A 23-year-old lightweight prospect out of Tajikistan, Aliev won his UFC debut on Saturday with a majority decision over Alves. Two judges scored the contest 29-27 for Aliev, while one judge scored it a 28-28 draw — the latter of which was largely due to referee Mark Smith’s decision to take a point away from Aliev in the opening round after Alves complained of getting bitten on his left hand during a grappling exchange.
Aliev explained his side of the situation following the conclusion of the bout.
“There was no bite,” Aliev said through a translator in his post-fight press conference.
“I was controlling him with my head and he was trying to get me off by putting his hand in my mouth. So I was trying to spit his hand out, and as I was spitting it out, his finger caught one of my teeth. And so maybe he was tired, so he decided that way to kind of call that there was a bite. But there wasn’t a bite — he just was tired because a young eagle was pressuring him and he felt the pressure of a young eagle.”
The controversy occurred with 92 seconds left in the first round during an exchange in which Aliev was working from top position inside Alves’ guard. Video replays were unable to definitively show the alleged bite, and Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Jeff Mullen was heard on the broadcast telling Smith that there was no “clear, convincing video evidence” of the foul, but Mullen ultimately left the final decision up to the veteran referee. Smith was adamant that he saw a bite mark on Alves’ hand and took the point away.
In the end, the entire sequence didn’t end up mattering, as Aliev preserved his undefeated 8-0 record with an impressive performance against a tough veteran in his UFC debut.
“I made sure to dominate, and made sure to not leave the decision in the hands of the judges, because I can’t control [them],” Aliev said.
“Whatever they decide, that’s what’s going to happen. But even if they take one point away, two points away, three points away, I did whatever I had to do to instill my game plan and keep pushing forward and dominantly take the victory.”
Aliev now advances as yet another talented prospect to watch in the UFC’s endlessly deep lightweight division — and with a nation already behind him, he’s ready to take on all comers.
“[UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby] told me there was six different opponents that I was proposed to and nobody wanted to fight me,” Aliev said. “And then when Alves said yes, I knew he was experienced, he was ready, that he was going to bring me into a good fight. He fought some of the top contenders, top people in the division. He fought [Drew Dober], Damir Ismagulov, so he’s a real G. He’s really a serious opponent.
“So once I got him, I realized that this is going to be a good test for me. I only want to fight the top people in the division. I’m pretty sure that he easily could be in the top 15.
“I’m young, I’m hungry, I want to make sure to make my country famous, and I’m only ,” Aliev added. “Usually people that are my age in my country, they’re partying every day. And I’m away from my home, I’m training, I only see my family for about two months out of the year. Other than that, I’m here and this is what I do.”