Muhammad Mokaev nearly suffered the first loss of his career at UFC 286 after he got stuck in a nasty kneebar in the third round but the 22-year-old prospect survived and then turned around to get a finish of his own just seconds later.
Despite being an overwhelming favorite against newcomer Jafel Filho on Saturday, Mokaev had a battle on his hands, particularly in the third round. Mokaev got stuck in a kneebar with Filho doing everything possible to end the fight and it appeared momentarily that he was about to pull off the massive upset.
HOW DID MOKAEV NOT TAP #UFC286 pic.twitter.com/kIDkOV3Wel— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 18, 2023
Somehow, Mokaev fought his way free before turning the tables and locking on a late rear-naked choke to get the tap from Filho with the end coming at 4:32 in the third round.
“The knee was cracking every second,” Mokaev said after limping around the octagon following his win. “I came here with an injured shoulder. I wanted to put on a show for the English fans around the world.”
Mokaev was largely dominant through the first two rounds as he controlled the action with solid wrestling and ground control but Filho was defending well on the canvas. While Filho kept getting stuck in bad positions, he inevitably found a way out.
Filho then saw that opening in the third round to grab Mokaev’s leg and he immediately extended his body to try and lock on the submission. There were a couple of angles where it was clear that Mokaev’s leg was hyperextended with his knee going in the opposite direction as intended.
Still, Mokaev refused to tap and he eventually got out of the submission, which allowed him to then transition to the back where he quickly latched onto the rear naked choke that was actually more of a neck crank.
The win moves Mokaev to a perfect 4-0 in the UFC as he continues a steady climb up the flyweight ranks, although he’s likely headed to get his knee checked out after this victory just to see how much damage was potentially done to him.