Rising star Khamzat Chimaev stayed unbeaten with a split-decision win against Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 on Saturday.
Chimaev (11-0) had won his previous 10 fights via finish, absorbing just one significant strike across four UFC bouts prior to his welterweight meeting with former title challenger Burns in Jacksonville, Florida.
And, while the Russian-born Swede lived up to the hype in beating the No 2-ranked 170lbs fighter in the UFC, he did not run through Burns (20-5) as some had predicted.
Both men dropped one another and took each other down in a wildly entertaining fight that had the fans captivated from start to finish, with Chimaev, 28, eventually edging past the Brazilian via split decision (28-29, 29-29, 29-28).
After that highly-anticipated bout, the co-main event saw Aljamain Sterling unify the men’s bantamweight belts against Petr Yan. Jamaican-American Sterling won the title from Yan last year when the Russian was disqualified for landing an illegal knee in a fight that he looked on course to win.
Yan (16-3) went on to win the interim belt late last year while Sterling (21-3) recovered from neck surgery, and their rematch at UFC 273 was fuelled by bad blood. Many fans expected Yan to ease past Sterling, but a highly-competitive fight saw Sterling dominate his rival on the canvas in the second and third rounds, before the Russian came on strong in the final two frames – as he so often does. It all came down to a close first round, and Sterling got the nod 48-47, 47-48, 48-47.
In the main event, Alexander Volkanovski put on a clinic to retain the men’s featherweight title, stopping the “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in the fourth round as referee Herb Dean stepped in with the challenger out on his feet.
Australian Volkanovski (24-1) had dropped Sung Jung (17-7) numerous times throughout the contest, proving too fast and slick for the 35-year-old veteran.
Alexander Volkanovski (C) def. Chan Sung Jung via fourth-round TKO (0:45, punches)
Aljamain Sterling (C) def. Petr Yan (IC) (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Khamzat Chimaev def. Gilbert Burns via split decision (28-29, 29-29, 29-28)
Mackenzie Dern def. Tecia Torres via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Mark Madsen def. Vinc Pichel via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Ian Garry def. Darian Weeks via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Anthony Hernandez def. Josh Fremd via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Raquel Pennington def. Aspen Ladd via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Mike Malott def. Mickey Gall via first-round TKO (3:41, punches)
Aleksei Oleinik def. Jared Vanderaa via first-round submission (neck crank, 3:39)
Piera Rodriguez def. Kay Hansen via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Julio Arce def. Daniel Santos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)