat of an arm-triangle choke. While the submission did not materialize, he maintained positional dominance, dropped elbows and crossed the finish line in front of Akhmedov.

5. Strained Allegiance

Akhmedov leaned on experience, guile and well-rounded skills in taking a unanimous decision from American Top Team stablemate Joshua Silveira, as their Professional Fighters League light heavyweight semifinal served as the PFL 7 co-feature on Aug. 5, 2022 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. Scores were 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27. A short-notice substation for Antonio Carlos Jr., the previously unbeaten Silveira failed to establish a consistent rhythm. He executed takedowns in the first and third rounds, but the former two-division Legacy Fighting Alliance titleholder was otherwise ineffective. Akhmedov cut off his advances with counter right hands, low kicks and combination punching to the head and body, advancing to the $1 million final at 205 pounds.
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