British standout Nathaniel Wood, undefeated since his move to featherweight, faced off with Muhammad Naimov at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi.
Their preliminary card bout on Saturday saw Wood looking for his fourth straight win at 145 pounds; Naimov was looking for his second win in two fights with the promotion.
The fight began with both fighters trying to control the pace in the centre of the octagon. Wood looked to get his leg kicking game going early on, as he had in his previous fights up a weight. Not long after though, Naimov landed a hellacious right hook which momentarily dropped the Londoner. Wood regained composure and found himself in a clinch, with Naimov controlling the under-hooks. “Hillman” then landed himself a takedown where he showed some aggression with some ground-and-pound.
“The Prospect” consistently looked to make it back to his feet by using the cage to his advantage, but Naimov did well of controlling the position and the wrist of Wood. The Brit then made it back to his feet after a short while on the ground, but Naimov continued to control in the clinch with under-hooks. With the under-hook control on both sides, Naimov tried to dig in a knee to the body but it landed extremely low and the ref broke up the action. When the action continued, Wood went back to the leg kick that he’s found success with, but this time, he put a big straight right hand on the end of it and rocked Naimov. He then landed a trip takedown of his own and found himself on the back of the Tajik. Naimov did extremely well to reverse the position as Wood looked for a kimura, and ended up on top as the round ended.
During the interval, Nathaniel’s head coach, Brad Pickett, told him that he likely lost round one. As soon as round two began, Naimov landed another low blow which straightaway halted the action again. With this being the second time in two rounds, all eyes were on the referee on whether he was going to deduct a point for Naimov. The referee opted against it though and gave Naimov another chance to control his weapons. After the action restarted, Wood landed himself another takedown, but didn’t do anything with it. After Naimov got back to his feet, he did well to get his back to the cage, but from there he used the cage to prevent Wood from taking him down as he grabbed it from behind. The referee once again ushered another warning instead of taking a point. Then Naimov again dug in double under-hooks and landed another takedown of his own. There’s a real question as to whether that takedown should have come at all, given the ref was well within his rights to split them up and taken a point from the Tajik after the fence grab. Again Naimov used his top pressure to just control for the majority of the round.
Wood knew going into the final round that he was likely two rounds down, and Brad Pickett asked for more urgency from the Great British Top Team fighter. In the final round, Wood clearly tried to keep the fight in the centre of the octagon where he could use his striking. Despite that, Wood seemed to be too passive in the early proceedings and Naimov continued to move around the Octagon relatively comfortably. Midway through the round, Nathaniel landed a leg kick which was countered by Naimov with a big head kick. “Hillman” then timed a double leg attempt perfectly, landing it momentarily.
Wood made it back to his feet but still found himself being controlled as Naimov had the dominant double under hooks. Wood managed to break out of the clinch and then started to let his hands go as Naimov seemed to tire. After pinning Naimov back to the cage, he proceeded to land a few heavy straight strikes down the pipe, but Naimov just about survived. With 10 seconds left of the round, Wood pushed Naimov to the ground where he landed a few heavy punches. Naimov dug his fingers into the gloves of Wood, committing yet another foul that was unpunished by the referee. Given the number of fouls, the 29-28 scores in favour of Naimov could have looked very different.
Official Result: Muhammad Naimov def. Nathaniel Wood by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)