Rivalries: Hakeem Dawodu

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Hakeem Dawodu despite off-the-charts physical tools does not yet have a defined role in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s featherweight division.

The Champion’s Creed MMA export finds himself on the rebound ahead of his UFC Fight Night 200 prelim opposite former Ring of Combat champion Michael Trizano on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Dawodu has rattled off five wins across his past six assignments. He last appeared at UFC 263, where he wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against the undefeated Movsar Evloev in their June 12 pairing.

As Dawodu makes final preparations for his forthcoming battle with Trizano, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape his career to this point:

Marat Magomedov

Dawodu capitalized on a second chance from the World Series of Fighting when he put away the previously unbeaten Russian with punches in the second round of their WSOF 32 rematch on July 30, 2016 at Xfinity Arena in Everett, Washington. The highly regarded Magomedov—who had fought “Mean Hakeem” to a majority draw five months earlier—checked out 2:03 into Round 2. Dawodu was forced to navigate some choppy waters. Magomedov struck for a takedown in the first round, climbed to the back and secured his position with a body triangle before running through a series of rear-naked choke attempts. None were successful, and he later transitioned to an armbar that set off a mad scramble and ultimately allowed Dawodu to return to his feet. The Canadian cut off the cage in the middle stanza, hemmed in Magomedov along the fence and let his knees, fists and an effective sprawl do the rest. Unable to secure a second takedown, the sambo stylist retreated to the cage but found no safe haven there. Dawodu disengaged from a clinch, dropped him with a right uppercut at close range and pounced with a quick burst of follow-up punches to prompt the stoppage.

Danny Henry

“The Hatchet” spoiled Dawodu’s long-awaited promotional debut when he put him to sleep with a first-round guillotine choke as part of the UFC Fight Night 127 undercard on March 17, 2018 at the O2 Arena in London. Henry drew the curtain a mere 39 seconds into Round 1, authoring his first sub-minute finish in nearly six years. Nothing went according to plan for Dawodu. He tested the waters with inside and outside leg kicks, only to leave his guard down at a most inopportune time. Henry floored him with a right cross, closed in with a purpose and caught the choke while the Canadian was trying to return to his feet. He adjusted his group through multiple scrambles, transitioned to a high-elbow guillotine and settled in a seated mount before tightening his squeeze and turning out the lights. The loss was Dawodu’s first by finish.

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Julio Arce

Dawodu continued to creep toward relevance in the Ultimate Fighting Championship when he eked out a split decision over the former two-division Ring of Combat titleholder in their UFC 244 featherweight prelim on Nov. 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Derek Cleary and Eric Colon for Dawodu, Chris Lee for Arce. Dawodu was the more active and accurate striker throughout the 15-minute affair. He was particularly effective with leg kicks—he connected with 15 of them—and in tight spaces, investing in shots to the body. Arce executed a takedown in the second round but failed to do much in terms of damage, top control or positional advances. That left the Team Tiger Schulmann mainstay on an island in the standup exchanges and allowed Dawodu to accumulate more than three minutes of control time.

Zubaira Tukhugov

Stinging kicks to the lower leg and punching combinations to the body and head carried Dawodu to a split decision over the Tiger Muay Thai product in a UFC 253 catchweight attraction at 150 pounds on Sept. 26, 2020 at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Judges Anders Ohlsson and Ahmed Korchi scored it 30-27 and 29-28 for Dawodu, while Dave Tirelli struck his 29-28 scorecard for Tukhugov. Neither man was willing to engage at the start, the tepid pace perhaps a nod to the respect they had for one another’s skills. Tukhugov—who missed weight for the match by four pounds—leaned on his jab and delivered a takedown in a closely contested second round, but he retreated into a shell in the third. Dawodu targeted his already damaged lower lead leg with kicks, pieced together two- and three-punch volleys and moved forward with taunts and profanity in a bid to draw out his opponent. He was the far busier and far more efficient competitor, and by the time it was over, he had outlanded Tukhugov by a 69-35 margin. Advertisement
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