It’s been a long time since Omari Akhmedov finished an opponent in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
That changed at UFC on ESPN 20, when he tapped out Tom Breese with an arm-triangle 1:41 into the second round of of their middleweight clash at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. The fight-ending maneuver didn’t come by chance, either.
“I was working on that submission the whole camp,” Akhmedov said. “My coach told me I have to finish the fight with this submission when I get mount. I have to work ground-and-pound first and then go for it when he raises his hands. I did it probably 1,000 times in this camp, so it came naturally.”
The 33-year-old American Top Team representative followed his coaches’ instructions perfectly. Prior to the submission. Akhmedov battered his opponent with purposeful ground-and-pound from above, forcing Breese to scramble for desperation submission attempts. Ultimately, it was to no avail.
“Tom Breese is a very good boxer and a very tough fighter,” Akhmedov said. “My game plan was to wrestle right away and make him tired, then move around a bit in the standup.”
The end result was Akhmedov’s first stoppage win in UFC competition since June 2015, when his UFC Fight Night 68 pairing with Brian Ebersole ended after his opponent succumbed to a knee injury following one round. Akhmedov’s previous seven Octagon appearances had all gone to the judges.
“It’s been a few years since my last finish in the UFC,” he admitted. “I don’t know why. I’m pretty glad I got it this time.”
The victory also allowed Akhmedov to rebound from a decision loss to former middleweight champ Chris Weidman this past August. “Wolverine” has lost just once in his last eight UFC bouts and is eyeing more high-profile opponents at the top of the division.
“I want to fight someone in the top 10 or 15 next. I don’t want to fight unranked fighters anymore,” he said. “Tom Breese is a good fighter, but he’s not on my level.”