UFC 288: Ikram Aliskerov puts Phil Hawes to sleep with nasty knockout

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - MAY 06: Ikram Aliskerov of Russia reacts after his knockout victory over Phil Hawes in a middleweight fight during the UFC 288 event at Prudential Center on May 06, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
UFC newcomer Ikram Aliskerov finished Phil Hawes with an amazing first-round KO Saturday in the early prelims of UFC 288. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Ikram Aliskerov won a spot on the UFC roster with an impressive performance on "Dana White’s Contender Series" on Sept. 13 when he won via Kimura submission in the first round.

Nothing he did at Apex that night could have prepared anyone for the fireworks he displayed on Saturday on the preliminary card of UFC 288 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, in a middleweight bout with Phil Hawes.

Aliskerov entered the bout with a 14-1 record, his only loss coming in 2019 to Khamzat Chimaev, now a highly ranked UFC fighter. When the fight with Hawes began, the two went at it immediately, exchanging hard kicks.

Aliskerov caught Hawes with a high kick, but after wobbling for a second or two, Hawes seemed to shake it off and moved toward Aliskerov. That’s when Aliskerov unloaded a blistering combination, catching Hawes on the butt of the chin with a jab and a powerful right hand:

Hawes crumpled to the ground into a heap and the fight was immediately halted as Aliskerov walked away, arms raised in celebration. This is a guy from Dagestan, Russia, whose strength is his wrestling and he put together one of the best combinations you’ll ever see.

“I’m not going to say too many words, but I’m here and I have a lot of goals in this sport,” Aliskerov said. “Hopefully, with God’s help, I’ll be sure to make some noise here.”

He not only made plenty of noise in the two minutes, 10 seconds it took for him to finish the fight, but he made a call out that raised eyebrows too. He called out decorated wrestler and heavily hyped prospect Bo Nickal. Nickal already has his second UFC fight scheduled during International Fight Week in Las Vegas on July 8, facing Tresean Gore. But after seeing what Aliskerov did in his UFC debut Saturday, a fight with Nickal would generate plenty of interest.

One thing is for sure: There will be a lot more interest in Aliskerov’s next fight, no matter who it’s against, after what he did Saturday.