UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is headed to Saudi Arabia to stage the “Whittaker vs. Askirov”-led event from inside Kingdom Arena later today (Sat., June 22, 2024) in Riyadh. Headlining the event will be a Middleweight bout between Robert Whittaker vs. Ikram Aliskerov (not Khamzat), while hard-hitting Heavyweight contenders Sergei Pavlovich vs. Alexander Volkov throw hands (reluctantly) in the co-main event.

What’s Hot:

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in

Whittaker’s last three defeats have come against Israel Adesanya and Dricus Du Plessis — the former and current Middleweight champions of the world — so to even think “The Reaper’s” best days are behind him is simply false. Currently ranked No. 3 in the world at 185 pounds, Whittaker’s goal is to one day hold the belt again, and another win or two could very well get him to the big dance once more. While a win over Khamzat Chimaev would’ve likely cemented his shot, taking out Aliskerov would still be a nice notch to have on his belt. And, since Chimaev is out, an impressive performance could still very well secure “Bobby Knuckles” a shot at the strap seeing as how Du Plessis and Adesanya will duke it out at UFC 305. It’s a dangerous fight for Whittaker, because it seems as if he is the one taking all the risk here, so he needs to be careful not to take his new foe lightly.

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in

Aliskerov’s fortunes changed in a split-second after Khamzat withdrew from this event, and he now has a chance to flip the division on its head by scoring an upset win over Whittaker. He only has two fights — both wins — under the UFC banner, but is coming in on a seven-fight win streak. Granted it’s not the sexy fight we were hoping for, but Aliskerov was probably the best the promotion could do on short notice. It may be a case of “too much, too soon” for Aliskerov, but he is game and won’t back down from the challenge. That said, I just don’t think it will work out for him. He will get props and respect for helping save this cursed card, but he won’t be raising his hand in victory.

What’s Not:

UFC 300: Oliveira v Tsarukyan

I get that a lot of injuries and other setbacks tarnished this event, and the main card is still pretty solid, but man the undercard is severely lacking (which we will discuss further down the line). The promotion hoped to kick of its partnership with Saudi Arabia with a bang, but it kind of doesn’t feel that way at all. Maybe next time?

Original Card Vs. Actual Card:

UFC 294: Usman v Chimaev

The original main event was, of course, supposed to feature Khamzat facing off against Whittaker before “Borz” got sidelined with a bad case of partying too much mysterious health issue. As a result, Aliskerov got the call up on two week’s notice to fill the void. Joilton Lutterbach was pulled from his fight against Sharabutdin Magomedov following a failed drug test, and was replaced by Antonio Trocoli. Said Nurmagomedov was set to face Montel Jackson in a Bantamweight fight but pulled out due to undisclosed reasons and was replaced by Farid Basharat.


UFC Fight Night: Basharat v Lapilus

Basharat was set to face Nurmagomedov at 135-pounds but was forced out of the fight with an undisclosed injury. No replacement was found, and Nurmagomedov was yanked from the event. Sedriques Dumas also suffered an undisclosed injury and was pulled from his scheduled fight against Denis Tiuliulin. Melsik Baghdasaryan suffered a shoulder injury and was pulled from his fight against Muhammad Naimov. He was replaced by Felipe Lima.

New Blood:

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov OfficialWeigh-in

Magomed Gadzhiyasulov will bring his undefeated record of 8-0 to the Octagon to debut against Brendson Ribeiro. Gadzhiyasulov won his fight against Joe Medina via unanimous decision on Contender Series back in Oct. 2023, and he now has a chance to make a splash in his first official fight with the promotion. All six of his finishes have come in the very first round and, interestingly enough, Ribeiro was knocked out in the opening frame by Mingyang Zhang in his UFC debut three months ago.

After losing his pro debut back in Aug. 2015, Felipe Lima has gone on a winning rampage, racking up 12 straight victories, six by way of stoppage. The 26 year-old Brazilian bomber will face off against Muhammad Naimov on the undercard. Naimov is currently on a six-fight win streak, which includes going undefeated (3-0) inside the Octagon.

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in

Trocoli was set to make his UFC debut last weekend against Aliskerov before the latter was yanked to face Whittaker on this card. No fret, Trocoli wasn’t left empty-handed because he was eventually booked to face Sharabutdin Magomedov after his opponent, Joilton Lutterbach, was found to have a banned substance in his urine. With a record of 12-3, “Malvado” has a tough task on hand for his UFC debut, but it’s also a golden opportunity to make an immediate impact.

How The Prelims’ Look:

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in

Headlining the undercard of this event will be a Lightweight bout between Nasrat Haqparast and Jared Gordon. After suffering back-to-back defeats to Dan Hooker and Bobby Green, Haqparast has bounced back nicely by winning three straight fights. As for Gordon, he is coming off a technical knockout (TKO) win over Mark Madsen at UFC 295, his first victory since Aug. 2022.

One of the most intriguing matchups on the whole card is a Welterweight bout between Rinat Fakhretdinov and Nicolas Dalby. Both men are scorching hot at the moment, with Rinat going unbeaten in his last 21 fights, though his most recent fight against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos resulted in a draw. As for Dalby, he is on a four-fight win streak and is 9-1-2 in his last 11 fights. This fight has the chance to steal the show.

There are some fighters who at times you forget are under UFC contract, and Kang Kyung-ho is one of them. He has been fighting for the promotion for 11 years now, but he has yet to do anything of note to stand out, despite going 8-4-1. He needs to be a bit more active to gain some momentum at Bantamweight. He will look to hand Muin Gafuron his third straight defeat inside the Octagon. Gafuron hasn’t tasted victory under the brights lights of UFC so this could be his last chance to do so. While ho doesn’t need a win in the traditional sense to keep his job, he needs an impressive victory to start getting a bit more attention his way.

Kicking off the event will be a 135-pound showdown between two young and up-and-coming contenders as Long Xiao battled Chang Ho Lee looking to shine in their official UFC debuts. Xiao is on a four-fight win streak, while Lee has won three in a row. Both men made their way to the promotion via “Road to UFC: Singapore,” and now intend to make a splash in an attempt to impress the higher ups. Lee made his pro debut just seven years ago, but hasn’t been overly active, competing only 10 times to rack up a 9-1 record. Xio has more experience with 33 pro fights and a record of 26-7.

Who Needs A Win Badly:

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in

Kelvin Gastelum was at one point considered to be a potential champion and superstar for the promotion. He has always been fun to watch and has racked up impressive wins, like knocking out Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy (watch here and here), as well as making it to an entertaining title fight against Israel Adesanya. However, he has really gone downhill over the last few years. Since 2019, Gastelum has amassed a sub-par 2-6 record with his wins coming against Ian Heinisch and Chris Curtis. Originally set to face Daniel Rodriguez at Welterweight, Gastelum’s weight-cutting issues resurfaced, prompting the promotion to switch the fight to a Middleweight contest last-minute. The promotion has actually been very lenient with Gastelum when it comes to his weight-cutting issues, but I’m sure patience is wearing thin, especially when the wins aren’t coming. I am not saying the promotion will release Gastelum with a loss, but he is making it hard for the matchmakers to keep him around.

Interest Level: 6.5/10

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in

In the co-main event of the evening, Sergei Pavlovich and Alexander Volkov collide in a battle of Top 5 big men. Pavlovich was one win away from tasting UFC gold for the first time, but ultimately ran into a red-hot Tom Aspinall, who knocked him out at UFC 295 in the very first round to win the strap and Jon Jones sweepstakes … eventually. The loss was Pavlovich’s first in five years, snapping his six-fight win streak, which all came via first-round knockout. As for Volkov, his last loss also came against Aspinall, but he has bounced back in an impressive way by finishing his next three opponents.

Sharabutdin Magomedov has wasted no time in making an impact on the UFC, even if he has only competed one time. His lone win came against Bruno Silva via unanimous decision, but the hype surrounding him is strong. The undefeated (12-0, 1-0 UFC) fighter from Dagestan has 10 wins by way of knockout and will attempt to keep his hot streak going when he battles late replacement, Antonio Trocoli. We have to be careful when proclaiming someone the next big thing, but sometimes it seems it’s inevitable to do. Same thing happened with Khamzat Chimaev and, well, things haven’t exactly panned out as many would have thought for “Borz” by now. Sure, Chimaev is still undefeated at 13-0, 7-0 UFC, but it’s safe to say some of his luster is slowing creeping away. “Bullet” is still very young in his UFC career, but for now has all the talent to make something of himself inside the Octagon, and spoiling Antonio Trocoli’s UFC debut is just another step in the right direction.

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Aliskerov Ceremonial Weigh-in

Remember when Volkan Oezdemir got a title shot against Daniel Cormier after just three wins into his UFC career? Well, it didn’t take long for everyone to figure out what kind of mistake that was. Not only did Oezdemir get out-classed by “DC,” he hasn’t done much since to prove he ever belonged in the same cage with the former two-division champion to begin with. Indeed, “No Time” has gone 4-5 since that one-sided beatdown and has not gotten close to even sniffing another title fight or the Top 5. As for his opponent, Johnny Walker, he also stormed out of the gates and people were quick to say he would eventually be a problem for Jon Jones. But the towering Brazilian — much like Oezdemir — never did much after his hot start to warrant a shot at “Bones.” With a record of just 4-5-1 following a hot start of 3-0 under the UFC banner, Walker has done just enough to entertain fans and keep employment. I get that not every fighter will make it to a title fight, and my point isn’t to trash these two men, but simply to remind everyone why it’s not smart to label fighters as the “next big thing” too soon. Anyway, these 205-pounders will collide to see who can get some of their luster back in an attempt to get closer to the Top 5.

Enjoy the fights!

Full UFC Saudi Arabia Fight Card:

UFC Saudi Arabia Main Event On ABC/ESPN+:

185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Ikram Aliskerov (not Khamzat Chimaev)

UFC Saudi Arabia Main Card on ABC/ESPN+ (3 p.m. ET):

265 lbs.: Sergei Pavlovich vs. Alexander Volkov
185 lbs.: Kelvin Gastelum vs. Daniel Rodriguez
205 lbs.: Shara Magomedov vs. Antonio Trocoli (not Joilton Lutterbach)
205 lbs.: Johnny Walker vs. Volkan Oezdemir

UFC Saudi Arabia ‘Prelims’ Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (12 p.m. ET):

155 lbs.: Nasrat Haqparast vs. Jared Gordon
145 lbs.: Muhammad Naimov vs. Felipe Lima (not Melsik Baghdasaryan)
170 lbs.: Rinat Fakhretdinov vs. Nicolas Dalby
135 lbs.: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Muin Gafurov
205 lbs.: Magomed Gadzhiyasulov vs. Brendson Ribeiro
185 lbs.: Sedriques Dumas vs. Denis TiuliulinCANCELED (details here)
135 lbs.: Xiao Long vs. Chang Ho Lee

*Fight card, bout order and number of fights remain subject to change.*

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Saudi Arabia fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ABC/ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Saudi Arabia: “Whittaker vs. Aliskerov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Author: Staff

Please go to MMAMania.com to read full article.

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