Lightweight action at UFC Vegas 70 saw Rafael Alves and Nurullo Aliev kick off the preliminary card.
Alves, who infamously missed weight by 12lbs for a 2021 featherweight fight with Pat Sabatini (the bout was understandably cancelled) was coming in off a loss to Drew Dober. Aliev was an undefeated 8-0 to start the night.
Nurullo Aliev stepped into the Octagon as the first Tajik fighter to compete under the banner. A sizable army of fans filled a stadium at home in Tajikistan to take in his debut.
How about the scenes in Tajikistan at 2:35am?! 🤯
🇹🇯 @NurulloAliev hoping to make his home country proud and remain undefeated here tonight! #UFCVegas70 pic.twitter.com/Tg5bDvNuA6
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) February 25, 2023
The fight began with the ever-game Alves throwing a sharp left hook followed by a few kicks to the body of the 22-year-old Tajik. Aliev got the fight where he wanted it not long after though with a quick level change. Alves did a good job of keeping wrist control early on in the ground exchange but Aliev managed to gain dominance shortly after.
What proceeded though was extremely strange and concerning. Rafael Alves called out a complaint that Aliev had bitten his finger, something that has happened once before, when Jason Knight bit Gabriel Benitez in a 2017 contest. Aliev was deducted a point for the alleged bite, which occurred when Alves had his fingers near the jaw, and the fight carried on. With that, the first round was likely scored a 9-9.
Aliev jumped on a single leg attempt a minute into round two but Alves snatched onto a guillotine which put Aliev in an uncomfortable position. The Brazilian turned the young fighter but that gave Aliev the space he needed to fight out of the submission attempt. Nurullo began threatening with a head and arm choke but the opening didn’t come, but it did open up the opportunity to reign down some viscous ground-and-pound. The 22-year-old picked up the second round with yet again some ground dominance which involved more output than round one.
A huge knee up the middle landed for Alves in the beginning of round three which resulted in Aliev going for a takedown out of instinct. This once again landed him in trouble as Alves threatened with another guillotine. Nurullo Aliev showed how highly skilled he is though and reversed Alves’ dominant top position. Some more ground-and-pound from the Tajik saw him doing everything he could to steal the eyes of the judges, especially after being rocked earlier in the round. Round three finished with some more brutal ground-and-pound from the debuting Aliev leaving him under the impression he had done enough to win the fight, despite the point deduction.
He was correct to think that as he found himself on the right side of the decision.
Official Result: Nurullo Aliev Def. Rafael Alves by Majority Decision (29-27, 29-27, 28-28)