Robert Whittaker defeats Ikram Aliskerov at UFC Fight Night

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If anyone ever doubted Robert Whittaker’s willingness to fight anyone at any time, he proved them wrong and then some Saturday.

In what was arguably the riskiest fight of his career, Whittaker (26-7) knocked out Ikram Aliskerov (15-2) just 1 minute, 49 seconds into their middleweight main event at UFC Fight Night. The 185-pound contest headlined UFC’s first trip to Saudi Arabia, which is vying to challenge Las Vegas as the perceived “Fight Capital of the World.”

Whittaker was supposed to face undefeated middleweight Khamzat Chimaev (13-0), but Chimaev was forced to withdraw last week because of illness. UFC replaced Chimaev with Aliskerov, a talented up-and-comer who had fought only twice in UFC. It became an all-risk, no-reward situation for Whittaker, but he accepted anyway.

“I told everybody, I am the boogeyman,” Whittaker said. “I’m the best in the world and the most dangerous matchup for anyone in the division. I’ll take a fight anywhere, anytime. I proved it tonight.”

Despite Whittaker’s history as a former UFC champion, betting odds closed nearly even between him and Aliskerov. Aliskerov, 31, is from the same region of Dagestan as retired lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and hadn’t lost since 2019. His only loss going into Saturday was against Chimaev.

Whittaker stunned him a little over a minute into the fight with a counter right hand. The shot put Aliskerov on skates, and Whittaker followed with a jab that sent him reeling back to the fence. Whittaker followed him to the cage and threw a perfect right uppercut that basically ended the fight. Referee Marc Goddard gave Aliskerov one final chance to recover on his knees, but it was clear he was done.

A loss would have been a major setback for Whittaker. He has been nearly unbeatable at middleweight, but his three losses in the UFC division have come against current champion Dricus Du Plessis and former champion Israel Adesanya, who are scheduled to fight at UFC 305 in August in Perth, Australia. This victory at least keeps Whittaker in the title conversation for the foreseeable future.

Immediately following the win, Whittaker said he would be willing to take a relatively quick turnaround and fight at UFC 305.

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