The UFC closed out their run in Abu Dhabi with a quality card of fights.
In a bout that had major implications in the landscape of the middleweight division, Robert Whittaker managed to nab the decision against the always explosive Darren Till.
While everyone seemed to expect more of a slugfest, the respect level both fighters had for one another resulted in a much more tactical, strategic approach. Though Till dropped Whittaker in the first round, The Reaper would then find his pace and establish his upper hand for the remainder of the match.
Earning a 48-47 score across the judges’ cards, Whittaker’s ability to beat Till to the punch and defend the take down proved the deciding factor. In terms of numbers, Whittaker landed 100 of his 188 punches to Till’s 50 of 108.
The trilogy between Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira provided some finality in more ways than one. Rua has gotten the better of Nogueira in their two previous bouts, with their last meeting in 2015 scoring Fight of the Night honors. It’s part of why a third fight seemed to make sense.
The split decision again saw Rua walking with the win, though the fight could’ve gone either way. Finishing the chapter of the competition between the two Brazilian legends, Nogueira again confirmed that he will be closing out his nearly 20 year career as a professional mixed martial arts fighter.
There was real excitement in seeing Alexander Gustafsson come out of retirement and make the transition to heavyweight from light-heavyweight. The extra pounds looked healthy on Gustaffsson and though he was taking on the savvy veteran in Fabricio Werdum, Alexander had a real shot to gain a foothold in the division.
Werdum had other plans. Walking into the octagon on the final fight of his contract, Fabricio had something to prove and fought like it. Though Gustaffson managed to stave off Werdum’s initial takedown attempt, Werdum found himself in a position to take Gustafsson’s back. From there, Werdum angled for Gustafsson’s arm and that was all she wrote. The first round armbar might have landed Werdum, 42, a contract extension that likely wouldn’t have come otherwise.
Likely stealing the show however is welterweight Khamzat Chimaev. Just 10 days ago, Chimaev fought John Phillips on the July 15th fight card in Abu Dhabi. After dismantling Phillips, Chimaev asked to fight again.
What is now the fastest turnaround in UFC history, Chimaev’s actions weren’t just bravado. Chimaev dominated Rhys McKee so badly that the Irish fighter didn’t even land a single strike, nor even get the chance to attempt one. The first-round TKO solidified an emerging star in the division and certainly established Chimaev as the MVP of Fight Island.