Zaur Abdullaev got just the type of impressive victory Saturday night that should lead to another lightweight title shot.

The Russian contender overcame a slow start against former WBA/WBC 135-pound champion Jorge Linares to drop him twice in the 12th round and stopped him. Linares got up from the second knockdown, but Abdullaev swarmed him, unloaded a barrage of power punches and caused the referee to step between them to stop their WBC elimination match.

Abdullaev (15-1, 9 KOs) first floored Linares with a left hook with 1:12 to go in their fight. A fatigued Linares got up, but another left hook by Abdullaev sent him to the canvas again, this time with 53 seconds left in their bout.

The 36-year-old Linares reached his feet again, but their highly competitive fight didn’t last much longer. The official time of the stoppage was 2:28 of the 12th round.

Venezuela’s Linares (47-7, 29 KOs) lost a second straight bout in his first fight since suffering a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Devin Haney eight months ago in Las Vegas. The versatile Linares hurt Haney just as the bell sounded to end the 10th round of their bout, but Haney won on all three scorecards May 29 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena.

That marked the first time in Linares’ long career that he lost a fight that went the distance. His first five defeats, and now this loss, all came either by knockout or technical knockout.

Abdullaev’s only loss came against Haney as well.

Las Vegas’ Haney (26-0, 15 KOs) stopped Adullaev in the fourth round of their September 2019 bout, in which Abdullaev suffered a fractured orbital bone. Haney won the then-vacant WBC world lightweight title by beating Abdullaev at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.

Before he finished Linares in the 12th round, Abdullaev drilled the ex-champion with a right hand just before the 11th round concluded. A right-left-right combination by Abdullaev affected Linares with just over 1:10 to go in the 11th round.

An aggressive, rallying Abdullaev pressed Linares throughout the ninth and 10th rounds, when he was the more active and accurate fighter. Linares fought almost exclusively off his back foot in those two rounds and didn’t land many punches.

With just over a minute on the clock in the eighth round, Abdullaev drilled Linares with two right hands, the second of which snapped back Linares’ head. Linares fought back, but Abdullaev began to establish some momentum during that eighth round.

Abdullaev cracked Linares with a right hand 40 seconds into the seventh round.

Linares’ right uppercut caught Abdullaev with just over 2:20 to go in the sixth round. Abdullaev tried to pressure him, but Linares skillfully countered him and avoided most of his punches in those three minutes.

Abdullaev landed a hard left hook up top just after the midway mark of the fifth round. Abdullaev landed a low blow with about 40 seconds on the clock in the fifth round, which caused Linares to hold him and drew a warning.

Linares drilled Abdullaev with two hard lefts to his body with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth round. Those three minutes amounted to more domination by Linares.

A precise Linares picked apart Abdullaev with head and body shots during a one-sided third round.

A counter right by Abdullaev landed with just under a minute to go in the second round, just after Linares landed a combination. Linares landed to Abdullaev’s body toward the end of the second round.

Abdullaev landed multiple body blows during the opening round. Linares avoided many of Abdullaev’s head shots during the first round, but mostly was strategic about attempting to find openings through and around Abdullaev’s tight guard.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.