UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov put on a masterful performance in the second round of his UFC 254 title defense against Justin Gaethje. But despite a high pressure attack, two of the three judges won Gaethje in the opening frame.
The official scoreboards for Saturday’s pay-per-view main event showed a competitive fight in the first round ahead of Nurmagomedov’s brilliant submission attack that forced Gaethje to fire from a strangled triangle in the second round of the fight.
Veteran judges Sal D’Amato and Ben Cartlidge gave Gaethje the opening frame by a score of 10-9, while Derek Cleary dissented for Nurmagomedov by the same tally.
The 10-9 scores for Gaethje marked only the second time in Nurmagomedov’s 13-fight career in the UFC where he lost a round – and it wasn’t unanimous.
Gaethje landed several big punches on Nurmagomedov’s advance in the first round, but none of them deterred the champion. He also landed several punitive kicks that had a visible effect. After initially avoiding a trip to the canvas, Nurmagomedov was able to secure the withdrawal late in the frame and threaten with an armband.
Gaethje’s initial success was wiped out in the second as Nurmagomedov went through more painful kicks and quickly advanced an out. Climbing up the mount, he switched to a triangular choke from above and squeezed it as he rolled onto his back. The arbiter missed Gaethje’s cock and he became unconscious.
After his 29th career victory, Nurmagomedov retired to the cage and claimed the top spot on the pound for pound list. UFC president Dana White expected the 32-year-old champion’s retirement decision to stand.