Suffolk's Arnold Allen finished on the wrong side of a close decision defeat to unbeaten foe Movsar Evloev at UFC 297 in Toronto.

Allen, who was bidding to get back in the win column after his first UFC defeat to icon Max Holloway last time out, came out looking sharp in the early stages of the featherweight clash.

He popped out his rapid southpaw jab and looked to follow up with big left hands, scoring to the body and showing his trademark speed and movement.

Evloev (now 18-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) had some success in the latter stages of the round, taking Allen down and having the better of some grappling exchanges as the bell sounded on a close and competitive first five minutes.

The Russian then seized the momentum in the second stanza, wobbling the Trimly St Martin man with a jab followed by a right hook, which buckled his legs temporarily and left Allen with a nasty cut and swelling under his left eye.

With a close first round and a clear Evloev second round in the books, Allen was told by his corner that he had to finish the fight in the final five minutes.

And he threw everything at that task, rattling Evloev with some heavy combinations and cutting him on the side of his head with a series of knees which were deemed to be illegal but looked fair and potentially decisive.

But Evloev, who was given time to recover as a result, managed to get Allen to the floor again as time ticked away, though the Suffolk star never accepted the position and continued to fight hard as the battle ended.

With both men sporting cuts and the bloody masks of battle, Evloev had his hand raised via a unanimous decision, with all three judges giving him a 29-28 verdict.

East Anglian Daily Times: Arnold Allen, right, suffered just the third defeat of his career in TorontoArnold Allen, right, suffered just the third defeat of his career in Toronto (Image: PA Wire)
Allen has now lost two in a row for the first time, with his record dropping to 19-3 overall and 10-2 in the UFC.

He remains very much among the top 145lb fighters on the planet, a fact Evloev acknowledged after the fight.

He said: "Arnold is a good fighter, he's tough. After beating this guy I feel like I can fight with anyone in my division.

"I feel like I'm the next contender for the title." 

Allen wrote on social media: "I'm all good guys, losing sucks, all respect to my opponent!

"Bit upset about the ol knees but it is what it is, felt like they were legal.

"Onwards and upwards."