The UFC's second visit to Russia was led by a heavyweight bout between Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik on Saturday in St. Petersburg, where the highly-favored Overeem takes care of business with a first-round TKO.
However, there were surprises in other parts of the main card, as Roxanne Modafferi annoyed Antonina Shevchenko and Islam Makhachev had his hands full with an Arman Tsarukyan game in the main event.
Alistair Overeem defeats Aleksei Oleinik for TKO first round
Alistair Overeem resisted calmly an early storm of Alexey Oleynik, before putting him on his knees in the first round of the main event of the night of the UFC fight on Saturday.
Overeem (45-17) finished Oleynik (57-12-1) for TKO at the 4:45 mark of the heavyweight fight, which spearheaded the UFC Fight Night in St. Petersburg, Russia. It hurt Oleynik a lot with his knees on his feet, before stopping him with additional blows on the ground.
Overeem, 38, was originally scheduled to face Alexander Volkov (30-7), but Volkov retired due to an injury. Overeem expressed interest in re-booking the confrontation.
"He is a very strong, veteran opponent," Overeem said of Oleynik. "We trained together, he's a friend and I did not like fighting him, I was originally scheduled to fight against Alexander Volkov, the fight did not happen tonight, but I'm very open to that fight in the future."
Despite the conclusive result, it was not an easy win for Overeem by any stretch. Oleynik, 41, has been asking for a great opponent for a while, and quickly left the gates.
He scored Overeem with a loop, over the right, and did it well by pressing Overeem along the fence. He landed several long sequences of body shots of Overeem, after repeatedly returning it. Although Overeem remained calm and unconcerned, it was clear that the pressure had some effect on him.
However, Oleynik's 6-foot-1 stature, ultimately, played perfectly on the 6-foot and 4-foot Overeem Thai rivet. He landed several hard knees in the middle section of Oleynik, before raising those attacks to the head for the end. It is the twenty-fourth victory by knockout of the famous Overeem race.
Islam Makhachev retains Arman Tsarukyan to win by unanimous decision. For more UFC action, register on ESPN + at https://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Makhachev fugues the game Tsarukyan
Light contender Islam Makhachev (17-1) won his sixth consecutive victory, beating Arman Tsarukyan (13-2) in a high level fight. The three judges awarded Makhachev the victory by decision: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Makhachev, a fellow of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, defended most of Tsarukyan's attempts to drag him down and constantly won key position battles. He dropped by a tight guillotine in the first round, but did not appear near an otherwise end.
However, it was an important victory for Makhachev, and his first since July. Tsarukyan, from Armenia, abandons his UFC debut, but nevertheless it is a name to watch the advance.
Pavlovich picks up fast KO
Russian heavyweight Sergei Pavlovich (13-1) did a very fast job of Marcelo golm (6-3) in a 66-second knockout victory.
The end was courtesy of a right cross. Pavlovich rocked Golm with a hard punch in the center of the cage, and followed it with a hard right hand. Wounded, Golm retreated to the fence and raised his guard, which allowed Pavlovich to take his shot and circle the right cross around Golm's defense.
It is the eleventh victory by knockout in Pavlovich's career. He's 1-1 in the UFC, having lost Alistair Overeem in his promotional debut last November.
Modafferi annoys sister Shevchenko
Veteran Flyweight Roxanne Modafferi (23-15) defeated Antonina Shevchenko (7-1) by split decision in a hotly contested fight. Two judges saw him 29-28 for Modafferi, while a third had it 29-28 for Shevchenko. ESPN scored the bout 30-27 for Modafferi.
Modafferi, who fights outside Las Vegas, was a pretty weak player when he entered, but he surprised Shevchenko with a very efficient running game. She converted five of six shooting attempts, according to UFC Stats, and beat Shevchenko a total of 105 to 87.
Shevchenko, who is the older sister of champion flyweight champion Valentina, had a few lag moments and overtook Modafferi 64-33 in significant strikes, but simply could not stand up long enough to generate momentum. She drops to 1-1 in the UFC, while Modafferi improves to 2-3.
Krzysztof Jotko uses shots and punches to beat Alen Amedovski by unanimous decision. For more UFC action, register on ESPN + at https://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Jotko takes a three-fight slip
Polish midfielder Krzysztof Jotko (20-4) won his first victory in more than two years, beating Alen Amedovski (8-1) in a dominant decision victory. The judges scored it 30-25, 30-26 and 30-26.
Jotko, 29, proved to be in another clbad than Amedovski on the floor. He took the newcomer from the UFC in each of the three rounds, and scored with punches and elbows. He caught Amedovski in a crucifix position in the second round, and would probably have won an end if the clock had not run out.
The victory is Jotko's first in four appearances. He began his career in the UFC with a promising 6-1 record, before losing three straight games.
Movsa Evloev gets the best of Seungwoo Choi and wins by unanimous decision. For more UFC action, register on ESPN + at https://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Movso Evloev defeats Seungwoo Choi by unanimous decision.
Movso Evloev, a former M-1 bantamweight champion fighting at featherweight on his UFC debut, remained unbeaten in his professional MMA career with a stifling grip screen that produced a decision victory that was as decisive as they come .
Evloev (11-0) had a point deducted in the second round by an illegal knee at the head of a Seungwoo Choi with a ground connection. But the fight continued, and the 25-year-old Russian never gave up, controlling Choi from South Korea (7-2) all the way to winning 29-27, 29-27 and 29-26 judges' scores.
Sultan Aliev and Keita Nakamura fight for all three rounds, but Aliev wins by unanimous decision. For more UFC action, register on ESPN + at https://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Sultán aliev defeats Keita Nakamura by unanimous decision.
Sultan Aliev, who generally relies on his wrestling game, earned the respect of Keita Nakamura before with some fresh boxing. Even when Nakamura resisted early history, when the fight turned into a fight for the fight, Aliev also kept control there, getting a clear decision to win along the way.
Aliev (15-3) used a fast jab to keep Nakamura (34-10-2, 1 NC) out of an amazing pace and led the dance all the way in his strongest UFC performance so far. The three judges scored the match 30-27 in favor of the Russian.
In his first fight since 2016. Alexander Yakovlev rejected several offensive attempts by Alex Da Silva and then, while Round 2 was heating up, Yakovlev dodged a takedown attempt. When Da Silva insisted, the Russian dropped some elbows at the head of Da Silva before sinking to get the tapout at 3:10 of Round 2.
Yakovlev (24-8-1) started the final sequence by knocking down Da Silva (20-2) on the canvas, but the Brazilian, who was making his debut in the octagon, hastened to revert the position. However, the 6-foot-3 Yakovlev had the necessary length to maintain its position, and finally got a variation of a guillotine and an anaconda choke.
Shamil Abdurakhimov wears out Marcin Tybura and wins by TKO in the second round. For more UFC action, register on ESPN + at https://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Shamil Abdurakhimov defeats Marcin Tybura for second round TKO
Shamil Abdurakhimov caught Marcin Tybura with a left hook in the temple that was staggering him, then followed Tybura through the octagon and threw a series of punches when his opponent sank into the cage, until the referee jumped at 3: 15 of round 2.
The heavyweights met in a one-on-one battle until the end, with Russia's Abdurakhimov (20-4) landing more consistently until Tybura (17-5) began timing his counter punches. The end came when that hook caught Tybura in the right temple, and his balance left him. This was Abdurakhimov's third consecutive victory.
Michal Oleksiejczuk defeats Gadzhimurad Antigulov by first round KO
Michal Oleksiejczuk made a quick change because his last fight, in February, lasted only a minute and a half. This time he needed less time to get the KO, catch the aggressive Gadzhimurad Antigulov early and knock him down three times in a fight that lasted only 44 seconds.
Oleksiejczuk (14-2), a 24-year-old from Poland, is unbeaten in his last 12 fights, while Antigulov (20-6) lost his second consecutive after a streak of 14 consecutive victories.
Magomed Mustafaev, who had not fought since 2016 due to an arm injury, did not have much chance to test that arm because he did a quick job of Rafael Fiziev with a kick to the floor of the Kazakh fighter and finishing him only 1:26 in the fight.
It was the first MMA loss for Muay Thai specialist Fiziev (6-1), who was grazed by the first kick Mustafaev threw, then was knocked down and stunned by the second. Mustafaev (15-2), who is from Dagestan, finished the job with a series of hits on the canvas.
Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this report.