Robert Whittaker Stops Ikram Aliskerov Inside Two Minutes at UFC on ABC 6

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight king Robert Whittaker (26-7, 17-5 UFC) was unfazed by a late opponent change and he proved again tonight that he is still one of the premier 185-pound competitors in mixed martial arts. Whittaker knocked out rising star Ikram Aliskerov (15-2, 2-1 UFC) in the UFC on ABC 6 main event, which took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Whittaker, who was originally slated to face Khamzat Chimaev, sent a message to the rest of the division by becoming the second man – after Chimaev – to defeat Aliskerov. After establishing his jab during the opening minute, Whittaker badly wobbled Aliskerov with a right hook. The Russian stumbled backward against the cage and Whittaker closed in with an uppercut that dropped him to his knees. Whittaker then landed three left hands to the side of a dazed and defenseless Aliskerov’s face before referee Marc Goddard waved off the fight at the 1:49 mark of Round 1. Whittaker has won two in a row this year and he has put himself back into title contention after falling to current champion Dricus Du Plessis in July.

Alexander Volkov (38-10, 12-4 UFC) took a step closer to a title shot with a well-deserved unanimous decision win over former training partner Sergei Pavlovich (18-3, 6-3 UFC) in the heavyweight co-main event. While Pavlovich did have some success with boxing during the fight, his refusal to mix up his offense allowed Volkov to pick him apart and wear him down across the three-round contest. Volkov constantly circled to his left in the opening round while throwing leg kicks or quick one-twos, and it was more of the same in the second round. He added a few body kicks as well that left Pavlovich open to follow-up punches, and Pavlovich’s face began to show the damage. As Volkov landed rapid-fire jabs in the final round, cuts were opened on the bridge of Pavlovich’s nose and below both of his eyes. The fight went to the scorecards, but not before a frustrated Pavlovich shoved his former friend after the bell had sounded. The judges returned scores of 29-28 and 30-27 twice for Volkov, who has put together a four-fight winning streak since losing to Tom Aspinall in March 2022.

In what was originally scheduled as a welterweight fight, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum (19-9, 1 NC; 13-9, 1 NC UFC) prevailed in his middleweight clash with Daniel Rodriguez (17-5, 7-4 UFC), which was changed due to Gastelum’s inability to make the welterweight limit. Gastelum kept Rodriguez on his back foot during the opening round and he landed hooks and overhand lefts as Rodriguez tried to find his timing. A big right hook landed for Rodriguez later in the round, but his best work was done in the middle stanza as Gastelum’s output slowed. Each time Gastelum missed with a looping punch, Rodriguez made him pay for it with three or four punches to the face in response. Gastelum adjusted his strategy in the final round, however. He charged at Rodriguez with punches in the opening minute and later took him down. Rodriguez was unable to mount any offense from his back and Gastelum immediately took him back down when Rodriguez did briefly stand up. Scores were 29-28 and 30-27 twice for Gastelum, who took the unanimous decision victory in what was potentially a must-win situation.

Despite a slow start, highly-touted middleweight prospect Sharabutdin Magomedov (13-0, 2-0 UFC) kept his perfect record intact with a third-round knockout victory over Antonio Trocoli (12-4, 1 NC; 0-1 UFC), who took the fight on extremely short notice and faded after the first round. Trocoli’s best success came in the opening minute when he landed two hard right hands and pinned Magomedov against the cage in a prolonged clinch. Magomedov shifted the momentum in the second round by targeting Trocoli’s legs with a series of kicks that further limited Trocoli’s movement in addition to obvious fatigue. Trocoli tried in vain to take Magomedov down, but Magomedov blatantly grabbed the cage and received no punishment for doing so aside from a “stern warning.” Trocoli stood still as Magomedov began to throw flashy spinning kicks in the final round. He backed Trocoli up with a knee and a barrage of punches before finishing him with a lunging left hook to the temple at the 2:27 mark of Round 3. Magomedov has now won 11 fights via knockout or TKO.

Opening up the main card, Volkan Oezdemir (20-7, 8-6 UFC) scored a vicious first-round knockout win against Johnny Walker (21-9, 1 NC; 7-6, 1 NC UFC) at light heavyweight. Living up to his nickname, Oezdemir wasted “No Time” in dispatching the popular Walker, who was hurt by an early combination to the body and dropped by a left hook. Walker stood, only to be sent back down to the canvas by a crushing right uppercut, and Oezdemir finished him off with one more right hand on the ground at the 2:28 mark of Round 1. It was Oezdemir’s second straight first-round finish.

In the featured lightweight prelim, Nasrat Haqparast (17-5, 9-4 UFC) narrowly outpointed Jared Gordon (20-7, 1 NC; 8-6, 1 NC UFC) via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) after three action-packed rounds; Felipe Lima (13-1, 1-0 UFC) moved up to featherweight on short notice and won his UFC debut by submitting Muhammajon Naimov (11-3, 3-1 UFC) with a rear-naked choke at the 1:15 mark of Round 3; Rinat Fakhretdinov (22-1-1, 4-0-1 UFC) extended his unbeaten streak to 22 with a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) win over Nicolas Dalby (23-5-1, 2 NC; 7-4-1, 1 NC UFC) in welterweight action; bantamweight Muin Gafurov (19-6, 1-2 UFC) secured his first UFC win by defeating Kyung Ho Kang (19-11, 1 NC; 8-5, 1 NC UFC) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27); Magomed Gadzhiyasulov (9-0, 1-0 UFC) overcame a shaky first round to take a majority decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-28) win against Brendson Ribeiro (15-7, 1 NC; 0-2 UFC) at light heavyweight; and Chang Ho Lee (10-1) took a hard-fought split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) victory over Long Xiao (26-8) in the Road to UFC Season 2 bantamweight final, which was postponed from February.

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Oumar Kane