Iraqi Amir Albazi claims debut win as Deiveson Figueiredo wins UFC Fight Night 2’s only title belt

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Deiveson Figueiredo claims only belt of UFC Fight Night 2. (Supplied)
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Amir Albazi celebrates UFC debut win with Iraqi flag. (Supplied)
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Iraq's Amir Albazi on his way to win over the Candian Malcolm Gordon. (Supplied)
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Jack Hermansson after beating Kelvin Gastelum. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 July 2020

Iraqi Amir Albazi claims debut win as Deiveson Figueiredo wins UFC Fight Night 2’s only title belt

  • Event was the third of four taking place on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island this month

Iraqi mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Amir Albazi completed a dream introduction to UFC with a win over Canadian Malcolm Gordon at UFC Fight Night 2 on Sunday morning, the third of four MMA events taking place on Yas Island this month, which also saw Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo claim the day’s only title win.

Albazi had received his call up on July 8, after Aleksander Doskalchuk was forced to withdraw from the bout at Yas Forum.

“It went picture perfect, exactly as I planned,” the 26-year-old said. “I lay in my bed and visualized all the time exactly how it went, no different. I think it’s the first triangle (choke) of 2020.”

Baghdad-born Albazi, who now lives in London, revealed how he coped with a whirlwind 10 days that saw him make his UFC debut at bantamweight.

“I got the call on Wednesday morning, literally on my way to training,” he said. “I just finished the session, went back home and packed, and went to the airport straight away. But I didn’t know we had a 48-hour quarantine in London and another 48-hour quarantine in Abu Dhabi. It was different to what I expected but I’m ready to fight any day. Call me tomorrow, wake me up, I’m ready to fight.” In the co-main event of the night, and the only title match-up, Figueiredo defeated the American Joseph Benavidez for the vacant flyweight crown with a comfortable first round stoppage and immediately set his sights on a fight with former champion Henry Cejudo.

“The fight was the fight of the night. I said I was going to break Benavidez and that’s exactly what I did,” Figueiredo said. “I gave him his first submission on his record and the fight itself was a great show, I gave everyone a show. He didn’t surprise me at all tonight, I actually thought he was a little bit slower than in the last fight. I didn’t tell anyone about this, but I’m much quicker now and I have much more ability with counter striking.

I’m available for whoever the UFC wants to put in front of me, anyone at my level, but you have to be at my level because I’m a knockout artist, I’m going to knock you out," he added. "I’m going
home tomorrow and we’re going to start celebrating with all Brazilians on the flight back and as soon as I land in Brazil everyone is going to be taking pictures and congratulating me, so it’s going to be a great party.”

In the other headline fight, Swedish-Norwegian middleweight Jack Hermansson beat Kelvin Gastelum of the US via another first round stoppage.

“First round finish, what more can you wish for?” Hermansson said. “Obviously it was a mistake for him. I’m very dangerous on the ground. I think that he is comfortable with his top game, but people know how much I have from the ground because I’m not so much on my back in my fights, almost never, so people don’t know how dangerous of a game I have from there. Now they have a clue, they don’t know everything.” Hermansson revealed he was determined to win a UFC championship belt.

“That’s my goal, that’s why I do this, I want a title shot,” he said. “It went perfect, first round finish, that’s what I want. I’m always satisfied if I get the finish. I didn’t think too much, I just did as I do in practice. I tried to stay aggressive and work for the submissions. We knew, we prepared for him posting up in the tripod position.”

In what was later named Fight of the Night, Rafael Fiziev of Kyrgyzstan defeated Englishman Marc Diakiese via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in their lightweight bout, afterwards saying: “I’m happy with the win, I’m happy for my second win in the UFC. Just happy, you know? Thank you for my opponent, for this perfect fight. I have a plan to break his heart, break his body and show perfect technique.”

Earlier, flyweight Ariane Lipski had stopped fellow Brazilian Luana Carolina in round 1, after Askar Askarov of Russia had overcome Brazilian Alexandre Pantoja via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in their own flyweight clash.

“I was very confident, we studied her game, so we knew we would have to pressure her,” Lipski, awarded the performance of the night alongside Figueiredo, said. “If it got to the ground, she would try to put me in the guard because she has a good guard. I was very confident on the ground and I was training very hard the leg lock and the foot lock too. I feel very, very happy. I was very, very confident for the fight. I went to the Octagon and just enjoyed it and did my best.”

On the undercard, Roman Dolidze defeated Khadis Ibragimov via a first round TKO; Grant Dawson overcame Nad Narimani by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27); and Joel Alvarez beat Joseph Duffy with a first round submission.

A unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) had seen Brett Johns defeat Montel Jackson halfway through the card.

The night had kicked off with Serghei Spivac’s majority decision (28-28, 29-27, 29-27) win over Carlos Felipe, and was followed by Arman Tsarukyan’s win over Davi Ramos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28), and Albazi’s stoppage of Gordon.

UFC Fight Night 3 will take place on July 26.


Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin partner on NASCAR team for Wallace

Updated 22 September 2020

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin partner on NASCAR team for Wallace

  • Michael Jordan becomes the first Black principal owner of a full-time Cup team
  • Former NBA star dabbled in racing before with Michael Jordan Motorsports

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Denny Hamlin has joined Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan to form a NASCAR team with Bubba Wallace as the driver, a high-profile pairing of a Black majority team owner and the only Black driver at NASCAR’s top level.
The partnership was announced Monday night in coordinated social media posts by Jordan and Hamlin, with Wallace adding his own comment. The posts showed a picture of Jordan alongside a firesuit-clad Hamlin in a motorhome at a race track.
“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners,” Jordan said in his statement. “The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more.”
Jordan becomes the first Black principal owner of a full-time Cup team since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott drove his own race car in 495 races from 1961 to 1973. Scott’s 1964 victory at the Jacksonville 200 is the only win by a Black driver in Cup history.
The NBA great, who earlier this year pledged $100 million over 10 years for initiatives combating systemic racism, said the move into NASCAR is another step toward racial equality.
“I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing,” Jordan said.
Jordan joins former NBA player Brad Daugherty, a partner at JTG Daugherty Racing, as the only Black owners at NASCAR’s elite Cup level.
“Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner and a top contender for this year’s Cup title, will be part of a single-car Toyota entry aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin has raced his entire career for Gibbs, a Hall of Fame NFL coach.
“Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game and we became fast friends,” Hamlin wrote. “Not long after, I joined Jordan Brand as their first NASCAR athlete. Our friendship has grown over the years and now we are ready to take it to the next level.
“Deciding on the driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace.”
Wallace is the only Black driver in the Cup Series and this season used his platform to push for racial equality. The 27-year-old successfully urged NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate flag at its events.
Wallace is winless in 105 Cup starts over four seasons, but he has six career victories in the Truck Series. He’s been hampered by mid-level equipment driving the No. 43 for Hall of Famer Richard Petty and, until this summer, the team struggled to land sponsorship.
“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that.
“Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”
There’s been speculation for months that Hamlin was organizing some sort of ownership group as he expects NASCAR’s business model to become more favorable for team owners when the “Next Gen” car is released in 2022. NASCAR rules prohibit a current driver from owning a team and driving for another, but Hamlin works around the policy with Jordan as the principal owner.
“Starting a race team has been something that Michael and I have talked about while playing golf together over the years, but the timing or circumstances were never really right,” Hamlin said. “It just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after I’m done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like Bubba take his career to a higher level.”
In a statement, NASCAR welcomed Jordan to the series.
“His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport,” NASCAR said.
Jordan became a partial owner of the Bobcats in 2006 and bought the team outright in 2010, restoring the franchise to its original Hornets name. Hamlin has been a longtime season-ticket holder with courtside seats along the visitors’ bench.
Jordan dabbled in racing before with Michael Jordan Motorsports. He owned an AMA Superbike team and had one win in 10 years. Jordan has twice traveled to the NASCAR season finale to watch Hamlin race for the championship. Hamlin, who’s 39, is still seeking his first title.
“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said. “The opportunity to own my own race team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.”
Wallace, who has cobbled together about $18 million in sponsorship deals since he made racial equality his platform, had already announced he was parting with Petty.
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” Wallace wrote. “I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”
Jordan and Hamlin purchased a charter for their team from Germain Racing that guarantees Wallace a spot in the 40-car field every week.