ABU DHABI -- Khamzat Chimaev is back. In a big way.
The man who emerged in 2020 as the hottest prospect in the UFC stopped Li Jingliang via technical submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:16 of the first round Saturday in a welterweight bout on the UFC 267 main card in Abu Dhabi. Li was left unconscious and referee Jason Herzog stepped in to stop the bout.
"You believe me now?" Chimaev said in his postfight interview. "I said I was going to kill everybody. You believe me now?"
As soon as the fight started, Chimaev grabbed Li in a takedown attempt immediately, said something to UFC president Dana White as he hoisted Li in the air and completed the technique. Once on the ground, Chimaev made it look easy. He took Li's back, landed big ground and pound with Li flattened out on his stomach and then cinched in the choke.
"I'm the champ," Chimaev said. "I'm the king."
Chimaev had not fought since September 2020 due to a serious case of COVID-19 that carried long-lasting ramifications. He had to be hospitalized and was coughing up blood. His condition was so severe and recovery so difficult that Chimaev actually considered retirement.
During the first round, Khamzat Chimaev picks up Li Jingliang off the mat, carries him toward the fence and chats it up with Dana White.
But he did not retire -- much to the chagrin of every other fighter in the UFC's middleweight and welterweight divisions. Chimaev required surgery, but eventually healed and after 13 months away looked as good as ever. He had some issues with his weigh-in Friday -- some accused of him of trying to game the scale by pressing down on a towel -- but there were no such difficulties Saturday, as he absolutely ran through Li.
Chimaev (10-0) set the record last year for the quickest time to two wins in modern UFC history (10 days). He added another record with the fastest three wins in modern UFC history (66 days) with a 17-second knockout of Gerald Meerschaert on Sept. 19, 2020. Chimaev, 27, has finished every one of his 10 career victories, and all but three of those have come in the first round.
Chimaev has completely dominated his four UFC fights. Per ESPN Stats & Information, he holds a significant strike advantage over his opponents of 112-1 and a total strike differential of 254-2. He has landed four takedowns and given up none. Chimaev's control time in those four fights is 11:56, with his opponents at 0.
Li (18-7) has dropped two of his last three bouts. The fighter from China had only been finished one other time in his career. Li, 33, has a 10-5 UFC record.
Light heavyweight championship: Glover Teixeira (33-7. 16-5 UFC) def. Jan Blachowicz (c) (28-9, 11-6 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Glover Teixeira lands a massive takedown in Round 2 to eventually give him the victory over Jan Blachowicz.
Glover Teixeira got a UFC light heavyweight title shot seven years ago and lost, as most do, to Jon Jones. At that point, Teixeira was already 34 years old and most wrote him off. He had his nice UFC run, many thought, and that would be it.
Instead, Teixeira got back to work and somehow made his way all the way back. On Saturday, he did what most thought impossible. Teixeira defeated Jan Blachowicz via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:02 of the second round to win the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi. Teixeira was a +210 underdog, per Caesars Sportsbook.
At 42 years old, Teixeira is the oldest first-time champion in UFC history and the second oldest fighter to ever win a UFC title, just behind Randy Couture. Teixeira joins Couture and Daniel Cormier as only the third UFC fighter ever to win a title at age 40 or above. The 14 UFC fights in between Teixeira's title loss to Jon Jones at UFC 172 on April 26, 2014 and Saturday were the most in between title shots in the same division in UFC history.
"Never give up on your dreams," Teixeira said in his postfight interview. "No matter what people say don't listen to them. They're gonna put you down. Don't listen to those negative people. Believe in yourself."
Men's bantamweight interim championship: Petr Yan (16-2, 8-1 UFC) def. Cory Sandhagen (14-4, 7-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Petr Yan might not be the official champion of the UFC's bantamweight division -- but it sure feels like the weight class belongs to him.
Yan (16-2) claimed the interim bantamweight title at UFC 267 on Saturday, by defeating Cory Sandhagen (14-4) via unanimous decision. The 135-pound title fight co-headlined the event, which took place inside Etihad Arena. All three judges scored the five-round title fight 49-46 for Yan.
Fighting out of Russia, Yan came into 2021 as the undisputed bantamweight champion. He appeared to be on his way to defending that title against Aljamain Sterling in March when he threw an illegal knee in the fourth round that cost him the bout and his championship. The two were supposed to fight at UFC 267, but Sterling withdrew due to injury.
Did we just watch the greatest title fight of all time? #ufc267— Michael Chandler (@MikeChandlerMMA) October 30, 2021
As long as Sterling's health returns, the two are expected to meet in a title unification bout.
"Everyone knows I am the real champion," Yan said. "I'm ready to fight anyone. Either [former champion T.J.] Dillashaw or the clown, Aljamain Sterling."
Lightweight: Islam Makhachev (21-1, 10-1 UFC) def. Dan Hooker (21-11, 11-7 UFC) by first-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Islam Makhachev continues his dominant UFC lightweight division run with a quick submission of Dan Hooker in Round 1.
It took Makhachev all of 45 seconds to seize control on the way to his ninth victory in a row.
The 30-year-old Russian, who has not experienced defeat since 2015, took Hooker to the canvas in the opening minute with a right hook followed by a double-leg takedown. From there Makhachev, who is No. 8 in the ESPN lightweight rankings and surely on the rise, methodically worked his way into position to secure a kimura submission, getting the tapout from the sixth-ranked Hooker at 2:25.
It was a confident, efficient performance by Makhachev, who steered clear of Hooker's striking for the opening seconds before pouncing to take the fight into the place where he thrives. This was the third straight submission for Makhachev, the 10th of his career. It was his eighth first-round finish, but first since 2018.
Give @MAKHACHEVMMA the title fight! I don't even need to see who wins next week. This dude just killed it. Khabib said this was his MSG moment and boy did he not deliver. He's gonna be the champ.— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) October 30, 2021
Makhachev's nine-fight winning streak ties him with champion Charles Oliveira for longest in the lightweight division.
Hooker, who is 31 and from New Zealand, has lost three of his last four. He was competing for the second time in just over a month.
Heavyweight: Alexander Volkov (34-9, 8-3 UFC) def. Marcin Tybura (22-7, 9-6) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Volkov, of Moscow, edged Tybura via unanimous decision, with judges scoring the fight 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Volkov snapped Tybura's five-fight win streak, and improved to 3-1 in his last four bouts.
Volkov, 33, came out and put pace on Tybura. He was aggressive in throwing punches and kicks, and spent some time in top position in the opening round. That quick pace, coupled with Tybura's unsuccessful efforts to get Volkov to the floor, appeared to wear on Volkov's gas tank as the fight progressed, but he continued to win the standup and defend Tybura's wrestling.
Coming off a lackluster five-round decision to now-interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane in June, Volkov notched his eighth career UFC victory. Tybura, of Brazil, suffers his first loss since September 2019.
Light heavyweight: Magomed Ankalaev (16-1, 7-1 UFC) def. Volkan Oezdemir (17-6, 5-5 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Ankalaev absorbed some early strikes that backed him up, but by midway through the first round he was the one doing the stalking. He remained in full control the rest of the way in defeating a former UFC title challenger for his seventh straight victory.
Ankalaev, a 29-year-old Russian, has not lost since dropping his 2018 UFC debut, his only career loss. He turned the tide on Saturday by knocking down Oezdemir with a straight left hand with two minutes to go in Round 1. Then, in the second round, he opened a nasty cut over Oezdemir's left eye with a short punch. Oezdemir was unable to mount much offense after that, and all three judges scored the bout for Ankalaev: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Oezdemir, who is 32 and from Switzerland, has lost four of six since falling short in a UFC title fight in 2018.
Strawweight: Amanda Ribas (11-2, 5-1 UFC) def. Virna Jandiroba (17-3, 3-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Ribas overcame some early adversity and scored a significant decision win against Jandiroba.
Ribas, 28, surrendered a takedown to Jandiroba in the opening round and struggled to get back to her feet. The referee elected to stand the action up just before the end of the round, and Jandiroba dropped Ribas with a right hand in the final 10 seconds.
The Brazilian contender regrouped after that initial round, however, and went on to outclass Jandiroba on the feet. She found Jandiroba's timing and distance and started to land basically at will with long punches and kicks. Her takedown defense forced Jandiroba to keep it standing, and she nearly earned a knockout with a left head kick in the third.
It's a big win for Ribas, who had two fights against Angela Hill canceled earlier this year and was coming off the first loss of her UFC career, to Marina Rodriguez in January.
Men's featherweight: Zubaira Tukhugov (20-5-1, 5-2-1 UFC) def. Ricardo Ramos (15-4, 6-3 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Khabib Nurmagomedov's team from the Caucasus region of Russia is known mostly for its dominant wrestling. At UFC 267, Tukhugov showed that team could win with striking as well.
Tukhugov hurt and bloodied Ramos in the first round and landed throughout en route to a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) victory. Ramos wobbled Tukhugov late in the first with a spinning back elbow and had solid moments in the second round, but Tukhugov mixed in his excellent wrestling late and hung on for the win.
Tukhugov landed big combinations early in the first round and opened up a cut on the left side of Ramos' face. He continued to do damage with his boxing as the fight wore on. Ramos landed his big right hand fairly regularly as well in what was an entertaining fight. But it was a fight Tukhugov clearly won.
Tukhugov, 30, has just one loss in his past four fights. The Chechen fighter has a 5-2-1 UFC record. Ramos, a 26-year-old Brazilian training out of Team Alpha Male in California, has dropped two of his past three fights.
Middleweight: Albert Duraev (15-3, 1-0 UFC) def. Roman Kopylov (8-2, 1-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Duraev remained undefeated in a bout that by the third round was playing out in slow motion, with one fighter's face a mask of blood and the other wearing a purple, swollen bruise closing his left eye.
That damaged slowdown was brought about by the draining action in the first two rounds, during which Duraev seized control on his way to earning a decision (30-27, 29-27, 29-27) in his UFC debut, his 10th straight victory.
A key moment in this meeting of Russian fighters came midway through Round 2 when Kopylov, who had just absorbed some damage, was stuck against the cage and avoided a takedown by grabbing the cage. Referee Jason Herzog saw this, stopped the action and put the fighters back in the clinch, whereupon Duraev, 32, completed his takedown. It was all downhill from there for Kopylov, 30, who has lost two in a row in the UFC, his only career losses. His debut came in 2019.
Welterweight: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (23-7, 9-3 UFC) def. Benoit Saint Denis (8-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
UFC referee Vyacheslav Kiselev is taken off the UFC 267 card after not stopping the Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Benoit Saint-Denis fight.
Zaleski picked up his first win of 2021 via judges scores of 29-26, 29-26 and 29-26 -- but unfortunately, referee Vyacheslav Kiselev emerged as the main story of the fight.
Zaleski, of Brazil, should have earned a TKO win in the second round, as he battered Saint Denis around the Octagon for nearly the entire five minutes. He wobbled him with two right hands and followed him to the fence, where he unloaded punches and knees to the body.
The most important role of an MMA referee is to protect the fighters. This referee is doing a terrible job of that, in more ways than one. #UFC267— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) October 30, 2021
At one point, Saint Denis did nothing else but cover up and lean weakly on the fence, but Kiselev refused to call the fight. Eventually Saint Denis did manage to slow Zaleski down a bit with a takedown attempt and defend himself slightly better, but it was one-way traffic for the final two rounds.
According to unofficial UFC Stats, Zaleski out-landed him in total strikes 110 to 51. It was Saint Denis' first career loss.
After the fight, the UFC pulled Kiselev from all remaining assignments at UFC 267.
Light heavyweight: Michal Oleksiejczuk (16-4 1 NC, 4-2 1 NC UFC) def. Shamil Gamzatov (14-1, 1-1 UFC) by first-round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Michal Oleksiejczuk drops Shamil Gamzatov with an uppercut and then finishes him off for a TKO victory in the first round.
Oleksiejczuk never took a step backward. He ate a few punches as he advanced but dished out a lot more, and the punishment and pressure soon began to show on Gamzatov's face as he was stalked and hounded until a left uppercut dropped him and led to a ground-and-pound finish at 3:31. It was Gamzatov's first loss.
Oleksiejczuk, a 26-year-old from Poland, scored his 11th career knockout, the eighth in the first round. He has won two in a row after suffering through a two-fight losing streak.
I was never high on Oleksiejczuk "herky-jerky" style, but then I realized how effective he was at going to the body and keeping a relentless pace. This opens up his opponents for hard shots up top. That's the cool thing about MMA. It doesn't always have to be by the book! #UFC267— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 30, 2021
Gamzatov, 31, from Russia, had not fought since making his UFC debut in 2019. He was on his back foot the whole way, trading punches while trying to get out of the way of Oleksiejczuk's aggression. He could not do it and eventually got caught.
Middleweight: Men's featherweight: Lerone Murphy (11-0-1, 3-0-1 UFC) def. Makwan Amirkhani (16-7, 6-5 UFC) by second-round knockout (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Lerone Murphy lands a huge knee strike that knocks out Makwan Amirkhani in the second round.
Murphy knew Amirkhani was going to shoot for a takedown. And boy, he did not miss.
When Amirkhani ducked in for a double-leg takedown, Murphy absolutely blasted him with a right knee to the head. Amirkhani was knocked out on contact. The finish of the bout came at 14 seconds of the second round. Amirkhani was down for a significant amount of time after the KO but was able to sit up on the stool after coming to.
"After that first left hand, I seen him dip, dip and I knew that knee was going to be there," Murphy said in his postfight interview.
That was beautiful— Sean O'Malley (@SugaSeanMMA) October 30, 2021
In the first round, Amirkhani completely dominated with his wrestling and grappling. He took Murphy down right off the bat and stuck to him the rest of the round. At the beginning of the second, Murphy was clearly aware a takedown was coming, and he timed the knee perfectly.
Undefeated Murphy, 30, is 3-0-1 in the UFC. The fighter from England looks to have potential in the featherweight division. Amirkhani, a 32-year-old from Iran fighting out of Finland, has lost three in a row and four of five.
Middleweight: Andre Petroski (7-2, 2-0 UFC) def. Hu Yaozong (3-2, 0-3 UFC) by third-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Petroski spent 14 minutes and 46 seconds in full control, landing hard punches, landing takedowns and seizing dominant positions to threaten with submission attempts. Hu hung in there through it all until finally, with 14 seconds left in the final round, an arm triangle choke got the job done for Petroski.
For Petroski, 30, from Philadelphia, it was his second third-round finish in two UFC fights. All seven of his victories have come by finish. This one was tied for the third-latest finish ever in a three-round UFC middleweight bout.
Hu has lost all three fights in the Octagon after entering the UFC with a 2-0 record. The 26-year-old from China had not competed since 2018, and that most recent fight was at light heavyweight. The fight before that, Hu's UFC debut, was at heavyweight.
Men's flyweight: Tagir Ulanbekov (14-1, 2-0 UFC) def. Allan Nascimento (17-6, 0-1 UFC) by split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Allan Nascimento escapes a guillotine choke in the first round and Tagir Ulanbekov escapes a kimura lock in the second round of their three-round fight.
Ulanbekov's takedowns and top game outweighed Nascimento's submission attempts and aggressive guard in the eyes of the judges.
Ulanbekov squeaked out a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) win with relentless takedowns and grappling. Nascimento had moments, including kimura and armbar attempts in the second round with elbows mixed in from the bottom. But the judges seemed to prefer Ulanbekov's ability to change the location of the fight most.
The best moments of the fight for Ulanbekov came in the first round when he nearly submitted Nascimento with a guillotine in mount. Nascimento was able to escape somehow.
Ulanbekov, 30, has won five straight, including his first two in the UFC. The fighter from Dagestan has established himself as someone to watch at flyweight. Nascimento, a 30-year-old Brazilian, was making his UFC debut here.