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An exciting welterweight clash in the Ultimate Fighting Championship has received an equally exciting replacement.
On Wednesday night, AgFight first reported that Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (22-7) has been forced to withdraw from his bout against Shavkat Rakhmonov (12-0) at UFC 254. The two were set to collide on Oct. 24 at the Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, but Zaleski dos Santos pulled out due to an injury. He will be replaced by fellow countryman Alex Oliveira (22-8-1, 2 NC), and Rakhmonov has since confirmed the news on his Instagram.
Oliveira will be looking to extend his win streak to three with a short-notice opportunity against the unbeaten Rakhmonov. “Cowboy” has not won three consecutive bouts since a stretch in 2015 early in his UFC tenure. The thrilling Brazilian, who has competed both at lightweight and welterweight throughout his career in the UFC, has racked up several post-fight bonuses along the way. “Cowboy” sports victories over the likes of Carlos Condit, Tim Means and Will Brooks during his time on the roster.
Rakhmonov will go from facing one aggressive striker to another from Zaleski dos Santos to Oliveira, and he will do so attempting to keep his spotless record intact. The Kazakhstani newcomer has yet to taste defeat as a pro or even go the distance, with only one of his 12 bouts ever reaching the third round. Despite a career packed with M-1 Global appearance in the M-1 Challenge circuit, Rakhmonov posts a win over a current UFC fighter in Jun Yong Park – Rakhmonov submitted him in 2016.
“Capoeira” was attempting to bounce back from a split decision setback to Muslim Salikhov in July, but he suffered a knee injury that will put him out of action for the foreseeable future. Before losing two of three to the aforementioned Salikhov and Jingliang Li in 2019, the then-ranked Zaleski dos Santos racked up a seven-fight win streak including victories over Curtis Millender, Lyman Good and Omari Akhmedov. Of note, back-to-back performances on that stretch made Zaleski dos Santos the first fighter in UFC history to win consecutively by spinning strike knockout and flying strike knockout – a feat later replicated by Johnny Walker.
UFC 254 will happen on Oct. 24 at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, and the marquee matchup comes in the form of a lightweight championship unification match between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje. The co-headliner sees a de facto middleweight title eliminator as Robert Whittaker takes on Jared Cannonier, while at heavyweight, Alexander Volkov squares off with Walt Harris.