By: Frank Hyden, MMATorch Senior Columnist
UFC 254 was yesterday and it featured the retirement of a UFC legend. Let’s get to the rundown.
GOOD- Tai Tuivasa stops Stefen Struve
Tuivasa blasted Struve with a massive uppercut that dropped him and ended the fight right at the end of the first round. Good win for Tuivasa.
GOOD- Magomed Ankalaev stops Ion Cutelaba
Ankalaev peppered Cutelaba with repeated strikes, though Cutelaba got in some strikes of his own. Ankalaev dropped Cutelaba twice and finished him off about four minutes and twenty seconds into the first round. Good win for Ankalaev.
GOOD- Lauren Murphy submits Liliya Shakirova
The first round was close but Murphy probably got the nod. The second round started much the same until Murphy finally got the takedown she was searching for most of the fight and locked in a rear-naked choke to get the tap about three and a half minutes into the second round. Good win for Murphy.
GOOD- Phil Hawes stops Jacob Malkoun
Hawes dropped Malkoun almost immediately and finished him for the win eighteen seconds into the first round. Big win for Hawes as he showed good power.
GOOD- Alexander Volkov stops Walt Harris
Volkov went to the body and hurt Harris in the first round. He couldn’t finish him off, though, and they went to the second round. Volkov nailed Harris with a body kick that basically ended things, the followup punches were a formality as the body shots won this fight about one minute and fifteen seconds into the second round. Good win for Volkov.
GOOD- Robert Whittaker vs. Jared Cannonier
Whittaker used the jab repeatedly in this fight. He worked it well and did a good amount of damage with it. Cannonier did what he could but Whittaker was just the better fighter here. Whittaker won the decision so he could very likely to be next in line to face UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya. Whittaker got finished by Adesanya in their fight in October 2019 but he’s won two fights in a row and I’m not sure who else would get the shot as of now.mm
GOOD- Khabib Nurmagomedov submits Justin Gaethje
A few of the judges actually scored the first round for Gaethje. That’s a little surprising because Nurmagomedov did really well in the first round. He was handling Gaethje and looked good. The second round saw Nurmagomedov get a takedown and move straight to mount. He then locked in an arm triangle and Gaethje tapped, which the ref didn’t see, and then went out.
After the fight, Nurmagomedov retired and said he couldn’t continue without his dad. Assuming he stays retired, he finishes at 29-0. The thing that makes me think he might come back for another fight is that he’s talked about fighting Georges St. Pierre as recently as a few days ago. At the same time, though, he seemed content to hang it up.
There’s no question that Nurmagomedov has had a fantastic career. Yeah, it’s a shame he never fought Tony Ferguson but there’s plenty of other great fights he did have. The biggest being his win over Conor McGregor. There’s controversies, but we can discuss those another time, for now we’ll just focus on the good aspects of Nurmagomedov’s career. He’s likely the best lightweight in MMA history. He’s also one of the best fighters in history period. I don’t know if you’d put him up there as the best ever, but that seems so subjective and like you’re splitting hairs. Personally, I wouldn’t put him above Fedor Emelianenko but he might be my #2. I don’t know, I’d have to let some time pass before saying definitively, I don’t want to be caught up in the moment.
Regardless, Khabib Nurmagomedov has had an amazing career. And he leaves a tremendous legacy. There’s going to be a lot of guys scrambling to take his place as one of the top guys in the UFC. This win unified the UFC Lightweight Title and now it’s vacated and there’s going to be several guys angling for a spot to fill the match that will decide the next champion. Might I suggest a tournament?
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