Venue: Flash Forum, City: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Date: Saturday, October 24, 2020 / 8:00 PM CS
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje is an upcoming mixed martial arts event produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship that will take place on October 24, 2020 at the Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
It’s the second pay-per-view event of the promotion’s second residency in the Middle East after a spate of shows on home turf in Las Vegas.
A pivotal middleweight matchup between ex-champ Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier serves as the event’s co-headliner. Cannonier was identified as the No. 1 contender by Israel Adesanya after the middleweight champ ran roughshod over Paulo Costa this past Saturday at UFC 253.
The title unifier between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje was originally targeted for UFC 253, but it was pushed back after the passing of Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap, due to complications from COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic stalled Nurmagomedov’s title plans when he was unable to leave his native Russia for a long-awaited bout with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. In Nurmagomedov’s place went Gaethje, who seized the initiative and stopped Ferguson in the fifth round to become the interim champ.
Currently, there are 12 bouts planned for UFC 254’s fight card.
The plan is to proceed with local timing for prime time hours. The main card is scheduled to begin at 10:00 pm (October 24) local time in Abu Dhabi, with a full preliminary card beginning at approximately 6:15 pm Gulf Standard Time.
A UFC Lightweight Championship unification bout between current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Justin Gaethje (also former WSOF Lightweight Champion) has been tabbed to serve as the event headliner. The bout was briefly linked to UFC 253, but the date did not materialize and will instead take place five weeks later. On September 17, the UFC announced the signing of former three-time Bellator Lightweight World Champion Michael Chandler, who is expected to serve as backup and potential replacement for this fight.
A middleweight bout between former UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier was initially scheduled to take place in March at UFC 248, but Whittaker pulled out due to personal reasons. The pairing has now been rescheduled for this event.
A featherweight bout between The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America featherweight winner Yair Rodríguez and Zabit Magomedsharipov is expected to take place at this event. The pairing has been scheduled on two previous occasions, first at UFC 228 in September 2018 and then at UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakić in August of this year. However, Rodríguez pulled out of both events with injury.
Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cuțelaba first met in a light heavyweight bout at UFC Fight Night: Benavidez vs. Figueiredo, where Ankalaev won via controversial knockout. Due to the controversy of the stoppage, the UFC booked the rematch for UFC 249, on its original April 18 date. However, Ankalaev was forced to pull out of the event due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were later rebooked for UFC 252, but Cuțelaba then pulled out after testing positive for COVID-19 and the bout was rescheduled for UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakić. Cuțelaba tested positive yet again on the day of the event, resulting in another cancellation of this fight. In turn, they were rescheduled for a third time and will meet at this event.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos was expected to face Shavkat Rakhmonov in a welterweight bout at the event. However, Zaleski pulled out in late September due to a knee injury that will require surgery. A replacement is expected to be sought by the promotion.
Official Fight Card
|Lightweight||Khabib Nurmagomedov (c)||def.||Justin Gaethje (ic)||Technical Submission (triangle choke)||2||1:34|
|Middleweight||Robert Whittaker||def.||Jared Cannonier||Decision (unanimous) (29–28, 29–28, 29–28)||3||5:00|
|Heavyweight||Alexander Volkov||def.||Walt Harris||TKO (body kick and punches)||2||1:15|
|Middleweight||Phil Hawes||def.||Jacob Malkoun||KO (punches)||1||0:18|
|Women’s Flyweight||Lauren Murphy||def.||Liliya Shakirova||Submission (rear-naked choke)||2||3:31|
|Light Heavyweight||Magomed Ankalaev||def.||Ion Cuțelaba||KO (punches)||1||4:19|
|Preliminary card (ESPN 2 / ESPN+)|
|Heavyweight||Tai Tuivasa||def.||Stefan Struve||KO (punches)||1||4:59|
|Catchweight (140 lb)||Casey Kenney||def.||Nathaniel Wood||Decision (unanimous) (29–28, 29–28, 30–27)||3||5:00|
|Catchweight (173 lb)||Shavkat Rakhmonov||def.||Alex Oliveira||Submission (guillotine choke)||1||4:40|
|Light Heavyweight||Da Un Jung||vs.||Sam Alvey||Draw (split) (29–28, 28–29, 28–28)||3||5:00|
|Early preliminary card (ESPN 2 / ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)|
|Women's Flyweight||Miranda Maverick||def.||Liana Jojua||TKO (doctor stoppage)||1||5:00|
|Catchweight (159.5 lb)||Joel Álvarez||def.||Alexander Yakovlev||Submission (armbar)||1||3:00|
UFC 254 Card and Results
Event: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje
After a brutal year that saw him lose his father and see a high-profile fight scrapped by the COVID-19 pandemic, Khabib Nurmagomedov could finally exhale, as the UFC lightweight champion successfully defended his title with a second-round submission of Justin Gaethje.
But his victory in the UFC 254 main event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, one which lifted his perfect record to 29-0, was followed by a shocking announcement, as he announced his retirement at the age of 32.
Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier
Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker logged a disciplined and effective performance in winning a close, but unanimous, decision over Jared Cannonier in the UFC 254 co-main event.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for the No. 1-ranked Whittaker, now 23-5. The No. 2-ranked Cannonier falls to 13-5.
Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris
In a clash of heavyweight contenders, Alexander Volkov was in top form as he stopped Walk Harris in the second round.
With the heavyweights slinging leather, it felt like any blow landed could be a finisher. Harris got in plenty of shots in the first round, it was Volkov who did the better work, nearly stopping the fight with a left hand that rocked Harris before the Alabama native fired back and got back in the fray.With the win, the No. 7-ranked Volkov moves to 32-8. In the second, Harris got nailed with a kick to the body that provoked a visible reaction from “The Big Ticket,” and as he staggered backward, Volkov unloaded with his punches, and that brought in referee Lucasz Bosacki to halt the bout at the 1:15 mark of round two. The No. 10-ranked Harris falls to 13-9, 1 NC.
Lauren Murphy vs Liliya Shakirova
Veteran flyweight contender Lauren Murphy made the most of her first pay-per-view main card spot, as she submitted Octagon newcomer Liliya Shakirova in the second round.
Uzbekistan’s Shakirova fought well throughout the bout, but Murphy was patient and a step ahead, and after working her striking in the opening round, she took the fight to the mat in the second. And once on the mat, she took Shakirova’s back and sunk in a rear naked choke, with the tap out coming at 3:31 of round two. With the win, the No. 5-ranked Murphy, who has won four straight, moves to 14-4. Shakirova who replaced Cynthia Calvillo, falls to 8-2.
Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba
There was no controversy in the light heavyweight rematch between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba, with Ankalaev opening the main card with a definitive first-round knockout victory to move to 2-0 against his rival.
In stark contrast to their first bout in February, the fight began at a downright sedate pace, with Cutelaba chasing and Ankalev waiting to strike. With 1:10 left, Ankalaev scored a flash knockdown of the Moldovan, and that was the beginning of the end, as the Russian nailed Cutelaba with a right-left combination that dropped him hard to the canvas. A follow-up barrage of ground strikes put an end to matters, with referee Anders Ohlsson stepped in at 4:19 of the first round.
With the win, the No.11-ranked Ankalaev moves to 14-1. Cutelaba falls to 15-6 with 1 NC.
Stefan Struve vs Tai Tuivasa
Australian banger Tai Tuivasa ended his three-fight losing streak in impressive style, halting longtime heavyweight standout Stefan Struve in the first round.
Tuivasa looked like a different fighter for much of the first round, as he stayed busy and handled himself well in the clinch, avoiding any trouble from his much-taller foe. But in the closing seconds, the old “Bam Bam” resurfaced, as he caught Struve, sensed the Netherlands native was hurt, and he finished matters with a series of hard shots. The official time of referee Jason Herzog’s stoppage was 4:59 of round one. With the win, Tuivasa moves to 11-3. Struve falls to 33-13.
Nathaniel Wood vs Casey Kenney
Top bantamweight prospects Casey Kenney and Nathaniel Wood battled it out at a 140-pound catchweight for three action-packed rounds, with Kenney earning his second win of the month via unanimous decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 30-27 for Kenney, now 16-2-1. Wood falls to 17-5.
Alex Oliveira vs Shavkat Rahkmonov
Many wondered if Shavkat Rakhmonov was biting off more than he could chew by taking on Brazilian veteran Alex Oliveira in his first UFC bout. He wasn’t, as the Kazakhstan native submitted “Cowboy” in the first round of their welterweight bout.
Oliveira was Oliveira in the early going of the fight, but after he caught a knee to the body with a little over three minutes to go in the opening round, it changed his strategy as he attempted to stay close with his foe against the fence. That was no problem for Rakhmonov, who locked in the guillotine choke that ended matters at 4:40 of round one. With the win, Rakhmonov moves to 13-0. Oliveira, who missed weight for the fight at 173 pounds, falls to 22-9-1, 2 NC.
Da-un Ung vs Sam Alvey
Light heavyweights Da-un Jung and Sam Alvey delivered an entertaining three-round striking battle, with the judges rendering a draw verdict when it was all over.
Scores were 29-28 Jung, 29-28 Alvey and 28-28.
Liana Jojua vs Miranda Maverick
Highly touted flyweight prospect Miranda Maverick made a successful UFC debut, halting Liana Jojua in the first round.
Jojua had some success early with her right hand, but Maverick adjusted and attacked with a variety of strikes, keeping the pressure on throughout. Jojua didn’t back down, but an elbow to the nose opened up a nasty cut that the corner wasn’t able to close between rounds, prompting a doctor’s stoppage at the 5:00 mark of round one.
Joel Alvarez vs Alexander Yakovlev
Spanish up and comer Joel Alvarez scored his third consecutive win in the lightweight opener, submitting Alexander Yakovlev in the first round.
After taking a series of leg kicks from Alvarez, Yakovlev shot in for a takedown, only to get caught in a guillotine choke momentarily. Once he pulled loose, the Russian went to work, but Alvarez stayed busy from his back, locking in the armbar that forced a tap out at 3:00 of round one. With the win, Alvarez, who missed weight for the bout at 159.5 pounds, moves to 18-2. Yakovlev falls to 24-10-1.
*Fights labeled as "may not be broadcast" are scheduled to take place before the live broadcast begins. These pre-recorded fights are inserted into the broadcast if time permits. However, due to broadcast time constraints some of these undercard bouts may not be seen on a broadcast. These additional bout can be found as bonus footage on the event DVD.