Ilia Topuria made a successful start to his UFC campaign tonight on Fight Island with a unanimous decision victory over Youssef Zalal, though he’ll no doubt be disappointed that his many submission attempts during the fight didn’t result in a finish.
Zalal with a head kick attempt straight away that’s blocked. He tries a flying knee, but gets caught with a counter hook as he does so.
Punch to the body for Topuria. Another head kick attempt from Zalal. Topuria threatens with hooks. Glancing right hook for Zala after a brief tie-up. Now a solid body kick.
Topuria stalking him and goes in on a takedown attempt. He’s having to work for it against the cage as Zala defends. Zalal reverses the clinch, but soon after Topuria lands a big suplex.
Topuria gets the mount quickly. He takes his back now. Topuria looking for a choke, but Zalal is working up to his feet. However, Zalal still has the choke hold and forces him back down.
Zalal doing well to defend this, but then Topuria adjusts his position and really gets in deep on the arm-in guillotine.
Somehow Zalal is still surviving through this attempt and Topuria changes things up looking for an anaconda, but again Zala resists and as the round is drawing to a close he manages to get back upright and lands a knee to the body.
Topuria quickly in on a takedown to start the second round, but Zalal stuffs it and then it’s he who starts looking for a takedown of his own against the cage.
Topuria staying upright for now as Zalal continues to work on this takedown. Topuria landing a few blows, but is warned by the ref not to hit the back of the head. Zalal not giving up on this attempt, but for now he’s not getting too much going and Topuria is still landing some shots.
Finally Zalal gives up and goes back to striking range. Topuria lands a nice hook. Zalal jumping in and gets caught again. He’s getting tired and a bit sloppy now.
Topuria with a nice two-piece combo. Now he moves in and gets a takedown. Topuria works for half-guard and starts looking for a guillotine on top. He lets go of the neck for a moment, lands the elbow and then works for the choke again.
Guillotine choke in tight, but Zalal does his houdini act again and escapes that attempt. Zalal able to reverse on ttop and tries to take Topuria’s back as he gets up. Zalal gets shaken off easily and falls to the mat, giving Topuria the advantage again as the round draws to a close.
Punches from Zalal. Now a knee, but Topuria uses that to land another takedown. Zalal almost able to reverse on top, but doesn’t quite manage it.
Another scramble and Topuria secures the back. He goes for the neck again, but Zalal does well to reverse and end up on top, then back to the feet.
They break apart. Zalal hoping to strike, but Topuria wants this fight to the mat again. However, this time it’s Zalal who latches onto a guillotine choke. It looks solid enough, but Topuria is calm and escapes. Now he passes to side control and then tries to get the mount and a potential armbar. That doesn’t work, but he scrambles and takes Zalal’s back.
Topuria working a rear-naked choke, but Zalal turns into him and then they get back to the feet.
Zalal looking to get his striking going and Topuria appears to be running out of gas, leaning up against the cage. Zalal with a kick.
Topuria tries for a takedown, but doesn’t get it. Back to striking range they go. Zalal presses forward and tries a flying knee, but that enables Topuria to land one final takedown. Zalal lands a couple of punches from his back as the round ends.
Topuria certainly did enough to win there by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) with his multiple dangerous submission attempts,but credit to Zalal for showing good defense on the mat to survive until the final bell.