Russian heavyweight and submission specialist Aleksei Oleinik had joked leading up to Saturday's main event against Mark Hunt that his opponent had no neck to apply one of his signature chokes to. Ultimately, he proved himself incorrect.
Oleinik (57-11-1) located Hunt's neck with a rear-naked choke in the first round at UFC Fight Night in Moscow, which marked the UFC's first trip to Russian soil. The event took place at Olympiysky Arena.
The event drew a live attendance of 22,603 and a $1.84 million gate, according to UFC president Dana White. That marks the sixth-largest crowd in UFC history.
A native of Moscow, now fighting out of Florida, Oleinik survived a hard straight right from Hunt (13-13-1) in the bout's opening minutes. Plenty of heavyweights have gone down from similar shots by Hunt, but the 41-year-old Oleinik ate it well.
In a later exchange, Oleinik clipped Hunt, of New Zealand, with a short left hook and appeared to stagger him moments later with another punch. As Hunt backed up, Oleinik tripped him to the floor and immediately took his back. He had no problem sinking in a rear-naked from there, for the 45th submission win of his career.
"I planned and practiced submission victories in my prep, but the Ezekiel choke was not one of them," said Oleinik, referring to his best-known submission. 'I totally felt two or three more [leg kicks from Hunt] would have affected the outcome of the fight, perhaps. Give me a chance [at a title] and you will see."
Hunt, 44, who is currently involved in an active lawsuit against the UFC for its handling of a drug testing matter around UFC 200, falls to 1-3 in his past four bouts. He has been outspoken in recent years on performance-enhancing drug use, and criticized former champion Fabricio Werdum during fight week for his recent drug suspension.
The UFC has put years of effort into breaking into the Russian mixed martial arts market. The card was filled with talent from the region, including three athletes on the main card.
Blachowicz racks up fourth in a row, calls for Cormier, Gustafsson
The light heavyweight contender immediately demanded current champion Daniel Cormier, who hasn't defended the title since January, make a decision on his career. Cormier is also the UFC's heavyweight champion, and his future at 205 pounds remains a little uncertain.
Whether Saturday's performance nets Blachowicz a title shot or not, it was a solid win for the 35-year-old. He allowed Krylov to take him down early in the fight, but reversed the position and ended up showing a strong top game in the first round. Blachowicz picked up where he left off in the second frame, and eventually secured the finish.
If Cormier fails to take the bait, Blachowicz called for a fight against Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson.
Abdurakhimov bests Arlovski in three-round fight
Abdurakhimov, of Dagestan, was far more active, landing 80 total strikes compared to just 30 for Arlovski, according to Fightmetric. He took the former champ down in the first and second rounds, and landed a series of hard left hands along the fence in the second, as Arlovski attempted to wall walk to his feet.
Arlovski, who trained out of American Top Team, responded later in the second round with a pair of his own takedowns, but he did not have a great offensive performance overall. He falls to 1-2 in three appearances this year, including a decision loss to Tai Tuivasa in June. Abdurakhimov improves to 4-2 in the UFC.
Russia's Kunchenko keeps perfect record, calls for Cerrone
Kunchenko, a welterweight champion in the Russian promotion M-1 Global, grew stronger as the three-round fight went on, and ultimately out-landed Alves in total strikes 69-to-62. While the fight was not a blowout by any means, Kunchenko looked at home in his first Octagon appearance and landed the cleaner, harder strikes, especially late.
Alves (22-12), who fights out of Florida, falls to 1-4 in his past five. He went into Saturday's bout a sizable underdog.