Shavkat Rakhmonov remained undefeated while passing his toughest test to date with a late submission win to become the first fighter ever to finish Geoff Neal.
It was a war between the welterweights at UFC 285 but Rakhmonov consistenly did more damage to Neal on the feet, although he had to display a good chin to survive some wild exchanges on the feet. Late in the final round, Rakhmonov had Neal hurt and that’s when he grabbed onto a standing rear-naked choke that eventually earned the tap to end the fight.
The stoppage came at 4:17 in the third round with Rakhmonov moving to 17-0 in his career. With the win, Rakhmonov is now gunning for a title shot or a former title challenger.
“He’s a great opponent. No one finished him before in a fight,” Rakhmonov said about Neal. “I’m very happy. I’ve been saying one or two fights before the title shot. I’m ready now. You know Colby Covington, you are next or a title shot next.”
The welterweights were battling for position with Rakhmonov throwing his right hand on a laser and using his reach advantage while Neal came right back at him with an effective boxing attack. Late in the opening round, Rakhmonov uncorked a hellacious kick that rattled off Neal’s head before he could react to the shot.
A cut was opened over Neal’s left eye as he looked to slow the pace to allow himself some time to recover. Neal was still firing back with heavy hands to keep Rakhmonov honest during every exchange.
Rakhmonov was also starting to put in some serious work to the body with a series of knees that just blasted Neal in the ribs. To his credit, Neal was still able to shrug off Rakhmonov’s takedown attempts, which brought them back to exchange strikes on the feet.
Even when Neal connected with a hard left-right combination, Rakhmonov was able to walk through the punches and come back with a variety of strikes including inside elbows, kicks and knees up the middle.
With five minutes remaining, Neal started empty his arsenal as he started connecting with some stiff punches including a series of punches that had Rakhmonov hurt. From there, Rakhmonov quickly tried to turn to his wrestling but that was also giving him the necessary time to recover.
Just when it looked like Neal was building momentum, Rakhmonov stung him with a nasty punch that sent him wobbling back towards the cage. Rakhmonov unleashed a barrage of shots in an attempt to get the finish but Neal just refused to go away.
That was until Rakhmonov transitioned from strikes to the standing rear-naked choke — and he locked in the submission from an odd position but the grimace on Neal’s face was unmistakable as he was eventually forced to tap out.
To this point in his UFC career, Rakhmonov had largely steamrolled his competition but he did not have an easy night at the office on Saturday yet he still got the win. Rakhmonov has now solidified himself as a legitimate threat to the welterweight title and it will be interesting to see who the UFC gives him next.