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VANCOUVER – A first-round eye poke nearly prevented Georgi Karakhanyan from competing in a fight that would eventually crown him World Series of Fighting’s inaugural featherweight champion.

Karakhanyan (23-3-1) suffered an ugly poke to the eye from Lance Palmer (7-1) in the main event of their WSOF 7 showdown Saturday in Vancouver. The poke was so nasty the fighter was close to accepting he could no longer go to battle.

“I was really close to saying I couldn’t continue,” Karakhanyan told MMAjunkie. “I didn’t even start to see clear until the beginning of the third round.”

While the thought of taking himself out of the fight briefly crossed Karakhanyan’s mind, he ultimately continued despite his impaired vision.

The decision to not give up proved to be a wise one for the 28-year-old as he rallied back from the scary moment to submit Palmer in the third round and take home the 145-pound belt.

“I’m really happy with my performance,” Karakhanyan said. “My fight was going into deep waters, and it was all about the heart and the mental – how tough I could stay. I felt I could find the finish. I knew I could get the finish and I’m extremely happy I did it.”

Even though Karakhanyan ultimately stopped the fight with a guillotine choke, the finishing maneuver was preceded by several other near-submissions.

Karakhanyan believed he almost had the fight stopped with separate armbar and heel hook submission attempts. But Palmer powered through, which took his opponent by surprise.

“The first armbar I went for, his arm popped. Of course, he didn’t tap. Then I went for a heel hook and his knee popped. So I was impressed how tough he was,” Karakhanyan said.

A major storyline going into the fight was if Karakhanyan had improved his defensive wrestling enough to thwart the highly decorated Palmer.

While he had mixed results stopping takedowns, Karakhanyan was confident his submission ability would get him the win if he was stuck on his back. That foresight could not have been more accurate.

“I knew if we went to the ground, I could get him because I attack differently than any other MMA fighter,” Karakhanyan said. “If he took me down, I wasn’t worried. So I was satisfied with my wrestling.”

By becoming the first WSOF featherweight champion, Karakhanyan has etched his name in the organization’s history forever.

That achievement is one Karakhanyan will never forget, and even though he had to battle through some adversity, he is thrilled to have secured his first world title.

“I had to stay strong mentally there, and I think my experience played a role,” he said. “I’m very happy to be the first WSOF champion.”

For more on WSOF 7, stay tuned to the MMA Events section of the site.

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