UFC Saudi Arabia Results: Robert Whittaker floors Ikram Aliskerov with punches for early win

Image Credit: UFC


Main Card

  • Robert Whittaker def. Ikram Aliskerov via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 1:49)
  • Alexander Volkov def. Sergei Pavlovich via Decision, Unanimous
  • Kelvin Gastelum def. Daniel Rodriguez via Decision, Unanimous
  • Shara Magomedov def. Antonio Trocoli via TKO, Strikes (RD 3, 2:27)
  • Volkan Oezdemir def. Johnny Walker via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 2:28)

Preliminary Card

  • Nasrat Haqparast def. Jared Gordon via Decision, Split
  • Felipe Lima def. Muhammad Naimov via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 3, 1:15)
  • Rinat Fakhretdinov def. Nicolas Dalby via Decision, Split
  • Muin Gafurov def. Kang Kyung-ho via Decision, Unanimous
  • Magomedo Gadzhiyasulov def. Brendson Ribeiro via Decision, Majority
  • Lee Chang-ho def. Xiao Long via Decision, Split (Road To UFC 2023-24 Bantamweight Final)

Robert Whittaker didn’t let a short-notice matchup stop his momentum at middleweight this weekend, making quick work of Ikram Aliskerov to score his third win since last appearing in a title fight.

Whittaker headlined UFC’s first-ever trip to Saudi Arabia, an event that was held in partnership with the country. The show took place inside the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, the same venue where many recent top boxing events have been hosted in recent months.

Following in the footsteps of sibling company WWE, UFC received a lofty site fee for the event that surpassed many of the live gates that they earn for top pay-per-view events. Late last year, TKO CEO Mark Shapiro stated that the promotion was set to earn $20 million for their first event in the country.

Whittaker’s striking skills meant that the Australian fighter had a quick night at the office. He wobbled Aliskerov early with punches, then was able to close the show just moments later with follow-up shots.

The Russian contender looked visibly hurt after Whittaker clipped him with a right hand in the second minute. Whittaker continued to come forward with shots after this moment, landing many blows before a clean right uppercut forced a knockdown.

Whittaker followed Aliskerov to the ground, continuing to land punches until the referee stepped in and put a halt to the fight.

“I told everybody I’m the boogeyman, I’m the best in the world, and I’m the most dangerous matchup for anyone in the division,” Whittaker said during his post-fight interview.

Whittaker was originally expected to face Khamzat Chimaev, an undefeated contender many have considered for years as an inevitable title challenger. However, due to an illness forcing Chimaev off the card last week, Aliskerov received the sudden call to compete in a five-round outing.

Aliskerov was pulled from a June 15 UFC co-main event booking to take the high-profile appearance in Saudi Arabia. The fight was a massive step-up challenge for him, as he had only earned a pair of UFC wins in the past and had yet to get matched against a ranked name before this weekend.

Whittaker, a former middleweight champ, has now won three of his past four fights since dropping a title bid to Israel Adesanya in 2022. The third-ranked 185-pound talent is now being looked at as a potential backup for the UFC 305 middleweight title bout between Dricus Du Plessis and Adesanya, per Dana White. Whether or not he gets put in that position, Whittaker undeniably remains one of the closest fighters to a title shot at middleweight following his win this week.

Alexander Volkov executes perfect striking gameplan to defeat Sergei Pavlovich

Veteran Alexander Volkov picked apart Sergei Pavlovich on the feet, triggering a unanimous decision result and sending the fellow Russian tumbling further down the heavyweight standings.

Volkov avoided the explosive, finish-inducing punches of Pavlovich by masterfully managing his range through all three rounds of their fight. The experienced heavyweight connected with jabs and singular shots on the perimeter of the cage, dipping in and out of the pocket without ever getting clipped by a hard shot from Pavlovich.

Volkov landed a higher volume of strikes through all three rounds and caused visible damage to Pavlovich, causing a bloody mess around his nose by the third round.

The co-main event appearance gave Pavlovich a chance to rebound after having a highly impressive run of six consecutive first-round finish wins broken in an interim title fight earlier this year. He’s now on the first losing streak of his entire career.

Saturday night saw Volkov pick up his fourth consecutive victory since 2022, a winning streak that mirrors the run he had when first competing for the promotion during the late 2020s. Prior to his Saudi Arabia appearance, Volkov had picked up finishes against Tai Tuivasa and Alexandr Romanov last year.

Kelvin Gastelum picks up win to end weight cut saga

Kelvin Gastelum walked away with a decision win after a competitive three-round fight against Daniel Rodriguez, but the fight week drama that surrounded the fight overshadowed the performance itself.

Gastelum used an aggressive striking style with mixed-in takedowns to get a unanimous decision win. While Rodriguez had his own moments and even took a round on two scorecards, his cardio became an issue in the pivotal third round and allowed Gastelum to walk away with the win.

The fight carried some controversy this week due to a last-minute change in weight classes. Just a few days before the event was set to take place, weight issues for Gastelum bumped the matchup from the 170-pound limit of welterweight up to 185 pounds at middleweight.

The change, and the short-notice nature of it, arguably put Rodriguez at a disadvantage heading into Saturday. Gastelum apologized for his weight issues after winning, calling the incident “unacceptable.”

Gastelum, a 23-fight UFC vet, was coming back after suffering a submission loss to Sean Brady late last year. The former title challenger has lost three of his past five but has frequently been paired against some of the top names at welterweight and middleweight for years in somewhat of a gatekeeper position.

With his loss on Saturday, Rodriguez has now gone winless for nearly two years. He had previously taken losses to Neil Magny and undefeated Ian Machado Garry, both of which ended via stoppage.

Undefeated Shara Magomedov scores finish win against last-minute opponent

Shara Magomedov earned a finish win in his second UFC appearance, overcoming promotional newcomer Antonio Trocoli with a third-round stoppage.

After two-and-a-half rounds of out-landing Trocoli while on the backfoot, Magomedov rocked him with a knee to the head then scored a knockdown with a right hook to end the fight.

Trocoli aggressively pursued a takedown throughout the fight, although Magomedov did a good job of fighting off the attempts. 

Trocoli landed on this weekend’s UFC card after two previous opponents for Magomedov pulled out.

Magomedov was initially booked to face Ihor Potieria, a six-fight UFC vet who was looking to bounce back after a 54-second loss to Michel Pereira earlier this year. After Potieria had to withdraw, PFL alum Joilton Lutterbach was signed to the promotion to face Magomedov. But issues emerged for Lutterbach as well this week, as he claimed that a failed drug test prevented him from competing.

Trocoli received the call on just a few days’ notice to meet Magomedov in Saudi Arabia. The 33-year-old Brazilian fighter had just been removed from last weekend’s UFC card, missing out on a fight after opponent Ikram Aliskerov was taken from the show and coincidentally also placed on this card.

Magomedov has been a highly hyped fighter by the UFC ever since he joined the promotion last year. He won his debut for the company at UFC 294, beating Bruno Silva on scorecards. He now holds a strong pro record of 13 wins and no losses.

Volkan Oezdemir scores brutal early KO against Johnny Walker

Former light heavyweight title challenger Volkan Oezdemir opened up the main card with a nasty finish win, using his boxing skills to stop Johnny Walker in less than three minutes.

“No Time” Oezdemir started to put together clean combinations of hooks to the head early in the fight. Just two minutes into the bout, Walker was dropped by a left hand from Oezdemir. While the Brazilian fighter was able to recover, a right uppercut that landed shortly thereafter knocked him out cold.

Oezdemir has certainly experienced ups and downs since losing a title fight against Daniel Cormier in early 2018. The Swiss striker has been booked against high-level talents like Magomed Ankalaev and Jiri Prochazka, causing him to lose three of his four appearances from 2020 to 2022.

With his win on Saturday, Oezdemir is now on a two-fight winning streak for the first time since 2019. His previous performance was also a quick outing, beating Bogdan Guskov in September.

Walker has now suffered back-to-back finish losses, with his January main event defeat to Magomed Ankalaev ending in the second round due to a similar uppercut blow. The defeats expire momentum that he had going before then, including a trio of wins since 2022.

About Jack Wannan 288 Articles
Jack Wannan is a journalist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He writes and reports on professional wrestling, along with other topics like MMA, boxing, music, local news, and more. He graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]