Welcome to POST Wrestling’s coverage of UFC 254 from Yas Island in Abu Dhabi featuring Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje for the UFC lightweight championship.
Our coverage of the event begins at 11 am Eastern and you can also follow along throughout the fights in the POST Wrestling Discord channel.
Immediately after the main card, it’s the UFC 254 POST Show LIVE & FREE at YouTube.com/POSTwrestling with Phil Chertok and I reviewing the show and taking phone calls from the Discord.
*Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Justin Gaethje by triangle (technical submission) at 1:34 of Round 2 to retain the UFC lightweight champion
*Robert Whittaker def. Jared Cannonier by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Alexander Volkov def. Walt Harris by TKO at 1:15 of Round 2
*Phil Hawes def. Jacob Malkoun by KO at 0:18 of Round 1
*Lauren Murphy def. Liliya Shakirova by rear-naked choke at 3:31 of Round 2
*Magomed Ankalaev def. Ion Cutelaba by KO at 4:19 of Round 1
*Tai Tuivasa def. Stefan Struve by KO at 4:59 of Round 1
*Casey Kenney def. Nathaniel Wood by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Alex Oliveira by guillotine at 4:40 of Round 1
*Sam Alvey vs. Da Un Jung ended in a Split Draw (29-28 Alvey, 29-28 Jung, 28-28)
*Miranda Maverick def. Liana Jojua by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at 5:00 of Round 1
*Joel Alvarez def. Alexander Yakovlev by armbar at 3:00 of Round 1
ALEXANDER YAKOVLEV (25-10-1, 155.5) VS JOEL ALVAREZ (17-2, 159.5*) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Alvarez missed weight by 3.5 pounds and forfeited 30 percent of his purse. He peppered Yakovlev with leg kicks before locking in a guillotine. Yakovlev fought the choke and was able to escape. Alvarez worked off his back and then sunk in an armbar that earned the submission win.
WINNER: Joel Alvarez by armbar at 3:00 of Round 1
Alvarez stated he would take some time off and then see what the UFC has for him. It’s his third consecutive win and builds on the submission victory against Joe Duffy from this past July. Alvarez improves to 3-1 in his UFC campaign with the only blemish on this performance being the missed weight. Yakovlev has been fighting for the promotion since 2014 and suffers his second consecutive loss with a 3-6 run inside the UFC.
LIANA JOJUA (8-3, 126) VS MIRANDA MAVERICK (7-2, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
Maverick had a strong opening round circling around Jojua as she piled up combinations with her punches and kicks while introducing elbows later in the round. Maverick busted Jojua’s nose near the end and had solid control of the round. 10-9 Maverick
Before the second round begins, the fight is called off due to the bleeding from Jojua’s nose and she was upset with the call.
WINNER: Miranda Maverick by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at 5:00 of Round 1
It was tough to justify the stoppage. It was a nasty elbow strike she absorbed and it seemed to be the inability for her corner to stop the bleeding that may have swayed the decision to end the fight. Maverick had a great performance and stated she is here to be the next big thing and is willing to fight again next month. She made a big statement in her UFC debut and is only 23 years of age.
DA-UN JUNG (13-2, 206) VS SAM ALVEY (33-14, 206) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
R1: Jung landed early with a combination as Alvey’s back was to the fence. Once the distance was closed, Alvey started to land with counters. Alvey appeared to be poked in the eye several times. It was a close round with Alvey edging Jung in the strikes to likely take the opening frame. 10-9 Alvey
R2: Alvey is more active than Jung and was landing numerous low calf kicks that made Jung tentative. Jung landed a nice left hook but didn’t follow-up. Alvey is landing more strikes and snuck in a right uppercut near the end of the round. 10-9 Alvey
R3: Jung had his best round in the third when he started timing his elbow strikes. He dropped Alvey with a right elbow strike but Alvey got his feet and started unloading with strikes. Jung stopped the momentum and rocked Alvey twice more in the round with those elbow strikes. 10-9 Jung and 29-28 Alvey
WINNER: Split Draw (29-28 Alvey, 29-28 Jung, 28-28)
One judge went with a 10-8 round in the third, I was on the fence but didn’t score it 10-8 as Alvey did land some good strikes during the flurry but it was a strong one for Jung. This was a good performance from Alvey, who needed one following four straight losses and controlled the pace throughout the first two rounds before Jung had success in round three with his elbow strikes. It was a good action fight.
ALEX OLIVEIRA (22-8-1, 173*) VS SHAVKAT RAKHMONOV (12-0, 171) – WELTERWEIGHT
Rakhmonov scored with several big strikes against the fence highlighted by a knee to the body and left hook. Oliveira clinched with Rakhmonov and all of sudden, Rakhmonov jumped and secured a tight guillotine that forced Oliveira to tap in the closing seconds of the round.
WINNER: Shavkat Rakhmonov by guillotine at 4:40 of Round 1
Oliveira missed weight by two pounds so Rakhmonov already had that disadvantage coming into his first fight with the UFC. Rakhmonov’s performance was highlighted with that strong sequence of strikes and being able to submit a veteran the caliber of Oliveira in the first round. He is an undefeated fighter that came from M-1 Challenge and appears to be a welterweight to take notice of.
NATHANIEL WOOD (17-4, 140) VS CASEY KENNEY (15-2-1, 140) – 140 POUNDS
R1: The opening round was fought at an unreal pace for the duration. It was nonstop action as the two threw for the entire round. Wood landed more but it was Kenney with the power shots that left the largest impression to edge the round on my card. This was a fantastic start to the fight. 10-9 Kenney
R2: They didn’t keep the same pace of the first round but the two still produced volume. Kenney responded to a right hand with a combination and was frequently throwing his left hand. It was a very close round. 10-9 Kenney
R3: Wood was kicking away at Kenney’s legs when Kenney shot for a takedown and rode him against the fence. Wood separated and was attacking with shots when he ate a big strike from Kenney. Kenney seemed the more exhausted of the two. This was an amazing fight. 10-9 Kenney and 30-27 overall
WINNER: Casey Kenney by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
The bar is set high for ‘Fight of the Night’ with the two putting forth a phenomenal set of performances. Kenney rebounded after fighting earlier this month on October 4th and secures his third consecutive win in the UFC.
STEFAN STRUVE (29-12, 265) VS TAI TUIVASA (10-3, 265) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Tuivasa was patient dealing with Struve’s size and found success inside the clinch landing frequently and adding leg kicks as the round continued. In the closing second, he lands a flurry with the key being a right uppercut that drops and finishes Struve.
WINNER: Tai Tuivasa by KO at 4:59 of Round 1
Tuivasa was in desperate need of a victory to stay afloat having lost his previous three fights. It was a frustrating fight to watch from Struve’s perspective but Tuivasa seemed to navigate the size disparity well and found a strategy that worked effectively as the round wore on. For Struve, this is his fifth loss in his last six fights and you have to wonder if he will be staying around after close to twelve years in the promotion.
MAGOMED ANKALAEV (13-1, 205) VS ION CUTELABA (15-5, 205.5) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Ankalaev and Cuteleba were patient in the opening minute to contrast from their earlier fight this year. Ankalaev was drawing Cutelaba in and using Cutelaba’s aggression against him as he countered with a knee strike. Cutelaba went to spin and was clipped and dropped with a left hand. Cutelaba got back up and it was a left hand that dropped Cutelaba and Ankalaev pounded Cutelaba with hammer fists to end the fight.
WINNER: Magomed Ankalaev by KO at 4:19 of Round 1
The two fought in February where there was a protest by Cutelaba over the early stoppage. They tried three times to put the rematch together and it kept falling apart until tonight’s fourth try. Ankalaev left no question regarding the outcome this time and exercised strong patience as he worked his game plan and capitalized on each opening with his power shots from the left hand. With this fight out of the way, Ankalaev can now ascend in the light heavyweight division as a future contender after winning five consecutive fights.
LAUREN MURPHY (13-4, 126) VS LILIYA SHAKIROVA (8-1, 126) – FLYWEIGHT
R1: Murphy was the aggressor throughout the round with her best offense occurring in the final minute when Shakirova attempted a single-leg that Murphy defended and landed strikes to the side of her head. 10-9 Murphy
R2: Murphy landed some strikes from the clinch position and then placed Shakirova against the fence for the body lock takedown. Murphy moved out of her guard and took Shakirova’s back and applied a deep rear-naked choke for the tap.
WINNER: Lauren Murphy by rear-naked choke at 3:31 of Round 2
Murphy secured the first submission victory of her ten-year career. This is Murphy’s fourth win a row and will place her name into the conversation to fight the winner of next month’s flyweight title fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Jennifer Maia. Shakirova was a late replacement for Cynthia Calvillo, who contracted COVID-19.
Murphy listed off all her credentials to justify why she should be the next title challenger and delivered a great speech.
JACOB MALKOUN (4-0, 186) VS PHIL HAWES (8-2, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Hawes swarmed Malkoun, putting his back toward the fence and Hawes unloaded with a flurry that sent Malkoun down and finished him in 18 seconds.
WINNER: Phil Hawes by KO at 0:18 of Round 2
Hawes has been pegged as a prospect with significant upside for a long time. He had previously fought on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017 where he lost and also lost on TUF Season 23 to eventual winner Andrew Sanchez. It turned around for him where he put together a three-fight win streak and then returned to Dana White’s Contender Series and won a contract and received this quick turnaround fight.
ALEXANDER VOLKOV (31-8, 265) VS WALT HARRIS (13-8, 254) – HEAVYWEIGHT
R1: Volkov has a great round keeping Harris away whenever Harris tried to enter the pocket. The big offense occurred when Volkov landed a combination that stunned Harris and Volkov threw a flurry. It was looking bad for Harris when he fought back and got off the fence to survive the round. 10-9 Volkov
R2: Volkov is being very efficient with his strikes. He landed a push kick to the body that Harris could not recover from and was finished with ground and pound.
WINNER: Alexander Volkov by TKO at 1:15 of Round 2
This was a strong outing from Volkov that will rehabilitate him in the heavyweight mix. He was efficient throughout the fight. They showed the stats in the second round where both had thrown the same number of significant strikes but Volkov had landed almost double what Harris had. Volkov had lost two of his last three coming into the fight and rebounds from a loss to Curtis Blaydes this past June. It is the second straight loss for Harris.
ROBERT WHITTAKER (21-5, 186) VS JARED CANNONIER (13-4, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
R1: The story of the first round was Cannonier’s leg kicks and Whittaker selectively checking them while using his jabs to keep Cannonier away. I felt the leg kicks provided the significant damage of the round and caused issues for Whittaker. 10-9 Cannonier
R2: Whittaker worked effectively with his jabs all round as Cannonier’s right eye began to swell. Whittaker was constantly in and out with the left jab and right follow-up. Cannonier tried to attack the legs but didn’t have the success he did in the first round. 10-9 Whittaker
R3: Whittaker landed a head kick and dropped Cannonier. Whittaker swarmed Cannonier throwing elbows and Cannonier tried to recover. Whittaker was in half-guard and later secured the mount before taking the back. Cannonier got to his feet and Whittaker was attacking with more jabs. Cannonier landed his best shot of the fight with a right hand but wasn’t enough to change the tide. 10-9 Whittaker and 29-28 overall
WINNER: Robert Whittaker by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
This was another great fight and a big win for Whittaker that saw him return to form in a big way. Cannonier was definitely going to be the next title challenger with a victory and perhaps this leads to a rematch with Whittaker challenging Israel Adesanya. Whittaker fought a great fight and created nonstop issues for Cannonier and nearly ended the fight in the third. Cannonier was very tough and showed an amazing ability to recover in the third round. This was Cannonier’s first loss since moving down to middleweight.
KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV (28-0, 155) VS JUSTIN GAETHJE (22-2, 155) – UFC LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE
R1: In the opening round, it was Nurmagomedov placing pressure on Gaethje but wasn’t going for takedowns. He was forcing Gaethje to react. In time, Gaethje started to find his rhythm and was landing when Nurmagomedov got the takedown and was definitely the champion’s round. 10-9 Nurmagomedov
R2: Nurmagomedov immediately took him down and got the mount before quickly moving to a triangle and Gaethje tapped several times.
WINNER: Khabib Nurmagomedov by triangle (technical submission) at 1:34 of Round 2 to retain the UFC lightweight champion
In his post-fight speech, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement at 29-0 and 13-0 in the UFC.