Takedown after takedown followed by a dominant grappling display allowed Dawson to drown Ismagulov on the canvas throughout the fight. While Ismagulov survived to the final horn, that’s essentially all he did because Dawson was in control from the first second of the fight until the very last.
The judges scored the fight 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 with Dawson securing the unanimous decision victory.
“A lot of this was [my coaches] Mike [Brown] and Thiago [Alves],” Dawson said. “I’m not a good fighter, I’m a good soldier. All of these guys told me what to do and I went out and did it.”
While he looked comfortable on his feet, Dawson wasted no time using his strikes to then set up his takedown attempts. The first came up short but Dawson was tenacious with his wrestling, which led to a slick move to put Ismagulov on the canvas.
From there, Dawson was quick to advance position to take the back and lock on the body triangle as he began searching for the rear-naked choke submission. Ismagulov was defending effectively, rolling side to side to avoid the pressure from Dawson’s legs but he wasn’t able to completely slip free.
Dawson eventually gave up on the choke and instead started hammering away with punches as the first round came to a close.
A rough start to the fight gave way to Ismagulov getting more aggressive with hopes of turning the tables on Dawson but he was only able to find so much success on the feet before he was once again put down on the ground. Dawson’s relentless grappling allowed him to manhandle Ismagulov to regain his position on the back again as he kept trying to find an opening for a submission.
Ismagulov was effectively stuck in survival mode round after round with Dawson consistently finding his way inside to secure multiple takedowns. While Ismagulov continued fighting off the rear-naked choke, Dawson remained in complete control and he never gave any kind of opening for a reversal or an escape.
Overall, Dawson spent more than 12 minutes in control during three-round fight with Ismagulov just stuck in glue with nowhere to go.
Still undefeated in the UFC, Dawson has looked like a future title contender since finally committing full time to the lightweight division and he’s already taking aim at the top fighters in the world at 155 pounds.
“What’s next is either a big name or a big rank so if it’s Tony Ferguson, that’s a go because it’s a big name. If it’s Beneil Dariush, that’s a go because it’s a big ranking,” Dawson said. “Islam Makhachev, you are the GOAT but I am your replacement.”