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UFC Saudi Arabia: Five Things We Learned

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UFC Saudi Arabia had a few impactful fights that provided us with important lessons. Here are five things we learned during the event. (Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports)

UFC Saudi Arabia: Five Things We Learned

UFC Saudi Arabia was a solid night of fights. The main event saw Robert Whittaker pick up a first-round knockout against Ikram Aliskerov. The remainder of the card featured several fights that were fairly important. That gives us a solid amount of important lesson recap from UFC Saudi Arabia.

Robert Whittaker Shows There Are Levels To MMA

In the UFC Saudi Arabia main event, Robert Whittaker knocked out Ikram Aliskerov in the first round. That performance showed the levels in MMA.

Whittaker did an outstanding job of avoiding some big shots from Aliskerov while aggressively looking for his offense. This culminated in great feint usage to create an opening and land a right hand. Once Aliskerov was hurt, Whittaker stayed composed, pressured, and landed a big uppercut that ended the show.

This performance put Whittaker in the thick of title contention. The UFC middleweight division currently has a title fight booked between Dricus Du Plessis and Israel Adesanya. The winner of that bout will be in a position to defend the title against Whittaker or Sean Strickland. The bigger question is which fight will get the fight. It would not be a shock to see the pair fight for the position, either.

Alexander Volkov Followed A Perfect Game Plan

The UFC Saudi Arabia co-main event was a grudge match between former training partners Alexander Volkov and Sergei Pavlovich. Volkov was the fighter that came out victorious. That was largely because of his ability to create and follow an outstanding game plan.

Volkov did a great job of using his length to stay on the outside and outstrike Pavlovich. This was mostly done with kicks and straight punches. It also helps that Volkov had the movement to stay out of the pocket and avoid Pavlovich’s big shots.

It is always impressive to see a fighter craft a game plan and follow it to a tee. That is exactly what Volkov did and it resulted in a one-sided victory.

This win will place Volkov just outside of title contention. It is hard to describe exactly where he fits. That is a result of the mess at the top of the heavyweight division.

Sergei Pavlovich Did Not Look Like Himself

On the opposite side of the UFC Saudi Arabia co-main event, Sergei Pavlovich did not impress.

In his run to his interim title shot, Pavlovich threw long combinations to get in the pocket and land shots. This consistently worked because he has ridiculous power. That came crashing apart when Tom Aspinall flipped the script and knocked him out. It feels like that loss affected his confidence against Volkov.

Pavlovich did not show the willingness to throw combinations and get in the fire. Instead, he opted to throw one or two strikes at a time. That is not a smart offensive game plan. It just makes it miles harder for him to land his strikes.

It is worth noting that, Volkov’s game plan made Pavlovich’s hesitancy look even worse. Still, the fault belongs to Pavlovich as well.

Shara Magomedov Shows His Striking Skills

At UFC Saudi Arabia, Shara Magomedov has a strong showing against Antonio Trocoli. Magomedov put on a full striking display that culminated in a third-round knockout.

Magomedov was piecing Trocoli up with leg kicks, side kicks, crafty head kicks, and occasionally punches. Trocoli was a sitting target for the quick striking of Magomedov and it was quickly apparent. This was best seen in Magomedov’s kicks as he beat up Trocoli with leg kicks.

This was not a very telling victory. Trocoli is not a good striker and it was evident. That allowed Magomedov to let his kicks fly. It would have been nice to see him let his hands go. Still, this is a good framework for how Magomedov approaches his fights.

Felipe Lima Looks Great In His Debut

At UFC Saudi Arabia, Felipe Lima made his UFC debut. It was not the ideal debut, either. Lima took the fight up a weight class and on short notice. That is even more impressive considering he was the Oktagon MMA bantamweight champion. He likely could have made his UFC debut in more normal circumstances if he wanted. Still, he took the fight and looked great as he picked up a submission win over Muhammad Naimov.

Lima looks solid on the feet. The striking exchanges favored him. This was largely because of his kicks and ability to set up his punches. In the grappling exchanges, he competed well despite being the significantly smaller fighter. This was highlighted in his finishing sequence where he worked to the back and landed the choke.

I do not believe that Naimov is a world-beater; however, considering the circumstances entering the fight, it is an impressive win. At his natural weight class, Lima has the potential to make strides in the promotion.

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