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Buzzer-beating KO wows crowd at historic UFC 300 card — PHOTOS

Updated April 14, 2024 - 12:02 am

Max Holloway was already moments away from a showcase victory on one of the biggest cards in UFC history Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.

He wanted more.

Holloway was ahead on the scorecards in the closing seconds of his “BMF” — baddest (expletive) — title bout at UFC 300 when he motioned for Justin Gaethje to join him in the center of the cage and trade haymakers in a finish befitting of the profanely named symbolic belt.

The result was a brutal knockout that left Gaethje lying facedown in the center of the cage just one second before the final bell.

“I’m him,” Holloway shouted to a raucous sellout crowd that had risen to its feet in unison.

The lightweight bout was the most anticipated fight of the night on a stacked card that included 12 current or former champions, including two title fights.

Women’s strawweight champion Weili Zhang earned a unanimous decision over Xiaonan Yan, and light heavyweight champ Alex Pereira knocked out former champ Jamahal Hill in the first round to retain their belts in the headlining championship bouts.

But it was Holloway who stole the show.

He landed a spinning back kick in the closing seconds of the first round that appeared to do major damage to Gaethje’s nose, then kept him off-balance with a well-disguised striking attack over the course of the five-round affair that was contested entirely on the feet.

Both had their moments in a wildly entertaining bout, but it was Holloway who landed a massive right hand that will go down as one of the most memorable in the history of the organization, which started with UFC 1 in Denver on Nov. 12, 1993.

“First things first, give it up to Gaethje, a real ‘BMF,’ ” Holloway said. “He had nothing to gain and so much to lose, and he gave me this chance.”

Holloway then called for a featherweight title bout against Ilia Topuria, a request that will be tough to deny after his performance Saturday.

While Holloway’s finish stood out, it wasn’t the only highlight on the historic card.

Pereira, Zhang roll

Pereira ended the evening with a vicious left hook that knocked out Hill at 3:15 of the first round. It was one of the first significant strikes the champion had landed against Hill, who was returning from a torn Achilles that caused him to be stripped of his belt last summer.

The decisive sequence came moments after referee Herb Dean stepped in to call timeout because Hill had landed a low blow. Pereira motioned for Dean to back off, and the fighters tapped gloves to restart the action.

Pereira immediately came forward and knocked Hill back to the canvas, following up with punches on the ground to keep the belt around his waist.

“I told everyone the whole time, he’s a strong guy,” Pereira said of the early feeling-out process. “I cannot go away from my strategy. That’s exactly what I was doing. Everything went perfectly.

“To be honest, when I step into the octagon, I don’t see myself as the champion. I do the same thing outside of it in my personal life. I don’t let this belt go to my head. I have to come in here, and I have to win this belt every time to become the champion. I don’t let it go to my head ever.”

Zhang appeared to have her fight finished on several occasions before finally winning on the scorecards.

She had a choke locked in right until the final bell of the first round, and Yan appeared to perhaps be out as she stumbled to get back to her feet between rounds.

“I thought she was out, but she bounced back very quickly,” Zhang said.

Zhang then landed a flurry that nearly prompted a referee stoppage in the second round, but she elected to once again go for a choke instead. While Yan had a modicum of success in the third, Zhang cruised to the finish line.

It’s her fourth straight win overall and third in title bouts.

Nickal, Harrison shine

Bo Nickal, one of the most hyped prospects to enter the UFC in years, won his sixth straight fight to open his career but showed the crowd two thumbs down to symbolically boo himself after a dominant second-round submission win over Cody Brundage that kept him undefeated.

It was the first time the former three-time NCAA wrestling champion had been pushed past the first round in the cage and the first time an opponent had lasted more than three minutes.

Still, Nickal came out unscathed and controlled the bout from the opening seconds. It just took him some time to find the finish.

“I feel like I’m a little embarrassed with that performance because I expect to completely dominate and shut him out,” Nickal said. “I guess I was able to have the experience of going more than one round. It’s a good learning experience.”

Lightweight contender Arman Tsarukyan survived submission attempts in the first and third rounds to win a split decision over former champion Charles Oliveira.

He has now won nine of his last 10 fights since dropping his UFC debut to current champion Islam Makhachev in 2019.

The preliminary card was highlighted by the impressive UFC debut of two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison, who dominated former champion Holly Holm on the mat from the opening seconds until locking in a submission early in the second round.

Harrison, the former Professional Fighters League champion at 155 pounds, cut down to 135 for her UFC debut and said she showed enough to challenge for a belt in her next fight.

“I want my title next. That’s what I came over here for — one thing and one thing only,” Harrison said. “By the end of the year, I will be UFC champion.”

Jiri Prochazka bounced back from losing a light heavyweight title bout to Pereira in November with a thrilling second-round knockout of Aleksandar Rakic.

Prochazka was one of six former champions competing on the preliminary card alone Saturday.

Former bantamweight champ Aljamain Sterling scored a one-sided, fairly uneventful unanimous decision over Calvin Kattar in a featherweight bout.

Former two-time flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo won his second straight fight since moving up to 135 pounds with a second-round submission of former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt.

Former women’s strawweight champ Jessica Andrade scored a split-decision victory over Marina Rodriguez.

Rising featherweight star Diego Lopes recorded his third consecutive first-round knockout, needing just 89 seconds to stop Sodiq Yusuff.

Lightweights Bobby Green and Renato Moicano also picked up victories.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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