Skip to main content
 Robert Whittaker of New Zealand prepares to face Paulo Costa of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 298 event at Honda Center on February 17, 2024 in Anaheim, California
Fight Coverage

Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Saudi Arabia

Laying Out The Lineup For The UFC’s Initial Trip To The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia This Weekend For UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Aliskerov

The UFC makes its maiden voyage to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia this weekend, bringing a fight card that, while impacted by late-stage changes, remains one of the top Fight Night collections of the year.

Featuring a main event in the middleweight division that carries clear championship ramifications and backed by bangers across the board, Saturday’s debut at Kingdom Arena promises to be an action-packed affair.

Here’s a closer look at the matchups that make up this weekend’s card.

Get Your Tickets To UFC Saudi Arabia June 22

Main Event: Robert Whittaker vs Ikram Aliskerov

Location: Kingdom Arena — Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Where to Watch: ABC/ESPN/ESPN+

Other Main Card Matches:

  • Sergei Pavlovich vs Alexander Volkov
  • Kelvin Gastelum vs Daniel Rodriguez
  • Muhammad Naimov vs Felipe Lima
  • Johnny Walker vs Volkan Oezdemir

Prelim Matches:

  • Shara Magomedov vs Joilton Lutterbach
  • Nasrat Haqparast vs Jared Gordon
  • Rinat Fakhretdinov vs Nicolas Dalby
  • Kyung Ho Kang vs Muin Gafarov
  • Magomed Gadzhiyasulov vs Brendson Ribeiro
  • Sedriques Dumas vs Denis Tiuliulin
  • Xiao Long vs Chang Ho Lee

Main Event Matchup: Robert Whittaker vs Ikram Aliskerov

Full Fight | Robert Whittaker vs Paulo Costa
fight pass logo
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

This video is not available in your country

There was a problem while loading content. Please try again.

Full Fight | Robert Whittaker vs Paulo Costa
/

Restructured only last week, Saturday’s main event between Robert Whittaker and Ikram Aliskerov is a fascinating pairing between a former champion and a rising star.

Whittaker, who was initially scheduled to face Khamzat Chimaev, rebounded from his UFC 290 loss to now-champion Dricus Du Plessis with a unanimous decision victory over Paulo Costa earlier this year. “The Reaper” has fought a non-stop slate of top talents in the middleweight division over his career, and carries on doing so here, accepting the change in opponents without hesitation.

FULL FIGHTS: Ikram Aliskerov vs Phil Hawes | Ikram Aliskerov vs Warlley Alves | Robert Whittaker vs Yoel Romero 1 | Robert Whittaker vs Paulo Costa

Aliskerov was a couple days away from stepping in with newcomer Antonio Trocoli in Las Vegas before he was selected to fill in here opposite Whittaker. The 31-year-old Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) has blown through his first two UFC opponents without much trouble, and gets the major step up in competition he’s desired here.

There is currently a great deal of jockeying for position going on in the middleweight title picture, with the next championship pairing as yet unannounced and several hopefuls trying to firm up their place in the hierarchy. A dominant effort for either man here will strengthen their individual case and create a ripple effect throughout the rest of the upper tier of the 185-pound weight class.

Other Main Card Matchups

Sergei Pavlovich vs Alexander Volkov

Alexander Volkov of Russia preapres to fight Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 04, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Alexander Volkov of Russia preapres to fight Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 04, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Sergei Pavlovich and Alexander Volkov meet here in a matchup of Russian heavyweight finishers and occasional training partners.

Pavlovich competes for the first time since being pressed into action in an interim title bout against Tom Aspinall last November at Madison Square Garden. The setback snapped his six-fight run of first-round finishes but did little to diminish his standing in the heavyweight ranks, as he buzzed Aspinall in the very early moments of the bout and remains one of the most feared knockout threats in the division.

The 35-year-old Volkov has transformed since his own loss to the British standout in March 2022, delivering three straight stoppage victories to return to title contention. After using strikes to dispatch both Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexandr Romanov in the first round, Volkov showed off his submission game last time out, finishing Tai Tuivasa with an Ezekiel choke in the second round.

These two are quite familiar with each other, having spent time on the mats together over the years, so it will be interesting to see how the early moments of this one plays out. Will the compatriots be tentative and watching for setups they know, or will they come out swinging, looking to make a statement in Saudi Arabia?

Kelvin Gastelum vs Daniel Rodriguez

Kelvin Gastelum punches Chris Curtis in a middleweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Kelvin Gastelum punches Chris Curtis in a middleweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

It’s a clash of welterweights looking to get back into the win column as Kelvin Gastelum and Daniel Rodriguez square off in the middle of the main card.

Gastelum returned to the 170-pound weight class last December after a prolonged rough patch at middleweight, falling to Sean Brady by submission in Austin. The last time the former Ultimate Fighter winner earned a victory in a welterweight contest was all the way back at UFC 180 when he submitted Jake Ellenberger to move to 10-0 in his career.

Order UFC 303: Pereira vs. Procházka 2

This will be Rodriguez’ first appearance since losing to Ian Machado Garry last spring and serving a six-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance prior to his proposed bout against Santiago Ponzinibbio last September. The 37-year-old has been a perennial tough out since touching down in the UFC and will look to get back to the form that produced wins in seven of his first eight trips into the Octagon here.

Welterweight is one of those divisions where there are always hopefuls pushing forward, leaving stalwarts like these two constantly in a position to fend off ascending talents. Each certainly needs a victory to get things moving in the right direction again, but earning a win would also buy them some space from the pack of talents currently climbing the ranks, as well.

Muhammad Naimov vs Felipe Lima

Muhammad Naimov welcomes Oktagon MMA standout Felipe Lima to the UFC in this compelling short-notice pairing.

Naimov landed on the wrong side of the results in his Season 4 appearance on the annual talent search series, but turned a short-notice call to face Jamie Mullarkey last summer into a second-round knockout win that established him as an intriguing new addition to the roster. Since returning to the 145-pound weight division, Naimov has added wins over Nathaniel Wood and Erik Silva to his resume to run his winning streak to six heading into this one.

Lima steps in for Melsik Baghdasaryan, arriving on a 12-fight winning streak. Last time out, the 26-year-old Brazilian, who trains at the Allstars Training Center in Stockholm, collected the Octagon MMA bantamweight title with a unanimous decision win over Jonas Mågård.

This is a full circle moment of sorts for Naimov, as he got his UFC break under nearly identical circumstances, and now serves as the tenured fighter welcoming a newcomer into the Octagon. This is a huge opportunity for the talented Lima, and it will be fascinating to see how this one plays out.

Johnny Walker vs Volkan Oezdemir

Johnny Walker | Career Resurgence
fight pass logo
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

This video is not available in your country

There was a problem while loading content. Please try again.

Johnny Walker | Career Resurgence
/

Stalwarts in the light heavyweight division, Johnny Walker and Volkan Oezdemir open the main card at Kingdom Arena this weekend.

Walker got out of the gates well last year, building off his win over Ion Cutelaba the previous September with consecutive victories over Paul Craig and Anthony Smith to creep back into contention before an accidental knee prematurely halted his clash with Magomed Ankalaev. The two rematched in the opening main event of the year, and the towering Brazilian was felled in the second round.

The 34-year-old Oezdemir got himself back into the win column last fall in Paris, submitting short-notice replacement Bogdan Guskov with relative ease. Consistent results have escaped the Swiss standout since his electric beginnings in the UFC, but he’s continued to be a tough out and Top 15 fixture the entire way.

Both men are capable of swift and impressive finishes and have each fought a steady collection of fellow ranked competitors and challenging assignments. Light heavyweight is always a bit wide open, so a strong showing for either man here will help solidify their footing and put them in a favorable position heading into the back half of the year.

Preliminary Card Fights

Shara Magomedov vs Joilton Lutterbach

Shara Magomedov of Russia reacts after his victory against Bruno Silva of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Shara Magomedov of Russia reacts after his victory against Bruno Silva of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Highly regarded prospect Shara Magomedov welcomes Joilton Lutterbach to the UFC on Saturday.

“Shara Bullet” scored a unanimous decision win over Bruno Silva in his promotional debut last year at UFC 294, moving to 12-0 in the process. The 31-year-old Lutterbach arrives with an impressive 38-10 record and a diverse combat sports background, having competed in MMA, boxing, kickboxing, and karate events in the past 15 months.

Nasrat Haqparast vs Jared Gordon

Lightweights Nasrat Haqparast and Jared Gordon look to build off dominant efforts in their most recent outings as they share the Octagon here.

Joining Us For UFC 304 In Manchester? Get Your Tickets!

Haqparast enters on a three-fight winning streak, having most recently collected a first-round knockout win over Jamie Mullarkey back in December. Gordon turned in the best performance of his career last November, dispatching Mark Madsen in the first round of their clash at Madison Square Garden.

Rinat Fakhretdinov vs Nicolas Dalby

Nicolas Dalby of Denmark punches Gabriel Bonfim of Brazil in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Ibirapuera Gymnasium on November 04, 2023 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Nicolas Dalby of Denmark punches Gabriel Bonfim of Brazil in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Ibirapuera Gymnasium on November 04, 2023 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Zuffa LLC)

Rinat Fakhretdinov and Nicolas Dalby collide here in an outstanding welterweight pairing on this weekend’s preliminary card slate.

Fakhretdinov enters on a 20-fight unbeaten streak, having earned three wins and a draw through his first four UFC appearances, while Danish veteran Dalby touches down on a four-fight winning streak, most recently having stopped Brazilian prospect Gabriel Bonfim. This should be a thrilling battle between two durable, dangerous talents looking to take another step forward in the welterweight chase.

Kyung Ho Kang vs Muin Gafurov

Bantamweights aiming to start their 2024 campaigns with a win meet in this one as Kyung Ho Kang and Muin Gafurov share the Octagon in Saudi Arabia.

Fontainbleau Las Vegas Hosting Power Slap 8 During IFW! Get Your Tickets.

After collecting a second straight win by submitting Cristian Quinonez in his first appearance last year, Kang landed on the wrong side of the scorecards in his bout with John Castaneda at UFC 295 in November. Gafurov lost his short-notice debut to Castaneda last June, then followed it up with a 73-second submission loss to Said Nurmagomedov at UFC 294 in October to find himself stuck in a two-fight slide heading into this one. 

Magomed Gadzhiyasulov vs Brendson Ribeiro

Magomed Gadzhiyasulov of Russia punches Jose Medina of Bolivia in a light heavyweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week nine at UFC APEX on October 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Magomed Gadzhiyasulov of Russia punches Jose Medina of Bolivia in a light heavyweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season seven, week nine at UFC APEX on October 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Russian light heavyweight Magomed Gadhziyasulov makes his promotional debut on Saturday, stepping in with recent DWCS grad Brendan Ribeiro.

Unbeaten in eight pro bouts, the 30-year-old Gadzhiyasulov, who trains in Bahrain, has earned five first-round stoppage wins on his way to his first UFC appearance. Ribeiro scored an impressive first-round finish to earn his UFC contract last fall, but then landed on the opposite side of a similar result in his maiden voyage into the Octagon earlier this year against Zhang Mingyang.

Sedriques Dumas vs Denis Tiuliulin

Sedriques Dumas steps in on short notice to face off with Denis Tiuliulin this weekend at Kingdom Arena.

A member of the DWCS Class of ’22, Dumas jumps in for Abu Azaitar, the last man he defeated, hoping to bounce back following a controversial first-round stoppage loss to Nursulton Ruziboev earlier this year. The 36-year-old Tiuliulin touches down in Saudi Arabia angling to end a three-fight skid and collect his second UFC victory.

UFC 303: Pereira vs. Procházka 2

Xiao Long vs ChangHo Lee

The bantamweight finale from Road to UFC Season 2 kicks things off this weekend, with Xiao Long and ChangHo Lee doing battle for a place on the UFC roster.

China’s Xiao advanced by the narrowest of margins in each of his first two bouts, winning a split decision and majority decision to advance to reach this weekend’s finale. By contrast, Lee kept the judges out of the mix, earning stoppage wins over Rana Singh and Daermisi Zhawupasi to punch his ticket to the final pairing.

Please enable Javascript to view this content

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Aliskerov took place live from Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on June 22, 2024. See the final Prelim and Main Card results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!