Zubaira Tukhugov — perhaps best known for his Octagon-clearing brawl in support of Khabib Nurmagomedov after he smeshed Conor McGregor — looked to cobble together back-to-back wins tonight (Sat., Sept. 26, 2020) against Hakeem Dawodu at UFC 253, which took place inside Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Dawodu, meanwhile has quietly put together a solid four-fight win streak dating back to 2018, which has yet to earn him (or Tukhugov) a spot in the Featherweight rankings.
And after three rounds, Dawodu improved his win streak to five, chasing down perhaps an over confident (definitely over weight) opponent en route to a close split decision win.
Dawodu, 29, charged out of his corner, throwing a jumping kick that hit nothing but air. Tukhugov — also 29 years old — circled and switched stances, looking for the right opening to mount an attack. Tukhugov finally connected 90 seconds in with a short left hook that knocked Dawodu a bit off balance. Dawodu missed with a looping right, which Tukhugov ducked under and pushed “Mean” into the fence. Dawodu touched him with a few inside leg kicks, while Tukhugov scored with an overhand right. Tukhugov squared up in the center of the cage with one minute left, slipping punches and throwing his own with mroe frequency. He connected with another solid shot, while avoiding the counter attack. There wasn’t much significant action as both fighters headed into their corners after the opening frame came to a close.
Dawodu opened up the second stanza with a switch kick, then a spinning roundhouse to Tukhugov’s belly. Tukhugov responded with a nice uppercut, then pumped the jab. His volume markedly increased, landing a big left hand, while Dawodu responded with more leg attacks. The two fighters began to open up, exchanging shots in the center of the cage. Tukhugov mixed things up with a takedown attempt, but Dawodu was able to defend and spin off the fence. Moments later, Dawodu connected with a hard liver shot, which eventually led to a Tukhugov takedown — his first of the match. Tukhugov trapped Dawodu’s wrist underneath him and landed some ground-and-pound while behind him on the ground until the buzzed blared to end the round.
Third and final frame, it appeared that Dawodu was behind on the scorecards. His corner urged him to press forward and continue to attack Tukhugov’s lower half. Dawodu pressed the action, but Tukhugov was content to bounce around just outside range, compelling the referee to encourage them to get busy. Dawodu unleashed a head kick, which Tukhugov used to try and score another takedown, but it didn’t materialize. Tukhugov connected with a big left hand on the restart, then pressed Dawodu up against the cage. He spun to the back, but Dawodu was able to somehow slip free. Dawodu connected with a solid one-two combination and shouted at Tukhugov to come get some. Tukhugov got on his bicycle and backpedaled away from contact as Dawodu screamed at him to engage ... more than once. Tukhugov didn’t take the bait, content to stop fighting and backpedal until the fight was over.
And it in the end it cost Tukhugov — who missed weight by a whopping five pounds — a win. Indeed, Tukhugov put in some decent work early, but coasting at the end was a terrible mistake. And rest assured the scale fail and the Kalib Starnes act toward the end of the match more than likely won’t sit too well with Dana White.
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