Flyweights Tagir Ulanbekov and Cody Durden closed out the early prelims at UFC 296 in Las Vegas, with the card unfolding at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.
Both fighters were coming off wins, with Durden in particular riding a four-fight win streak since his loss to Muhammad Mokaev in 2022. Ulanbekov, a student of the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov still training under Khabib, had earned a submission win in his last outing.
The fight began with both fighters landing their share of heavy low kicks as they both looked to control the pace. Ulanbekov then began to lead with his hands and began to lead to exchanges. Not long after, the Russian landed a big right hand that dropped Durden suddenly. Tagir tried to latch onto a guillotine after hurting Durden, and seemingly had it in tight. Durden perfectly defended the choke though and rolled out of it and escaped.
Once the fight got back to the feet, it began getting slightly scrappy with some clinch exchanges. After dropping Durden a few moments before, Ulanbekov’s activity continued, but Durden did well to return counters the majority of the time. With just over a minute left of round one, Ulanbekov landed a beautiful takedown where he started to try and land some big ground-and-pound. It marked the first time Cody Durden had been taken down in his last five fights. The 32-year-old momentarily made it to the side of the cage and used it to get on one knee, but Tagir perfectly transitioned to Durden’s back. From there he wrapped in the body triangle and began putting the pressure on Durden.
Fortunately for the American, the horn sounded.
Durden came out fast in round two, trying to regain some respect from Ulanbekov. He landed a nice right hand which resulted in Ulanbekov retreating for a moment. Despite that, the Russian landed another nice trip and put Durden on his back again. This time though, Durden looked to be active whilst on his back, and did land himself a nice slicing elbow.
During this time, Tagir once again began to transition to the back of Durden who rushed to get back to his feet. Durden made it back to both feet but he was now carrying the weight of Ulanbekov who once again wrapped in the body triangle and began sinking in the choke. For whatever reason, Durden seemed content with Ulanbekov hanging off his back for the majority of the round, as Ulanbekov carried on working the choke. He carried on getting closer and closer, until he finally sunk his arms under the chin. Durden fell to his back as his face got more red, and shortly after, the tap came.