If this is indeed it, Khabib Nurmagomedov exits the UFC as arguably the greatest fighter in MMA history.
Nurmagomedov scored a second-round submission (triangle choke) of Justin Gaethje to retain his lightweight title at UFC 254, before announcing his retirement. Nurmagomedov took Gaethje down, assumed the mount position and skillfully turned it into a triangle choke to score the second-round submission. Gaethje tapped a few times, but the ref didn't notice it. After a few tense seconds, the ref stepped in and ended it, as Nurmagomedov improved to 29-0 Saturday night on "Fight Island" at the Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
Following the victory, Nurmagomedov dedicated the fight to his late father, who passed away this summer, and announced his retirement by laying his gloves in the center of the Octagon.
"This was my last fight," said Nurmagomedov, overcome with emotion.
He added that after speaking with his mother, he agreed that this would be his final MMA bout.
"I promised her, it's going to be my last fight," he continued. "It was my last fight here. Tuesday, you guys have to put me No. 1 pound-for-pound because I deserve this."
He added: "Today's my last fight in the UFC."
If this is Khabib's last outing, he is leaving behind an indelible legacy at 29-0 and the reigning lightweight champion of the world, with victories over the likes of Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Gaethje to name a few.
Here's how the entire UFC 254 card went.
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje live results
(All Times Eastern)
Main event: Khabib Nurmagomedov submits Justin Gaethje with second-round triangle choke to retain lightweight title, before announcing retirement
Round 2: Khabib already dictating a fast pace. Left hand behind the ear lands for Gaethje, but the champ just eats it. Gaethje with a stinging leg kick and the champ seemed to get hurt by it. But Khabib comes back with a takedown and he's going for the triangle choke. He has it cinched in. Gaethje is tapping, but the ref doesn't see it. The ref steps in and ends it. "The Eagle" soars yet again and remains undefeated, as he improves to 29-0. Just too good, as Khabib's growing legend continues. Khabib with a heavy heart, as his father died in the summer.
Round 1: Gaethje checks Khabib's temperature with a leg kick early, with both trying to gauge each other's moves and look for an opening. Big right hand lands for Khabib, but Gaethje counters with a shot of his own. Khabib swings and misses wildly with an uppercut, but sticks the jab. Gaethje with a kick that lands. Khabib is already pressuring Gaethje, but the American responds with a kick. Nurmagomedov with a body kick, as he continues to pressure.
Everything is on the feet, although Khabib briefly went for a takedown. He keeps pressuring Gaethje and lands two swift punches. Leg kick by Gaethje and Khabib responds with a punch. Gaethje comes back with a heavy-handed right that gets Khabib's attention. Front kick from Khabib and Gaethje with a counterpunch. Now, Khabib takes Gaethje down against the Octagon — where Gaethje doesn't want to be. Khabib isolates an arm, but the clock's final ticks save Gaethje. (10-9 Khabib)
4:41 p.m.: Bruce Buffer makes the fighter introductions and this main event is seconds away.
4:35 p.m.: And here comes the undefeated champ, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
A last-minute prediction from Aljamain Sterling, as Gaethje has already made his walk into the Octagon.
I’m so torn on the main event, but smart money says this is like betting against Mayweather in boxing! Have to believe The Eagle will get it done again! 🦅 #UFC254— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 24, 2020
4:30 p.m.: It all comes down to this. Twenty-eight fighters have tried to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov and all have failed. Will Justin Gaethje fare any differently? We're about to find out.
Co-main event: Robert Whittaker edges Jared Cannonier behind heavy striking; Middleweight
4:21 p.m.: Whittaker announced as the winner by unanimous decision, as all three judges score it 29-28.
Round 3: Whittaker sticks a left jab between Cannonier's guard. Whittaker smashes Cannonier's face with a two-punch, high kick combination. Cannonier's face is a bloody mess.
Whittaker takes his back and Cannonier is in a world of trouble. Somehow Cannonier powers his way off the ground and they're back on their feet. Cannonier showing plenty of heart, as he plants a kick to Whittaker's midsection. He stuns Whittaker moments later with a right hand. Incredible ending. Whittaker delivers 65 head strikes this fight, while Cannonier produces 22 leg kicks. (10-9 Whittaker, 30-27 Whittaker)
Round 2: Whittaker opens up the round with a jab. Now doubles up on the jab. Whittaker is striking more, but Cannonier is making those outside leg kicks count. Whittaker's lead leg is visibly red. Whittaker brushes Cannonier back with a left to the body and right jab upstairs, before Cannonier counters with a punch of his own. Whittaker repeatedly finding a home for his jab, as Cannonier's right eye is starting to swell up. Whittaker keeps splitting Cannonier's guard with his jab. Whittaker goes for a takedown, but Cannonier spins him around. Cannonier goes back to his leg kicks, which are all landing in a stinging way. Moments later, Whittaker catches Cannonier with a double jab followed by a stiff right hand. Whittaker's weapon of choice is the jab, while Cannonier is doing damage with his leg kicks. (10-9 Whittaker, 20-18 Whittaker)
Round 1: Cannonier immediately with a hard, rattling leg kick off the jab to get Whittaker's attention. Cannonier takes Whittaker off his feet with another leg kick, before slipping to the mat a second later. Whittaker with a stinging jab. Cannonier is tagging Whittaker's legs with kicks. Whittaker just misses with a high kick, but comes behind that with a punch that lands. Seconds later, he lands that high kick. Cannonier goes back to those outside leg kicks from the southpaw stance. Moments later, Whittaker responds with punches and that high kick combination. Cannonier does a nice job with the legs kicks, but Whittaker takes this round. A close first round. (10-9 Whittaker)
High level striking in this one!— UFC (@ufc) October 24, 2020
Who took round 1️⃣ on your card? pic.twitter.com/P81Rh8nTS5
4:00 p.m.: Cannonier and Whittaker have both made their way into the Octagon, as this co-main event is seconds away now.
3:55 p.m.: Huge ramifications in this co-main event, with the No. 1 middleweight contender Robert Whittaker facing the second-ranked contender in Jared Cannonier. The winner will get a shot at Israel Adesanya, who has already expressed interest in facing Cannonier. Adesanya became the champ by defeating Whittaker in October 2019.
Alexander Volkov finishes Walt Harris with second-round TKO; Heavyweight
3:43 p.m.: Volkov plants a kick into Harris' midsection, as Harris lets out an audible groan and gets bent at the waist. Volkov swarms him with punches up against the Octagon before the ref ends it. Impressive win for Volkov and on his birthday.
3:40 p.m.: Great sequence late in the first round, when Volkov fakes a knee and hurts Harris with a punch, instead. Volkov moves in with a barrage of punches, looking for a potential finish, but Harris fights back and powers out with stiff counters. Harris complained about poor vision in one of his eyes after the round.
3:30 p.m.: Walt "Big Ticket" Harris making his walk to the Octagon, as he's about to scrap with Alexander Volkov in heavyweight action. Harris has shed 30 pounds entering this bout.
3:25 p.m.: Still reeling from the dynamite Hawes has in his hands. It will be interesting to see him work his way up the middleweight rankings. That was the second-quickest finish for a debuting middleweight.
Phillip Hawes destroys Jacob Malkoun in just 18 seconds with first-round TKO; Middleweight
3:12 p.m.: Oh my goodness! Phillip Hawes just destroyed Jacob Malkoun and it only took him 18 seconds! Hawes caught Malkoun with a right behind the ear and kept the damage coming with a heavy-handed right and left. The ref stepped in before he could rain down with some hammer fists.
"Wonder Boy" says it best:
3:05 p.m.: Jacob Malkoun vs. Phillip Hawes in a middleweight tilt is up next.
3:00 p.m.: The champ is here, as Khabib Nurmagomedov has arrived to the Flash Forum.
Lauren Murphy submits Liliya Shakirova in second round with rear-naked choke; Women's flyweight
2:52 p.m.: Patience pays off for "Lucky" Lauren Murphy. She uses a body lock to help take Shakirova down. Seconds later, she's able to cinch in the rear-naked choke for the second-round submission. That's 37-year-old Murphy's first career win via submission. Well earned and deserved.
2:50 p.m.: Murphy showing nice adjustments to Shakirova in this second round. Murphy currently in the mount, letting loose on some punches.
2:30 p.m.: That was a savage finish for the oncoming force that is Magomed Ankalaev. Lauren Murphy vs. Liliya Shakirova in women's flyweight action is next.
Magomed Ankalaev crushes Ion Cutelaba with another first-round KO; Light heavyweight
2:24 p.m.: Don't question who the better fighter is between Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba ever again. Ankalaev drops Cutelaba with a thud via a right hook, vicious left hand, before eviscerating him with savage hammer fists to get the first-round KO. Ankalaev is a problem in the light heavyweight division.
2:00 p.m.: The UFC 254 main card pay-per-view is upon us, with Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba in light heavyweight action kicking this one off.
1:45 p.m.: Wow! That's how you crumble a "Skyscraper!" Tai Tuivasa banged Stefan Struve with a solid right hand upside the temple. Sensing he hurt the taller heavyweight, Tuivasa pummeled him up against the cage, before dropping Struve in a heap with a vicious, measured right uppercut. First-round KO for Tuivasa, who didn't have any trouble getting inside of a nine-inch height deficit to cause massive damage.
1:30 p.m.: Casey Kenney edges Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27). Kenney says he wants a drink and he deserves it, with this victory marking his second win on "Fight Island" this month.
1:00 p.m.: Nathaniel Wood vs. Casey Kenney is up next, as the prelims continue. We are also an hour away from the launch of the UFC 254 main card pay-per-view.
12:47 p.m.: Impressive debut by Shavkat Rakhmonov, who makes veteran Alex Oliveira tap with a first-round submission via a nasty, tight guillotine choke. Rakhmonov blasted Oliveira with a big right hand to the temple, pressed him up against the Octagon and secured the guillotine moments later to cinch the victory.
12:35 p.m.: Da Un Jung and Sam Alvey just battled to a split draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28) here in the prelims. The action really picked up in that third round. Park it here, as we'll continue to bring you live fight results, updates and highlights from UFC 254.
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje fight card
- Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) def. Justin Gaethje by second-round submission (triangle choke) to retain lightweight title
- Robert Whittaker def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28); Middleweight
- Alexander Volkov def. Walt Harris by second-round TKO (punches); Heavyweight
- Phillip Hawes def. Jacob Malkoun via first-round TKO (punches); Middleweight
- Lauren Murphy def. Liliya Shakirova with second-round submission (rear-naked choke); Women's Flyweight
- Magomed Ankalaev def. Ion Cutelaba via first-round KO (punches); Light Heavyweight
Preliminary card results
- Tai Tuivasa def. Stefan Struve by first-round KO (punches); Heavyweight
- Casey Kenney def. Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28); Bantamweight catchweight
- Shavkat Rakhmonov def. Alex Oliveira by first-round submission (guillotine choke); Welterweight
- Da Un Jung and Sam Alvey fight to split draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28); Light Heavyweight
- Miranda Maverick def. Liana Jojua by first-round TKO (cut); Women's Flyweight
- Joel Alvarez def. Alexander Yakovlev via first-round submission (armbar); Lightweight