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UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov beat Justin Gaethje and announced his retirement from the sport after his lightweight title defence in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The Russian superstar ended his decorated career with a staggering 29-0 record. Entering the steel cage for the first time after the demise of his father and mentor Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Khabib was as sharp as ever in the main event of UFC 254.
The undefeated champ made a strong start landing jabs and body kicks in what was an entirely striking contest against Justin. In the second round, Khabib changed the nature of the contest as he took down Justin, deployed a triangle choke. And soon Justin frantically tapped out. There were no celebrations as Khabib broke out into tears.
“Alhamdulillah. This was my last fight. No way am I going to come back here without my father. When the UFC called for a fight against Justin, I spoke to my mother for three days, but she didn’t want me to go and fight without my father. I promised her this is going to be my final fight. And if I have given my word, I have to follow it. This was my last fight here,” the 32-year-old said at the Flash Forum on Yas Island.
Khabib requested the UFC to place him on number one spot of pound for pound ranking.
“I deserve it. I am the undisputed UFC champion 13-0 in the UFC and 29-0 in my pro-MMA career.”
He thanked everyone from his teammates, coach Javier Mendez, president Dana White, opponent Justin.
“Thank you, Justin. You are a great man. Be close with your parents. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Thank you, guys,” he said. “This is my father’s dream.”
In the co-main event, Robert Whittaker remained the number one contender in the middleweight category with a technically brilliant performance against No. 2 Jared Cannonier.
After two close rounds, Whittaker landed a brutal combination head kick to floor Cannonier in the decider. Cannonier staged a late comeback but couldn’t do enough to reverse the result.
“I am happy to get the result I wanted. He was tough and resilient. We diligently worked out a game plan with this guy. And we got a very classy win. Now, I am going straight home and putting up my Christmas tree. I had promised the kids,” Whittaker said after his unanimous decision win and extending his MMA record to 23-5.
In the other fights of the main card, birthday boy Alexander Volkov claimed a second-round technical knockout result over his heavyweight division opponent Walt Harris with a vicious body kick.
In the middleweight category, debutant Phil Hawes took just 18 seconds to finish off Jacob Malkoun with thunderous punches.
Magomed Ankalaev knocked out Ion Cuțelaba in the first round to extend his five-win run – the longest active streak in UFC light heavyweight division history. And in the only women’s encounter, flyweight No. 5 Lauren Murphy made light work of newcomer Liliya Shakirova by choking her to submission in the second round.
Overall, in six main event fights and six undercards, only three results went to the judges with rest being either knockouts or submission moves to cap a stunning finale of this edition of the action in Abu Dhabi.
Main card results
Lightweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov defeats Justin Gaethje (Technical submission)
Middleweight: Robert Whittaker defeats Jared Cannonier (Unanimous decision 29-28)
Heavyweight: Alexander Volkov defeats Walt Harris (TKO)
Middleweight: Phil Hawes defeats Jacob Malkoun (KO)
Flyweight: Lauren Murphy defeats Liliya Shakirova (Submission)
Light Heavyweight: Magomed Ankalaev defeats Ion Cuțelaba (KO)
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