UFC 254 ‘Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje’ Play-by-Play, Results & Round Scoring

By Jay Pettry Oct 24, 2020
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Joel Alvarez (*159.5) vs. Alexander Yakovlev (155.5)

Round 1

It’s time for the big show in the early hours for U.S.-based fans, and we start this much anticipated pay-per-view event on the early prelims with a 160-pound catchweight affair. Spanish submission specialist Alvarez (17-2, 2-1 UFC), who has notched a whopping 88 percent of his wins by sub, faces off against durable Russian Yakovlev (25-10-1, 3-5 UFC) after the former missed weight by nearly four pounds. Referee Jason Herzog is in charge of the cage for this card opener, and with a touch of gloves, away we go! Yakovlev sways back and forth early to try to find an angle, and he opens up with a head kick. His Spanish foe responds with a head kick that gets blocked, and a body kick that is not nearly as protected. When Alvarez throws a naked leg kick, Yakovlev crashes forward into a takedown. The Russian leaves his neck exposed on the way down, so Alvarez welcomes him down and snatches up a guillotine choke. Yakovlev stays composed and nearly pulls his head out, but Alvarez redoubles his effort and squeezes with all his might. Alvarez locks up his legs and continues to burn out his arms, until he cannot maintain this crushing grip and Yakovlev wrenches his head free. In full guard, Yakovlev starts to get off some short ground-and-pound, but Alvarez is quick to adjust and throw his legs up for an armbar. Yakovlev falls to his back and he tries to roll through the submission, but halfway through his rotation, the Russian’s elbow hyperextends and he has to tap out. That is now 16 submissions across 18 wins for the Spaniard, who now posts back-to-back first-round submission victories inside the Octagon. Alvarez still maintains a spectacular 100 percent finish rate in victory.

The Official Result

Joel Alvarez def. Alexander Yakovlev R1 3:00 via Submission (Armbar)

Liana Jojua (126) vs. Miranda Maverick (126)

Round 1

Keeping things moving, we shift gears to the women’s flyweight division as Georgia-born Russian Jojua (8-3, 1-1 UFC) tries not to “Fear The” Maverick (7-2, 0-0 UFC). This matchup between two powerful 125ers will be officiated by referee Lukasz Bosacki, and the two touch gloves to commence the violence. Maverick starts off with a naked leg kick, and Jojua counters her with a sharp one-two. Maverick goes to throw a front kick, but before she can extend her leg, Jojua is on her with a crisp striking combination. Jojua sticks out her left hand and follows it with a right, and does this again. She wades through a left hook to fire off her right hand again, and the Georgian’s nose is starting to mark up quickly. Maverick strings together a series of punches, punctuating them with a heavy leg kick. Maverick nails her with a left hand, and then charges forward with a blitz of punches. The American pushes out a side kick, and a left hand cracks Jojua on the nose to force her to backpedal. Maverick lets fly body kick, and her strikes are not singular as she continues to flurry with punches in bunches. Maverick repeats this same combination to great effect, before opening up with a superwoman punch. Jojua stands strong on front of her and wings back a right hand, but Maverick is unfazed. “Fear the Maverick” makes her opponent fear her striking by staying active and landing practically at will, clattering an elbow off Jojua’s face. When Jojua tries to charge forward, Maverick is ready with a side kick to the body. Maverick keeps her advancing foe at bay with a body kick from her lead leg, but Jojua walks through it to stand and bang. Maverick allows her to do this so she can time two blistering elbows that smash the nose of her opponent, and Jojua is spraying crimson rain. The round ends in one last combination from Maverick, and horror film fans rejoice as we can see that the bridge of Jojua’s nose is slashed open with nearly an inch of split flesh. As soon the horn sounds, Bosacki calls in the doctor, as blood is pouring out like an elevator in the Overlook Hotel. Jojua’s corner cannot stop the bleeding, and the doctor does not want it to get worse, so he advises Bosacki to stop the fight. Bosacki obliges, and the fight is over despite Jojua’s protests. In the process, Maverick records her first career win by TKO or KO, getting her opponent out at the 5:00 mark of the round.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Maverick
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Maverick
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Maverick

The Official Result

Miranda Maverick def. Liana Jojua R1 5:00 via TKO (Doctor Stoppage)

Sam Alvey (206) vs. Da Un Jung (206)

Round 1

Up next on the standard preliminary card is a light heavyweight striker’s delight between Alvey (33-14, 1 NC, 10-9 UFC) and Jung (13-2, 2-0 UFC), with the two combining for 29 knockouts across their 46 career wins. Hoping not to get decked is referee Anders Ohlsson, and there is no glove touch to precede the action. Jung sprints out of his corner to take the center of the cage, and Alvey backs himself up against the cage. Jun starts first with a body kick, and his pressure is forcing Alvey to fight defensively and not throw strikes. Alvey sneaks out a low calf kick and holds out his right hand to keep Jung at bay. The South Korean connects with a right hand, and flips up a head kick that gets blocked. Jung kicks high and falls over, but Alvey allows him to stand back up without any issue. Alvey gets off another calf kick, and Jung swings and misses but does land with his own leg kick. Alvey rushes in and scores a left hand, and runs through his opponent to reset on the other side. Jung sticks Alvey over the top, and Alvey responds with three sharp punches. Jung scores a few punches that make Alvey wobble a little, but Alvey is ready to fire back by launching a trio of strikes. They clash together and Alvey gets off a left hand, and then both men land alternating leg kicks. Jung times a right hand, but a stiff left hand counter catches Jung on the chin to make him stumble. Jung laughs and presses into the clinch, where Alvey welcomes him and gets off a few clinch strikes. The South Korean wings an elbow, and Alvey just barely ducks it. Alvey complains about a poke in the eye, but Ohlsson does not see it so Jung starts to swing wildly. Jung lands flush a few times to hurt Alvey, but Alvey is able to counter with a few punches and a calf kick. Two looping hooks glance off Alvey’s intended target, and he manages to get Jung off of him momentarily. When Jung comes at him, Alvey counters with a left hand. Alvey cracks Jung with a right hook, and the left hook that follows surprises Jung. A blinking Alvey might have taken another eye poke, and the round ends before Jung can capitalize.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Alvey
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Alvey
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Alvey

Round 2

Like the beginning of last round, Jung comes out charging but stops before engaging. Ohlsson admonishes Jung to close his fingers, as the South Korean leaded with his fingers outstretched and got away with a few eye pokes. Jung blitzes forward with a few punches that knock Alvey around, but the American stays composed and wings a left hook. Alvey chips away at his advancing adversary with a few more calf kicks, and both men swing wildly and miss. Jung commits to a heavy leg kick and thinks about letting rip an overhand right, but instead targets the body. When Jung strides in, Alvey snaps out a right hand to get Jung to recalculate his offense. Alvey clips him again with a right hand, and Jung is playing the bull to Alvey’s matador. Alvey hammers Jung’s chin with a left hand, and follows suit with a combination that gets Jung’s attention. Another solid leg kick from Alvey makes Jung stumble, and Alvey times the off-balance position with a left straight. Alvey is successfully able to counter an advancing Jung repeatedly, all while chopping at the lead leg. Jung lets fly an inside low kick, and Alvey aims a right hand counter that falls short, so Alvey follows it with a few looping punches. Alvey races in with a few strikes, and resets on the outside to get out of range. Alvey’s accurate calf kicks keep landing, and Jung looks to disrupt these kicks with one-twos and hooks. One such left hook causes a thin trickle of blood to leak out of Alvey’s nose, but the American does not notice it. Instead, he cracks Jung and then connects a few leg kicks. Alvey comes up well shy of his intended target with a slow spinning wheel kick, and the horn sounds.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Alvey
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Alvey
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Alvey

Round 3

The two men greet in the final round with a glove touch, and Alvey chops down the calf to start out the third frame. Alvey puts together a one-two, and another leg kick turns into a punch combination. Alvey wades forward with a few punches, and Jung smashes him on the jaw with a right elbow to put Alvey down hard. The American shakes out the cobwebs, kicks Jung off of him, and springs back to his feet. Jung is on him, pressing Alvey against the cage and landing a few right hands. Alvey manages to separate and he is wearing it, but he goes right back to his bread and butter with leg kicks and left hands. Alvey sticks, shifts and nails Jung with a right uppercut to hurt Jung now. Alvey pours it on, and Jung weathers the storm to try to unload another elbow, but Alvey sees it coming and backs away. “Smile’n Sam” clicks another kick off Jung’s calf, and he sees the opening to drill Jung in the chin with another uppercut. Jung walks through the fire and blasts Alvey with another elbow, and Alvey is hurt and on rubber legs. Alvey falls back to the fence and survives the assault that comes his way to tie up Jung in the clinch, and even considers a body lock takedown but clings on tight to gather his faculties. Alvey briefly reverses the position to set up a Thai clinch, but Jung counters it effectively and ties up Alvey’s leg to fish for a trip takedown. Alvey spins him around, gets turned back to the fence, and he starts lifting up knees to the body. Jung loads up on another lethal elbow, and Alvey takes it about as flush as one can but still survives it. Alvey is possibly out on his feet and cut on his eye, but he still flings back with reckless abandon to stave off Jung. One final exciting exchange concludes this fun striking battle.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Jung (29-28 Alvey)
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Jung (29-28 Alvey)
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Jung (29-28 Alvey)

The Official Result

Sam Alvey vs. Da Un Jung is ruled a Split Draw (28-29, 29-28, 28-28)

Alex Oliveira (*173) vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov (171)

Round 1

We are now set to be treated to what could be a high-flying catchweight affair as “Cowboy” Oliveira (22-8-1, 2 NC; 11-6, 1 NC UFC) looks to become the first man to defeat Kazakhstani newcomer Rakhmonov (12-0, 0-0 UFC), with the latter potentially energized by the release of “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” The debuting welterweight, who faces a man that missed weight by two pounds, has never before gone the distance; Oliveira will have to mind his P’s and Q’s, as will referee Lukasz Bosacki. They touch gloves, and Oliveira swings and misses with a big leg kick. The Brazilian leaps in to score a big right hand, and he darts out of the way to avoid the counter. The two trade leg kicks, and Rakhmonov narrowly avoids a long jab. Oliveira swings and misses with a pair of strikes, and he is not able to get away to evade a booming leg kick that comes at him. Oliveira sticks out a front kick a little too long, and Rakhmonov grabs it but sets it down before he can do anything with it. Oliveira gathers himself and fires off a few looping punches, but each fall short. Rakhmonov sits down on a leg kick, and then follows it with a few big punches. Rakhmonov steps in with a cracking knee to the body, sending Oliveira falling back to the cage. Rakhmonov pours it on with strikes as he senses he might have hurt Oliveira but the Brazilian grabs hold of him to tie him up in the clinch. Rakhmonov gets warned for grabbing the fence to keep Oliveira trapped, and the two jockey for position against the cage. Oliveira turns him around and starts ripping the body with knees, and Rakhmonov manages to stay upright when Oliveira tries to trip him down. Oliveira re-commits to a trip takedown, and Rakhmonov drops low to grab Oliveira’s knee and take him down instead. Neither succeed, and Oliveira bullies him back to the cage wall. Oliveira drops down for a double, but the Kazakhstani fighter stuffs it with ease only to take another knee to the torso. When Rakhmonov tries to respond with his own knee, Oliveira once more changes levels but is similarly thwarted. Oliveira continues to doggedly pursue a double leg takedown, and Rakhmonov jumps guard to set up a guillotine choke. Rakhmonov locks him down with his legs, and squeezes with every bit of his energy. Oliveira wriggles, and presses on Rakhmonov to try to pop his head out, but there is nothing doing. Seconds later, Oliveira taps out so he does not go out. This is a statement debut for Rakhmonov, who is still perfect at 13-0 with 13 finishes.

The Official Result

Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Alex Oliveira R1 4:40 via Submission (Guillotine Choke)

Casey Kenney (140) vs. Nathaniel Wood (140)

Round 1

In another catchweight bout – this one at a pre-determined 140 pounds so no one missed weight -- Kenney (15-2-1, 4-1 UFC) makes a speedy return to action after winning three weeks ago, and he faces Wood (17-4, 4-1 UFC). This likely fast-paced collision will be overseen by referee Anders Ohlsson, and the two 140-pounders touch gloves to seal the cage. Kenney begins with a leg kick, and Wood slings back at him and gets off a hard right hand. Kenney lets rip a leg kick, and he opens up with a body kick that worked wonders in his last fight. Wood crowds him with a series of punches, and Kenney is ready and waiting swing it out with him. The two men trade heavy kicks and Kenney clips Wood at the end of a right hand. The pace is furious in the early going, and Kenney strings together a line of punches that sends Wood back. Kenney attacks the lead leg twice and the body once with a thudding kick. When Wood kicks back, Kenney not only catches it, but he makes sure that Wood eats one back. Kenney steps in with a right, and the follow-up left lands flush on the chin. Kenney pushes Wood back to the fence with a few punches, and Wood swings wildly to get Kenney to back off. Wood sticks out a jab a few times to disrupt the forward movement of Kenney, so Kenney sits back and chips away with a leg kick before darting forward with a one-two. Wood stabs at the body with a kick and then kicks the lead leg, but Kenney does not let him rest by firing right back. Kenney scores a big left hand, and then another as Wood is content to kick. Kenney kicks the lead leg hard to stop Wood’s momentum, and snaps Wood’s head back with a left hand. Kenney ducks down and lands a big left hook, but Wood eats it like a plate of bangers and mash. Kenney blasts Wood with a fierce left, and Wood does not budge and fires right back. Kenney spins with a kick to the body, and Wood catches him as he turns back around with two punches. Kenney counters Wood’s looping left hook with a short left hand, and the two come together and trade leather. Kenney nearly kicks out the lead leg, and he follows it with a superman punch. Wood spins with his own back kick, and Kenney absorbs it and throws with fire and fury. The two trade until the bell, and what a crazy first five minutes.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Kenney
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Kenney
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Kenney

Round 2

The two fearless bantamweights pick up right where they left off, swinging wildly and surprisingly seem to hurt one another briefly. Kenney lands his heel on the side of the head with a spinning kick, and Wood comes back at him without concern. Kenney scores a right hook on the side of the head, and Wood stands and traces with him all while working the occasional leg kick. Wood kicks at the lead leg again, and Kenney shoots in for a takedown. He bails on it before it gets stuffed, but he tries to set up a few strikes as his pace appears to be slowing a little. Wood keeps active with leg kicks and left hands, and his jab is starting to take effect. Kenney comes in to swing hooks, but he misses and Wood takes advantage of it with a few jabs. Kenney kicks the body, and the Brit eats it and throws back a few punches at him. Kenney chops at the lead leg and charges in to land a left hand, but Wood stands firm and swipes at him with a few left hands. Wood is picking at Kenney with left hands, and he steps forward with a right hand. Kenney strings together three powerful hooks, but not before Wood clips him with a left. Kenney loads up on a few big punches, and the Brit defends against them and dances out of the way. Wood circles on the outside, so the American crashes in for a takedown. Wood stuffs it and he absorbs a right hand with no harm done. Kenney cracks him at with a ferocious left hook, but Wood is able to avoid the full brunt of it. Kenney tries to tie up in the clinch, and Wood pushes him away but takes a knee to the body in the process. Kenney swings and misses, and Wood is more accurate and sticks him with his left. Kenney wades forward to throw looping hooks, but “The Prospect” is composed and able to narrowly evade these shots. Kenney attacks wildly and each strike misses, so he follows it with a takedown attempt. Wood pushes him off and has his lead leg chopped out beneath him. One final strike exchange wraps up this fun second frame.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Wood
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Wood
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Wood

Round 3

Both men clap their hands together to clock in the last round, and Wood backs away to land a succession of quick leg kicks. Kenney tries to counter, but the kicks get him to trip a little. Wood walks forward with jabs and left hooks, and he snaps out a right hand as Kenney walks him down. Kenney swings recklessly and Wood avoids the strikes, but he takes a solid punch to the liver that gives him momentary pause. Wood reaches with a left hook but he cannot find his mark, so he changes levels to pursue a takedown but Kenney does not flinch. Kenney walks forward and throws his left hand, and he gets Wood to back up. Kenney sticks and moves to avoid the jab, and comes over the top with a left hand. Wood dances back and gets grabbed by the American, leading Kenney to circle around and take Wood’s back. Wood drops to a knee against the fence, and Kenney pulls him down for a second. Wood pops back to his feet and puts both hands on the mat to avoid getting kneed in the head, and see a large and sudden hematoma forming on Wood’s forehead above his left eye. Kenney kicks Wood’s leg out and hops around to the other side to try to put Wood down, but Wood is able to stay upright. Wood defends his position with a potential guillotine choke, but it is not threatening and more a tool to stand upright – he does just this. Wood comes forward and shoots for his own takedown, but Kenney laughs it off and slings heavy leather at his opponent. Wood does the same, and Kenney even tries to pull off a few up-elbows as they close the distance. Both men try and fail to take the other down, and Kenney attacks the body effectively and scores a right hand to sting Wood. Kenney eats a serious left hand that makes his knees quake, but the American remains resolute and rips a right hand to the chin of Wood. Kenney shows bleeding at the corner of his eye but he rushes in to attack, and he plods forward until the bitter end. This one will be close, but it sure was thrilling.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Kenney (29-28 Kenney)
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Wood (29-28 Wood)
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Kenney (29-28 Kenney)

The Official Result

Casey Kenney def. Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Stefan Struve (265) vs. Tai Tuivasa (265)

Round 1

Our preliminary headliner comes in the form of heavyweight rumble for as long as it lasts, when “Skyscraper” Struve (29-12, 13-10 UFC) encounters the thunderous strikes of “Bam Bam” Tuivasa (9-3, 3-3 UFC). Chins will likely be tested and so will the cage floor with 530 pounds of fury between the two, and these two have won just three decisions across their total 38 wins between them. The much smaller referee Jason Herzog may have his hands full here, but the respect comes early as the two touch gloves. Struve jumps forward with a front kick to the body, and then lands another with his incredibly long legs. Tuivasa avoids a head kick that zooms by his head, and Struve connects another front kick. Tuivasa swings and miss with a crazy right hand, but the seven-footer is able to roll with it. The Aussie kicks the lead leg once, and he presses forward into the clinch. Tuivasa pushes heavy on his taller foe while getting off a few knees to the thigh, and Struve attempts a trip takedown that does not succeed. Tuivasa rips the body once, and Struve considers a guillotine choke but Tuivasa breaks the grip. “Bam Bam” pushes away, and he gets kicked in the torso for his effort. Tuivasa returns fire with a big right hand, but Struve’s chin stays together. The Dutchman kicks the lead leg and keeps his distance, but he wades forward and slaps Tuivasa in the face with a slow kick. Tuivasa bull-rushes him with a few looping punches, and he closes the distance to get Struve tied up against the cage wall. Tuivasa rings off an elbow on the break, and he misses with the subsequent strikes. Tuivasa chops at the lead leg, and he absorbs a body kick around the liver. The Aussie again targets the leg, and he manages to avoid one that comes back while attacking it again. Tuivasa kicks the other leg while Struve keeps a long distance, and Struve connects with a few kicks to the midsection. Tuivasa hammers the lead leg of “Skyscraper” to force Struve to turn around and change his stance. Tuivasa blitzes with some big punches, and an uppercut hurts Struve. The Aussie throws him down to the ground like a Tim Boetsch toss, and when Struve scrambles back up, Tuivasa is on him with a barrage of deadly punches. Two left hands, a few rights and a couple to the body bust up Struve, but the felling blow comes in the form of an uppercut that splits the uprights and sends the seven-foot fighter crashing down to the ground. Herzog leaps in to stop the fight with mere seconds left in the round, and Tuivasa celebrates by jumping over the fence to search of a shoe – but UFC officials do not allow him to pour beer in it. Rest assured, there will be shoeys backstage.

The Official Result

Tai Tuivasa def. Stefan Struve R1 4:59 via KO (Punches)

Magomed Ankalaev (205) vs. Ion Cutelaba (205.5)

Round 1

It’s time to get crazy, as the main card of UFC 254 begins with a rematch of one of the more controversial results of 2020 between Ankalaev (13-1, 4-1 UFC) and Cutelaba (15-5, 1 NC; 4-4 UFC). In a light heavyweight clash that is very unlikely to reach the scorecards, referee Anders Ohlsson will need to keep his head on a swivel for the bout’s presumably short duration. There is no love lost and no glove touch between these two men looking to separate one another’s head from their shoulders, and neither man comes out firing. Instead, Cutelaba slowly plods forward and kicks out a low kick. The Moldovan fighter misses with a front kick, and Ankalaev returns fire with a slapping leg kick. We have already reached the point in the fight where their previous meeting was stopped, and a very small number of strikes have landed. Ankalaev scores a front kick and follows it with a right hook, but Cutelaba is unfazed. Cutelaba swings and misses to the body, and Ankalaev is unable to catch him with a counter. Both men land kicks one after the other, and Cutelaba rushes in with a right hand. Cutelaba clips him with another right hand, and Ankalaev responds with a body kick. Cutelaba walks through it while pawing out a jab, and Ankalaev is unable to find the home with a left hook. “The Hulk” swings and misses wildly, and Ankalaev tags him on the way in with a crisp right hand. Cutelaba charges in with a blitz, and after he lands, Ankalaev counters with a knee up the middle. Cutelaba leads the dance with several jabs and he is chasing after Ankalaev around the cage, but the Russian circles around and sticks Cutelaba with a straight left hand. Ankalaev times another left hand and counters effectively with a short right hook when Cutelaba swings and misses. Ankalaev cracks him with a sharp left hand, connecting it right before Cutelaba was going to spin for a strike. “The Hulk” regains his composure and blasts back to his feet, only to swing and miss. Ankalaev sits back as Cutelaba charges in, and unloads a hellacious left hook that sends Cutelaba falling to the canvas. Ankalaev unleashes a fury of punches as he climbs on top, and while Cutelaba is able to defend himself from a few, the Russian splits the guard and puts Cutelaba out cold as he pounds on him. What a way to end the rivalry, and there is no question in this result.

The Official Result

Magomed Ankalaev def. Ion Cutelaba R1 4:19 via KO (Punches)

Lauren Murphy (126) vs. Liliya Shakirova (126)

Round 1

The women’s flyweight division welcomes the next bout as Murphy (13-4, 5-4 UFC) tries to keep her title aspirations intact against short-notice replacement Shakirova (8-1, 0-0 UFC). The Octagon ranger for this main card affair is referee Lukasz Bosacki, and Murphy is not interested in touching gloves as she ignores her opponent’s offer. Murphy walks forward and blocks a high front kick, all while avoiding a leg kick. She takes an inside leg kick and tries to fire off a one-two, but jumps in with a left hand. Both women land punches at the same time, and Shakirova gets off a leg kick and one that glances off Murphy’s elbow. The Uzbekistani fighter lands a solid right hand, and Murphy gives her a body kick for her efforts. Murphy counters a kick with a punch, and Shakirova spins and glances a back fist off Murphy’s forehead. When Shakirova gets off a leg kick, Murphy charges in with a few punches. “Lucky” gets lucky when Shakirova hits a takedown, because she is able to pop right back to her feet almost instantly. Murphy wades forward with a few punches, forcing Shakirova to back away. Shakirova chops at the lead leg and the two women trade punches, with Murphy landing the more effective strikes as Shakirova ducks down. Murphy leaps forward with a punch barrage, and she stings Shakirova with an uppercut and a few additional punches. Shakirova has a body kick and a spinning back kick clatter off her opponent’s guard, and Murphy tries to chase her down but her own body kick is similarly blocked. Shakirova ducks a hook from Murphy to grab hold of a single, but Murphy defends it and hacks at the side of Shakirova’s head with elbows. Shakirova attempts to change to a double, but Murphy stands her up as she is pressed against the fence in a clinch. Shakirova attempts a trip but cannot get Murphy down, so she pushes off and kicks the body. A jumping front kick to the midsection lands from the newcomer, and a few jabs from Murphy in response end the round.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Murphy
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Murphy
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Murphy

Round 2

Murphy rushes out of her corner to pressure her debuting opponent, and reaches forward with a few punches and a head kick to follow. None of those strikes connect, and Shakirova’s response in the form of an overhand right and her own head kick are similarly inaccurate. Murphy stands still as Shakirova misses with a few strikes, only to march forward and land her own combination to push Shakirova to the fence. Shakirova grabs hold of a clinch, and Murphy obliges her by kneeing her in the midsection a few times. Murphy walks down her slowing opponent, jumping out of the way from a looping right hook. “Lucky Lauren” avoids strikes that fly at her and ties Shakirova up again, where she lands knees and punches in the clinch. Shakirova presses forward as if to take the fight down, but Murphy bowls her over and lands in an open guard. Shakirova tries to get off a few upkicks when Murphy springs up, and the American dives around the side to take Shakirova’s back in an instant. She immediately sets up a rear-naked choke, and it is imminently dangerous and already under the chin. Murphy puts a vice-like squeeze on the neck, and there is no escape for the newcomer. When Shakirova taps out, Murphy records her first career submission, while becoming the first woman to finish Shakirova.

The Official Result

Lauren Murphy def. Liliya Shakirova R2 3:31 via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke)

Phil Hawes (186) vs. Jacob Malkoun (186)

Round 1

In a matchup that might seem out of place on the main card among other bouts containing top-ranked fighters, exciting prospects Hawes (8-2, 0-0 UFC) and Malkoun (4-0, 0-0 UFC) nevertheless make their UFC debuts against one another at middleweight. Watching on to see which one pans out will be referee Jason Herzog, and a respectful glove touch begins the fight. Hawes pushes the pace early, chasing after Malkoun and landing a few serious punches. A right hand hurts Malkoun, and “Megatron” smells blood and unleashes a thunderous barrage of strikes. When Malkoun falls back to the fence, a right and a left hook put the Aussie not just down, but out cold as he falls face-first to the canvas. What a way to introduce yourself to the organization in your debut, doing so on one of the biggest of stages imaginable in lightning-quick fashion. Wow.

The Official Result

Phil Hawes def. Jacob Malkoun R1 0:18 via KO (Punches)

Walt Harris (254) vs. Alexander Volkov (265)

Round 1

Up to heavyweight, former Bellator champ Volkov (31-8, 5-2 UFC) comes to blows with heavy-handed Harris (13-8, 1 NC; 6-7, 1 NC UFC). “Drago” posts 20 career knockouts on his ledger, but Harris maintains a 100 percent knockout rate in victory, so this one might not go the distance. Referee Lukasz Bosacki will take the reins on this potential slugfest, but there is a sporting glove touch before they get down to business. Volkov ducks a looping left hand as they both start throwing, and Harris flings a high kick that gets blocked. Volkov walks him down and gets jabbed to the body, and the two heavyweights trade stabbing kicks to the midsection. Harris swings and misses with lethal shots, and Volkov keeps his distance and slaps away a front kick. Harris gets clipped with a straight right as he walks in, and the two clasps hands when trying to find their range. “The Big Ticket” jabs to the body a few times and then throws up another high kick, but Volkov is the one to score with a jab and a left hand that rings Harris’ bell. Harris keeps handfighting and takes a leg kick, but loads up on a big right hand that barely misses. Volkov ducks and moves to return fire, and Harris’ chin holds up. Volkov jab at the body with a kick as he closes the distance, and Harris cracks him with a big right hand. Volkov keeps his composure and walks Harris down, landing strikes and blocking the winging hooks in time. Volkov continues to work front kicks to the body, and he slaps his shin off Harris’ calf. A right hand opens a small cut around Volkov’s right eye, and Harris lets loose a leg kick and a head kick that does not find the target. Volkov stalks him down and evades a left hand, and sees a right hook coming over the top. “Drago” blasts in the body and makes Harris double over, so the Russian charges at him and pours it on to search for a finish. Harris ducks down and tries to slam big hooks in the side of Volkov’s head, attempting to pull off what Scott Smith did to Pete “Drago” Sell with a body shot that led to a knockout. Volkov is wise to it, lets a few bounce off his shoulder, and ends the round with a few more strikes but cannot get the finish he is looking for.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Volkov
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Volkov
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Volkov

Round 2

The two big men clap hands to start the round, and Harris fakes a takedown to try to get off a big right hand, but the Russian sees it coming and stops it. Harris backs off and changes levels to pursue a takedown, and Volkov stuffs it without issue. Harris sticks out a few jabs, but Volkov greets him with a much cleaner right hand. Volkov pierces the midsection with a kick, and Harris doubles over in pain – the commentary team questions whether the strike was to the groin but it appeared to land square on the liver. Volkov senses that the finish is around the corner, and he rushes in to swarm him and force a stoppage. As “Drago” clubs Harris in the head and side with four or five punches, Bosacki calls a stop to the fight as Harris is no longer intelligently defending himself. This is an important win for Volkov, who bounces back from a tough loss with an impressive knockout win.

The Official Result

Alexander Volkov def. Walt Harris R2 1:15 via TKO (Body Kick and Punches)

Jared Cannonier (185) vs. Robert Whittaker (186)

Round 1

The co-main event draws a major middleweight tilt between ex-champ Whittaker (21-5, 12-3 UFC) and the devastatingly powerful Cannonier (13-4, 6-4 UFC), with the latter racking up three knockouts in three appearances in the division. This high-stakes clash is officiated by referee Anders Ohlsson, and the two men have nothing but respect for one another and touch gloves before throwing down. Cannonier begins with a heavy leg kick, and Whittaker reacts instantly. Whittaker pops forward with a jab, and Cannonier avoids it and takes a leg kick of his own with far less impact. Whittaker darts in with another jab, and Cannonier kicks his leg out beneath him. Both men fall over when throwing high kicks, and both scramble back to their feet to reset. Whittaker slams his leg into Cannonier’s body, and Cannonier blocks a subsequent head kick. The former champ sticks out a jab and throws a high kick, and both trade leg kicks. Whittaker checks one but takes two of these leg kicks, and Whittaker’s knee is already welting up. “Bobby Knuckles” catches him with a left hand coming in, and he checks another leg kick. Whittaker swings and misses with a head kick, and a left hand hurts Cannonier and sends “The Killa Gorilla” backpedaling. Whittaker sneaks up a head kick in a combination, and he punctuates it with an inside leg kick. Whittaker reaches with a right hand, and he leans back to avoid a front kick coming at him. The American kicks across Whittaker’s legs, and Whittaker swings and misses in a counter. “The Reaper” – Whittaker sports two nicknames officially – connects with a right hand, but he eats another hard leg kick. Whittaker blitzes from the outside, and he lands a few jabs. Whittaker narrowly misses a huge right hand, and Cannonier is there to greet him with another leg kick. Whittaker keeps jabbing, and he gets off his own leg kick but misses with an overhand left that Cannonier ducks. The former champ flings up a head kick, and Cannonier is barely able to block it in time. Cannonier digs to the body with a kick, and a front kick from the Alaskan ends the round.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Cannonier
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker

Round 2

The two middleweights touch gloves to clock in the second stanza, and Whittaker begins with a right hand. He scores a left hand to send Cannonier falling back, and he evades a right hand to score a few jabs. Whittaker chases Cannonier around with punches, and he uses the jab to disrupt the power punches of his adversary. Whittaker slings a head kick that is barely blocked in time, and Cannonier responds in kind. Whittaker stings Cannonier with an uppercut, and Cannonier circles around to score a leg kick. Whittaker absorbs another leg kick, and he snaps out a few jabs to solid effect. Cannonier sneaks in another leg kick and follows it with a combination, but he allows Cannonier to respond and get countered with a stern right hand. Whittaker lets loose a front kick and gets kicked in the leg when he sets it down. Both men trade right hands, and Cannonier’s face is showing some damage from the Whittaker jab. Whittaker follows his jabs with a few crisp right hands, and Cannonier attacks the lead leg with a few more kicks. Whittaker keeps his hands low as he circles around, and he dings Cannonier a few more times at the damaged eye. Cannonier responds with a chopping leg kick, but Whittaker stands before him and continues to pepper him with the jab. Whittaker punches his way into a takedown attempt, and he puts Cannonier down briefly. When “The Killa Gorilla” gets upright, Whittaker flings a head kick at him that skims off the side of the head. Cannonier cracks him with a right hand and a leg kick, and Whittaker doubles and triples up on the jab before sending a right hand down the pipe. A double jab to a right hand from Whittaker lands on the jaw, and Cannonier composes himself as the round ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker

Round 3

One final glove touch checks in the round, and Whittaker fires a left-right early. Cannonier blocks them and Whittaker is loose, bouncing around before tossing up a front kick that splits the guard. Whittaker nails Cannonier with a power jab, and Cannonier staggers and backs up. Whittaker’s one-two into a head kick hammers Cannonier on the chin, and Cannonier is on baby deer legs falling about the cage. Whittaker leads an assault of strikes before bowling Cannonier over to his back, where the former champ steps over into half guard. Whittaker sets up an arm-triangle choke and hops over to half guard on the other side instead of taking the mount position. Seconds later, “Bobby Knuckles” gains mount, and he postures up to land a few punches. Cannonier spins around but gives up his back, and his face is bloodied and battered as Whittaker fishes for a choke. Cannonier powers his way out and up, and he pushes Whittaker up to the fence. “The Killa Gorilla” rips a few knees to the body as Whittaker rests against the fence, but the two separate and get back to the center of the cage. Cannonier fires off a head kick but Whittaker blocks it easily and goes back to his jab. A quick jab hurts Cannonier again, and Whittaker keeps it flowing and makes Cannonier stagger around. He sticks Cannonier with a jab coming in, but Cannonier walks through it and rips the body with a kick. Cannonier hurts Whittaker with a right hand, and Whittaker is in trouble as Cannonier barrels towards him. Cannonier lands another right that does some damage, so the former champ shoots in for a takedown. Whittaker cannot get it, and he avoids a knee to the head to push into the clinch. The round ends with Whittaker locked in the clinch with Cannonier.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker (30-27 Whittaker)
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker (29-28 Whittaker)
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Whittaker (30-27 Whittaker)

The Official Result

Robert Whittaker def. Jared Cannonier via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

UFC Lightweight Title Fight:
Khabib Nurmagomedov (155) vs. Justin Gaethje (155)

Round 1

We made it to the UFC 254 headliner, in a rare title unification matchup as champion Nurmagomedov (28-0, 12-0 UFC) looks to keep his spotless record intact against interim titleholder “The Highlight” Gaethje (22-2, 5-2 UFC). This lightweight thriller for all the marbles will draw the assignment of referee Jason Herzog, and nothing more needs to be said to introduce what we are about to see here. The two men touch gloves to check in this top-tier fight, and we’re off to the races. Both men keep their distance early, with Gaethje leaning low and starting out with an inside leg kick. Nurmagomedov does not throw anything nor does he set up anything, and Gaethje thinks about another leg kick and lands it hard. Gaethje scores a right hand, and Nurmagomedov counters him with an overhand right. Nurmagomedov leaps up with an uppercut, and Gaethje is well out of the way. Nurmagomedov lands a jab and gets caught with a leg kick, leading him to rush in to a clinch. Nurmagomedov cannot get hold of him, and Gaethje swings wildly with hooks. He cracks Nurmagomedov with a right hand, and he scores two more heavy leg kicks. Nurmagomedov is chasing after him with long punches, and Nurmagomedov lands a body kick. Nurmagomedov jabs and rushes forward with a knee. Gaethje avoids a right hand and kicks the lead leg. Gaethje fires up a head kick, and Nurmagomedov shrugs at him after it gets blocked. Gaethje wings another leg kick, and Nurmagomedov scores a left hand and a body kick. The Russian leaps in the air with a flying knee, and he sticks Gaethje a few times with a jab. A few more jabs disrupt Gaethje’s movement, and the American gets off a leg kick. Two big left hooks score for Nurmagomedov, and Gaethje cracks him back harder. Gaethje smashes his leg into the thigh, and he nails Nurmagomedov with a left hand. The Russian charges in to close the distance, and he hits a double leg takedown with 30 seconds to go. “The Eagle” climbs to mount with ease, and he rolls for an armbar with seconds to go. Gaethje punches the body a few times as he is unconcerned with submission danger, and the round ends.

Sherdog Scores

Jay Pettry scores the round: 10-9 Nurmagomedov
John Brannigan scores the round: 10-9 Nurmagomedov
Tudor Leonte scores the round: 10-9 Nurmagomedov

Round 2

Nurmagomedov starts the round with a few jabs and a follow-up right hand. Gaethje jumps at him to respond, and the Russian scores a leg kick of his own. Gaethje is on the defensive as he backs away, and Nurmagomedov is on him pressing the action. Nurmagomedov takes a left hand behind the ear, and he rushes in for a takedown but gets stuffed. Gaethje lands a leg kick to make his opponent stumble, and when Nurmagomedov recovers, he hits a takedown effortlessly. “The Eagle” slices to mount like a hot knife through butter, attacking an arm-triangle submission in the blink of an eye. Nurmagomedov sets up a mounted triangle choke, and he rolls to his back as he threatens with a triangle armbar. Gaethje is stuck in the worst position of his life, and try as he might, he can’t pull himself free. Gaethje lifts him up to slam him down, and he gets no space so he starts tapping out. Herzog does not see the repeated taps as Nurmagomedov tries to inform him that Gaethje submitted. Instead, Gaethje goes out, and Herzog finally calls a stop to the fight. Khabib Nurmagomedov is now 29-0 as a professional, and in the process, he unified his belts and ties the record for the most championship defenses in UFC lightweight history.

When the fight is over, Nurmagomedov is overcome with emotion, letting everything out on his knees in the middle of the cage. As Gaethje comes to, he goes over to console his former foe. Dana White wraps the belt around Nurmagomedov's waist, and Nurmagomedov pulls the tape off his gloves and gets his corner to help him remove it. Nurmagomedov retires in the cage, thanking everything for supporting him, the UFC for signing him, and his family for being there for him. He promised his mother that this would be his last fight, and he leaves his gloves in the center of the Octagon. If this is truly his final UFC bout -- and judging by his post-fight speech, it is -- he leaves behind an incredible legacy with 13 victories under the UFC banner, as arguably the #1 pound-for-pound fighter and one of the best to ever compete in the sport. It's unlikely we'll see someone like him in MMA again.

The Official Result

Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Justin Gaethje R2 1:34 via Technical Submission (Triangle Choke)
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