UFC Fight Night: The Reaper dominates Ikram Aliskerov with first-round finish

UFC Fight Night: The Reaper dominates Ikram Aliskerov with first-round finish
Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker pummels Ikram Sabirovich Aliskerov to submission in the main event of Saudi Arabia's inaugural UFC fight in Riyadh early Sunday. (AN photos by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub)
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Updated 23 June 2024

UFC Fight Night: The Reaper dominates Ikram Aliskerov with first-round finish

UFC Fight Night: The Reaper dominates Ikram Aliskerov with first-round finish
  • Whittaker took down the Russian fighter in just 1:46 minutes of the first round
  • Volkov defeated Russian compatriot Pavlovich by unanimous decision

RIYADH: UFC Fight Night at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh delivered a night of exhilarating mixed martial arts action, with a series of thrilling bouts and unforgettable performances.

The main event was a highly anticipated bout between top-ranked middleweight contenders Robert Whittaker (The Reaper) and Ikram Aliskerov. The contest lived up to its hype in a display of skill and determination from both fighters.

The Reaper started the fight using precision striking to keep Aliskerov at a distance. However, Aliskerov demonstrated exceptional resilience and adaptability, countering with powerful takedowns and effective ground control. The bout produced intense exchanges and strategic maneuvers, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. Ultimately, Whittaker secured a victory by knockout at one minute 49 seconds of the first round to confirm his status as a leading contender in the division.

"I’m the most dangerous middleweight on the planet. Everyone knows that,” he said after the victory.

Whittaker was originally scheduled to fight Khamzat Chimaev, who withdrew at the last minute because of illness. The late change in opponent did not affect Whittaker’s performance. He stayed focused and adapted through “determination and a great team. They kept me switched on, they kept me focused, they understood how dangerous Ikram was if I didn’t take it with the respect he deserved. I told myself that because of them and I just stayed focused like a dog on a bone,” he told Arab News.

The co-main event featured a heavyweight clash between Alexander Volkov and Sergei Pavlovich, both known for their relentless pace and technical prowess. Pavlovich came out aggressively, landing significant strikes early in the fight. However, Volkov showed impressive endurance and striking accuracy, gradually turning the tide.

UFC Fight Night at Kingdom Arena was not just about the fights; it was a celebration of MMA's global reach and cultural significance. The event drew a diverse crowd, including local fans, international visitors, and celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds. The atmosphere inside the arena was electric, with fans savoring each moment of the action-packed night.


Results of the UFC Saudi Arabia "Fight Night" matches.

In a dramatic third round, Volkov landed a decisive head kick, followed by a series of punches that led to his victory.

The undercard featured several emerging talents who seized the opportunity to shine. Felipe Lima, a promising featherweight prospect, delivered a standout performance with a third-round submission victory (rear-naked choke) over Muhammad Naimov. Lima’s seamless transition from striking to grappling highlighted his potential as a future star in the division.

In the bantamweight bout, Muin Gafurov impressed with precision striking and great footwork, earning a unanimous decision win against Kang Kyung-ho.

The fight night poduced two other knockouts: Shara Magomedov defeated Antonio Trocoli at 2:27 in round three, and Volkan Oezdemir knocked out Johnny Walker at 2:28 in the first round.

The success of UFC Fight Night in Riyadh confirms the growing interest in MMA in the region and sets the stage for future events. UFC President Dana White was delighted with the evening’s success and discussed more events to come in the Middle East. “The energy and passion of the fans here in Riyadh have been incredible. We’re thrilled with tonight’s success and look forward to bringing more world-class UFC events to this part of the world,” White said.

“We sold over 12,000 seats. It’s been good, it was fun coming to this market. I love how passionate Turki Al-Sheikh is about the sport.”

“In this region now, you see a lot of talents coming from here (Saudi Arabia and the Middle East).”

Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup

Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup
Updated 23 July 2024

Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup

Gaimin Gladiators and NAVI enter the club championship race to close out week 3 of Esports World Cup
  • Canada’s Gaimin Gladiators won ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and NAVI was victorious in all-European ‘Counter-Strike 2’ grand final

RIYADH: Week three of the Esports World Cup has culminated with two new clubs showcasing their club championship credentials at Boulevard Riyadh City.

Canada’s Gaimin Gladiators won the “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters” with a 3-0 score against Team Liquid of the Netherlands in Sunday’s Grand Final, to win the $1.5 million first prize and enter the race for the EWC Club Championship.

A capacity crowd inside the SEF Arena witnessed more jubilant scenes hours later as Natus Vincere, or NAVI, etched their name in the esports history books by winning the ‘Counter-Strike 2’ competition.

In the first-ever all-European EWC Grand Final, the Ukrainian club came from behind to beat Germany’s G2 Esports 2-1, taking home the title and the $400,000 first prize.

The “PUBG Mobile World Cup 2024” also made its highly anticipated EWC debut in week three. The $3-million tournament kicked off this past Friday with 24 clubs and continues this coming week with the survival stage and main tournament.

Elsewhere over the last seven days, two football icons visited Boulevard Riyadh City to see the action for themselves. Al-Hilal and Brazil winger Neymar attended over the weekend as did Liverpool and Portugal forward, Diogo Jota.

The Esports World Cup began on July 3 and runs until Aug. 25 with 22 tournaments across 21 titles.

Week four kicks off on Tuesday, with the “PUBG Mobile World Cup 2024” returning and two new tournaments make their highly anticipated EWC debuts. These are the “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Women’s Invitational 2024” and “Overwatch 2.”

De Bruyne won’t be leaving Man City says Guardiola

De Bruyne won’t be leaving Man City says Guardiola
Updated 23 July 2024

De Bruyne won’t be leaving Man City says Guardiola

De Bruyne won’t be leaving Man City says Guardiola

LONDON: Pep Guardiola insists Kevin De Bruyne will not leave Manchester City this season after reports the Belgium star could move to Saudi Arabia.
De Bruyne has just one year left on his current City contract and the midfielder revealed recently he has spoken with his wife Michele about his future plans.
“For Michele an exotic adventure is OK,” De Bruyne said in a hint that he could end his successful spell at Premier League champions City.
Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad were believed to be interested in De Bruyne.
But UK press reports on Tuesday said City manager Guardiola had rejected any thought of the 33-year-old being allowed to walk away this season.
Speaking ahead of Manchester City’s friendly against Celtic in North Carolina, Guardiola told reporters “Kevin isn’t leaving.”
De Bruyne returned after missing the first half of last season due to injury and helped City make history with a fourth successive Premier League title.
He has been with City since joining from Wolfsburg in 2015, winning 15 major trophies including six Premier League titles and one Champions League crown.
While Guardiola is adamant, his influential playmaker will stay at the Etihad Stadium this term, it remains to be seen if he can persuade the Belgian to remain in Manchester longer than that
“My eldest (child) is now eight years old and knows nothing but England. He also asks how long I will play at City. Once the time comes, we will have to deal with it in a certain way,” De Bruyne said in a recent interview.
“At my age, you have to be open to everything. You talk about unbelievable amounts in what may be the end of my career. Sometimes you have to think about that.
“If I play there for two years, I will be able to earn an incredible amount of money.”
Meanwhile, Guardiola claimed City would not make major changes to his squad before their Premier League season kicks off against Chelsea on August 18.
Crystal Palace winger Eberechi Eze has been linked with the champions, while City goalkeeper Ederson has potential offers from Saudi Arabia.
“Of course, until the last day, we have chances (to make transfers), I don’t rule it out the option to have new players but I think there is an 85,90 percent chance we will have the same squad,” Guardiola said.
“I feel comfortable, because the quality of human beings we have in the squad is difficult to be replaced, and the quality is there.
“But we’ll see, I don’t know in the last moment if someone comes for some players and they leave, we’re going to decide.
“If someone leaves, we’re going to talk about that.”

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics
Updated 23 July 2024

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics
  • Former world number one has twice won an Olympic gold medal in singles

PARIS: Former world number one and three-time Grand Slam title winner Andy Murray confirmed on Tuesday that he will retire after the Paris Olympics.
“Arrived in Paris for my last ever tennis tournament @Olympics. Competing for Great Britain have been by far the most memorable weeks of my career and I’m extremely proud to get do it one final time,” the 37-year-old wrote on social media.
Murray has twice won an Olympic gold medal in singles — at the 2012 Games in London and successfully defending the title four years later at Rio.

From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics

From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics
Updated 23 July 2024

From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics

From Djamel Sedjati to Mutaz Barshim: 5 Arab men to watch at the Paris Olympics
  • Podium places possible in athletics, gymnastics, surfing, handball
  • Gold likely for Djamel Sedjati, Mutaz Barshim, Ahmad Abu Al-Soud

There is a lot to look forward to when it comes to Arab athletes at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

A total of 14 medals were won by Arab men in Tokyo 2020 and there is potential for more this time around.

Here are five Arab men to look out for in Paris 2024.

Djamel Sedjati (Algeria) – Athletics

Algeria’s Djamel Sedjati heads to Paris in red-hot form, not only chasing gold but adamant on breaking David Rudisha’s 12-year-old world record in the 800 meters.

Within the last three weeks, the 25-year-old Sedjati ran the third- and fourth-fastest 800 meters of all time, going 1 minute, 41.56 seconds in the Diamond League stop in Paris, and then lowering his personal best to 1:41.46 five days later in Monaco.

Rudisha set the world record of 1:40.91 in London 2012 and Sedjati has every intention of emulating the Kenyan at this Olympics.

“I would like to thank everyone, especially my family and my coach. It’s the fourth time I run a world lead and the second time an Algerian record. I have worked really hard for that,” said Sedjati in Monaco recently.

“Now I am thinking of the world record, I hope to run it at the Olympic Games. I have two more weeks to prepare it. I will focus on that and put in the necessary work so that I can achieve my goal.

“I will keep the preparation the same. My mindset is that the hard work I have put in will pay off.”

Sedjati’s performance in Monaco saw him set a new national record, world lead, Diamond League record, meet record, and personal best.

Will he do even better in Paris?

The men’s 800-meter heats begin on Aug. 7, with the semifinals and finals on Aug. 9 and 10.



Ahmad Abu Al-Soud (Jordan) – Gymnastics

In Liverpool in 2022, Jordan’s Ahmad Abu Al-Soud clinched the silver medal in pommel horse to become the first Arab to make the podium at a World Championships.

Despite a lower-back injury slowing his momentum, he claimed another World Championship medal the following year, this time bronze.

He then went on to dominate the 2024 World Cup series (winning gold in three of the four) to punch his ticket to Paris and become the first Jordanian gymnast to qualify for the Olympics.

The 29-year-old Abu Al-Soud, who has a skill named after him in the FIG Code of Points, heads to Paris ranked No. 1 in the world for pommel horse and is a favorite for gold at the Olympics.

Men’s qualification in artistic gymnastics begins on July 27 at Bercy Arena, with the pommel horse final scheduled for Aug. 3.



Ramzi Boukhiam (Morocco) - Surfing

The first Moroccan or Arab surfer to qualify for the World Surf League’s Championship Tour, Ramzi Boukhiam is heading to his second Olympics, having competed in Tokyo 2020, when surfing made its debut.

The surfing competition of the 2024 Olympics will be staged in Tahiti, where 24 men and 24 women will take on the majestic and equally terrifying Teahupo’o Wave.

Boukhiam placed ninth on his Olympic debut in Tokyo but Teahupo’o is far better suited to his surfing style. And the 30-year-old can draw confidence from the fact he placed third at the very same spot, on the Championship Tour at the Tahiti Pro just two months ago.

“I have my second chance now, going to Tahiti, on a wave like Teahupo’o, it’s the most dangerous but the most perfect wave on the planet,” Boukhiam, who was Morocco’s flagbearer in Tokyo 2020, recently said on the podcast Abtal.

“As a surfer, it doesn’t get much better than that. You’re scared but super excited at the same time and I feel like if we could get good waves, it can be actually an amazing, amazing event.”

Boukhiam secured his place in the 2024 Olympics by clinching the silver medal at the ISA World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico in March.

The surfing competition at the Olympics kicks off in Tahiti on July 27 with action continuing through July 31.


Mutaz Barshim (Qatar) – Athletics

Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim won bronze in London (which got upgraded to silver nine years later), silver in Rio, and gold in Tokyo.

Barshim has been raising the bar higher and higher with each Olympic Games and the star high jumper is now ready to take the leap one last time.

“I feel like I’ve been here for quite some time, I’ve done everything, seen everything and I feel like at this point it would be selfish for me to take more time away from my family and loved ones,” the 33-year-old Barshim told FloTrack this week after announcing Paris would be his last Games.

“I want to be there for my family also. Everyone has been there for me all my career. I’ve been jumping professionally since 2011, so it’s a long time and I’m really glad and happy about everything that we accomplished together but I feel like it’s time now to give back. It’s time to give myself back to my family.”

Barshim provided one of the most iconic moments of the Tokyo Olympics when he and his Italian rival and friend Gianmarco Tamberi decided to share the gold medal instead of going through a jump-off to break their tie.

They had both overcome career-threatening injuries in the build-up to Tokyo and felt they both deserved to top the podium.

Barshim and Tamberi have said there would be no sharing if they find themselves in the same situation in Paris.

The men’s high jump qualification at the Paris Olympics will take place on Aug. 7 at Stade de France, with the final scheduled for Aug. 10.

Yahia Omar (Egypt) – Handball

He is going to be a Parisian for the next three years but before making his debut for new club Paris Saint-Germain, Yahia Omar will be looking to help Egypt secure their first handball medal at the Olympics.

The Egyptians came agonizingly close to making the podium in Tokyo 2020, finishing fourth after losing to Spain in the bronze-medal match. It was the first time an African team had made it that far in handball at the Olympics.

The 26-year-old right back was a key part of that Olympics squad, which earned him Tokyo 2020 All-star team honors — the first non-European since 1992 to achieve that feat.

Egypt have a daunting road ahead in Paris as they landed in the same group alongside hosts and defending champions France, reigning world champions Denmark, Norway, Hungary and Argentina.

“It’s the Olympics. There’s nothing easy. I think we have the harder group, but I think it gives us a better possibility to be in the semifinals,” said Omar when the draw was revealed.

The Pharaohs commence their campaign against Hungary on July 27.



Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game
Updated 23 July 2024

Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

Miami’s Messi, Suarez out for MLS All-Star Game

MIAMI: Argentina star Lionel Messi and Inter Miami teammate Luis Suarez will miss Wednesday’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game with injuries, the league and team announced Monday.

An updated MLS roster for the match-up against Mexico’s Liga MX All-Stars at Columbus, Ohio, listed Messi and Uruguayan striker Suarez among those who would not play.

Inter Miami detailed the injuries, with Messi still sidelined after missing two MLS matches last week with a right ankle injury suffered in Argentina’s Copa America final triumph over Colombia.

“Messi will miss the All-Star Game due to an ankle injury while Luis Suarez, who recently returned from international duty after over 40 days away from the club, will miss the All-Star Game due to knee discomfort,” Inter Miami said.

It would have been the first MLS All-Star appearance for 37-year-old Messi, who joined Inter Miami last July.

Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, who helped spark Argentina to the 2022 World Cup title, led Miami to last year’s inaugural Leagues Cup crown in a tournament of MLS and Mexican league squads.

But Miami said Messi’s status and that of Suarez remain in doubt for Saturday’s home match against Mexico’s Puebla, Inter’s first step in defending the Leagues Cup title.

The availability of Messi and Suarez will be determined by their “daily recovery process” according to the team statement.