All good things must come to an end. We have had super high profile cards almost this entire year since making the move over to ESPN. Now, we have sadly come upon a card that doesn’t really have any title implications, just a lot of newcomers and veterans mixed in, who will probably not be seeing a title shot anytime soon. That being said, the UFC’s event in Russia should be a heavily entertaining card. It seems like every single fighter on this card has SERIOUS finishing ability and that should prove to be a lot of fun for everyone. Let’s dive on in.
Magomed Mustafaev vs. Rafael Fiziev (LW)
Ahhh yes, a matchup with fighters who have never seen a decision. In fact, neither fighter has seen a third round. Magomed Mustafaev (13-2, 2-1 UFC) was once seen as a huge up-and-comer until a second-round submission by Kevin Lee in which he hurt his arm. He hasn’t fought since then and will hope to reclaim his promising status against Fiziev this weekend. Mustafaev’s skill mainly manifests itself in his knockout power. He has damaging Muay Thai and throws knees and pucnhes from every angle. Although he carries 4 submission wins, I see that as his main weakness. Mustafaev has serious gas tank issues and his ground game seems to dissolve once he gasses.
Rafael Fiziev (6-0) will be making his Octagon debut here in St. Petersburg. The Kyrgyzstani fighter is mainly a power puncher, although his ground game is untested with only one fight going outside of the first round. Fiziev is a Muay Thai champion and is very quick and athletic. Honestly, I don’t have much on Fiziev other than that and don’t know what to think, but I would imagine his untested history would leave him without a tested battle ability or gas tank. Mustafaev has the same gas tank but does have more UFC experience. However, that experience is two years removed and I’m not going to bank on that. I’m making this pick very tentatively.
Take the Shot: Rafael Fiziev via Round 1 Knockout
Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk (LHW)
Antigulov (20-5, 2-1 UFC) will be looking to make up from his knockout loss to Ion Cuteleba with a win over the Polish Michal Oleksiejczuk ( 13-2, 1-0 1NC UFC). Antigulov is a submission specialist with 15 subs on his record. He will be looking to jump closer to the top 15 with a win. Michal put on a show with a first-round knockout just under two months ago and will look to replicate that again here. “Lord” showed that he has heavy hands against Villante, no one is doubting that. He also has some submission prowess as well and is at the very least defensively sound enough to keep Antigulov off his back. Antigulov is way too chinny for me, so I see Lord with another dominant win.
Take the Shot: Michal Oleksiejczuk via Round 2 Knockout
Marcin Tybura vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (HW)
Marcin Tybura (17-4, 4-3 UFC) has shown off his skills in many ways in the cage, with 7 knockouts and 6 submissions. It seems that he is happiest when striking. He uses punches as well as kicks and packs power with every shot (duh, he’s a Heavyweight). He can throw high kicks with both legs out of nowhere, which is fairly uncommon for the massive Heavyweights. He also isn’t out of place on the ground and loves to smack his opponent from the top, along with carrying submission potential.
Shamil Abdurakhimov (19-4, 4-2 UFC) also carries that Heavyweight power but with less of the versatility of Tybura. He is much more of a wrestler and uses his punches as a mechanism to get to his ground game, so it’s much more of a winging right to a double leg as opposed to the technical striking of Tybura. His wrestling is dominant, but doesn’t have a ton of submissions and is more focused on grinding out a long decision. He is 37 as well, so I am starting to fade him as it seems like he is only getting more slippery in his technique. Honestly, I see this match as taking place mostly in the clinch or on the ground and I’m not confident in either fighter on this one. Maybe some Russian bias will come into play here with the judges, so I’m staying away.
Take the Shot: Marcin Tybura via Split Decision
Alexander Yakovlev vs. Alex de Silva Coehlo (LW)
So Alex Yakovlev (23-8, 2-4 UFC) has been a solid fighter in the best few years and a relative testing point for UFC newcomers. He will assume that role again this week in testing one of Brazil’s highest Lightweight prospects, Alex de Silva Coehlo (20-1). “Thunder of the North” is a superbly well-rounded fighter, but albeit a jack of all trades and master of none. His last two fights against Kamaru Usman and Zak Cummins make him seem like a grindy wrestler, but he would love to stand and bang as well.
Coehlo has been going forward in leaps and bounds in his MMA career. I mean, we’re talking like 2-3 fights IN A WEEK. His lone loss came from a decision and every other fight has been a finish. With 13 knockouts and 7 submissions, he has been very impressive with his striking (Edson Barboza sorta style) and is on target with the high-level Jiu-Jitsu talent of Brazil. “Leko” has extremely impressive standup with incredible timing, but his main advantage is that he is moving up a weight class. By now you should know my rule on fighters that move up.
This is a tough matchup to pick. Coehlo looks very impressive, but his record is as inflated as they come. That combined with only being 23 years old, the Bright Lights Syndrome may very well take a new victim here. I think Yakovlev would be best to use his wrestling and ground to stay out of the way of Coehlo for a little while, at least until he is gassed. If this goes to the later rounds, it’s Yakovlev’s fight to take. The issue for him is that it is unlikely for Coehlo to let it go there. This is a VERY entertaining fight, keep your eyes peeled for this one.
Take the Shot: Alex de Silva Coehlo via Round 2 Knockout
Sultan Aliev vs. Keita Nakamura (WW)
Sultan Aliev (14-3, 1-2 UFC) has not been the power puncher promised in his UFC run. His win came at the hands of a dirty split decision. He has technical striking along with power punches. He has issues against other power punchers, I credit that to a fear of getting knocked out (which usually makes you get knocked out). Here, he has a matchup where he can maybe get it done.
Keita Nakamura (34-9-2, 4-3 UFC) has so far traded wins and losses in the Octagon. He’s up for a loss if that means anything to those looking for some superstition or bro-science pattern. He is not a huge striking threat. I mean, it’s serviceable but doesn’t offer threats against UFC caliber fighters. His main strength is in his wrestling and his submission. He is very dominant when it hits the mat and loves to eke out a close split decision.
Nakamura has without a doubt fought the better opponents, while Aliev boasts very impressive takedown defense. The sad fact is that I think that will be all it comes down to. If Aliev keeps it upright, it’s a knockout or hefty decision, but go to the mat and Nakamura may very well walk/crawl over his opponent. I think the judges will definitely play a huge role here with Nakamura’s wins coming so close, so I’m gonna lean on their love for the fellow Russian.
Take the Shot: Sultan Aliev via Split Decision
Movsar Evlov vs. Choi Seung-Woo (FW)
This is an odd matchup. The prelim headliner has two fighters who have never before fought inside the Octagon. Movsar Evlov (10-0) has spent his whole pro career in the M-1 circuit which is pretty much the UFC of Russia. He has fought against many solid fighters and is now stepping into the UFC, hoping for bigger and better things. Evlov is quite well-rounded but is primarily a striker. He is quick and very accurate, but also boasts solid wrestling and submission credentials. His gas tank is of no concern and has gone to the fifth round twice in his young career. Not to mention, he’s moving up a weight class. My only request from Evlov would be a nickname. “Evlov” isn’t the most memorable and a good, synonymous nickname can bring you into the rankings real quick (think Cyborg/Jacare).
Choi Seung Woo (7-1) is almost exclusively a striker. He hits hard for 145 and brings great Muay Thai in. It was very difficult to find film on him, so I’m not super educated, but from what I have seen is that his game is severely one-dimensional. This will not go well against Titan (that’s the new nickname I’m gonna give Evlov. That one’s on me, my man) who can use his wrestling to tire out the less tested fighter then work Woo out however he wants.
Take the Shot: Movsar Evlov via Round 1 Submission
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Alen Amedovski (MW)
Krzysztof Jotko (19-4, 6-4 UFC) is primarily a striker. He has nice ground and pound along with decent wrestling. However, he doesn’t have a lot of finishing ability. He has one knockout in the UFC and doesn’t offer a submission threat. I think that Jotko will look maybe look to go to the ground, but his takedowns are downright weak and he has way too many opportunities to be cracked.
I don’t think Alen Amedovski (8-0) is getting the credit he deserves. Sure, it’s his Octagon debut, but every win is by knockout. He also has fought in other promotions like Bellator and Magnum so the Bright Lights won’t have an effect on him. Amedovski is a serious threat and looks to me almost like a Middleweight Ngannou. He can end a fight in one punch and 4 of his fights have ended in the first MINUTE. That does not at all bode well against Jotko, who has no issue with a stand-up battle. A grappler or heavy wrestler would give me more to think about, but Jotko’s only advantages seem to be in his experience and gas tank.
Take the Shot: Alen Amedovski via Round 1 Knockout
Roxanne Modaferri vs. Antonina Shevchenko (FLW)
Roxanne Modaferri (22-15, 1-4 UFC) is coming in off a loss to Sijara Eubanks. Her striking is alright and her submissions are solid as well. She mostly uses a dominant wrestling style and going into a match with her usually means going into a decision. However, I think the line is wayyyy too inflated just off of Schevchenko’s little sister, the Flyweight champ.
Antonina Shevchenko (7-0, 1-0 UFC) was more hesitant than her sister to get into MMA. She has the same Muay Thai style but does not pack the same power. Her takedown defense looks to be solid, so for that reason I give her an advantage, because her striking is simply superior. However, should this go to the ground, Shevchenko will have a rough night. Luckily for her, she has an incredibly team and will be on a home court. Every strike for her, no matter how little, will get massive cheers. I do not advocate taking Schevchenko if you are betting. The line is way too inflated for someone without any skill in their opponent’s best field, but I think Shevchenko does have the tools to come away with a W. At that price tag, I’m not tossing my money down.
Take the Shot: Antonina Shevchenko via Unanimous Decision
Ivan Shtyrkov vs. Devin Clark (LHW)
Ivan Shtyrkov (15-0-1) will be making his debut. A skilled wrestler with submission skill and devastating knockout power, he reminds me of Romero in a lot of ways. “Ural Hulk” submitted Thiago Silva with an armbar and showed that he offers a submission threat and isn’t just a cannon. His gas tank lasts surprisingly long for a fighter of his size, and I actually put it above Clark’s.
I don’t like Devin Clark here (9-3, 3-3 UFC). I think his fight IQ is abysmal and his stamina is garbage. Maybe if he’s on those Dillashaw meds, he has a shot, but I am seriously worried about his performance. “Brown Bear” does not have a lot of knockout power or much of a ground game. Not to mention he suffered a brutal knockout only 4 months ago. He normally fights to a decision on the feet, sometimes using some wrestling. I don’t think he should be in the UFC and this looks to me like a match made just to get the Russian crowd hyped.
Take the Shot: Ivan Shtyrkov via Round 2 Knockout
Sergey Pavlovich vs. Marcelo Golm (HW)
Sergey Pavlovich (12-1, 0-1 UFC) suffered a first-round KO to Overeem in his UFC debut five months ago. Pavlovich is the typical heavy hitter and uses devastating power along with crisp striking to an excellent degree. A loss to Overeem is nothing to be ashamed of and I suspect he will have an easy win here against Golm. This honestly looks like a setup fight to me. More than faith in Pavlovich, I don’t trust Golm. Marcelo Golm (6-2, 1-2 UFC) does not look technical when fighting and does not even seem to be at the level of many UFC fighters. His ground game is weak and his stand-up is built around wildly flinging shots.
Take the Shot: Sergey Pavlovich via Round 1 Knockout
Islam Makhachev vs. Arman Tsarukyan (LW)
Team Khabib is hopping back into the ring with Islam Makhachev (16-1, 5-1 UFC). He fights very similar to Khabib and is the Combat Sambo world champion. He seems to me to have better striking and more solid power than Khabib. He utilizes a lot of kicks and more Muay Thai style in addition to incredible wrestling and submissions. The hype train for Makhachev is somewhat cooling off, but I believe that will be revitalized tonight. The only possible way forward for Tsarukyan seems to be just puncher’s chance. While that would be entertaining, it is not at all likely. Tsarukyan is way too low level and being tossed into a co-main is a bad play.
Take the Shot: Islam Makhachev via Round 2 Submission
Alistair Overeem vs. Alexey Oleynik (HW)
Alistair Overeem (44-17, 10-6 UFC) is a mainstay of the Heavyweight division. His main attraction is his power. Prior to Francis Ngannou, Overeem was the hardest hitter and he has the highlight reel to prove it. What many people often forget is that The Reem (I refuse to call him the Demolition Man) also has solid submission credentials. I am still convinced to this day that Stipe tapped, but oh well. Overeem’s biggest issue as of late is his chin. After getting clocked by Ngannou, his chin has severely gone down after what was already bashed in by various Heavyweights.
Alexey Oleinik (57-11-1, 6-2 UFC) is a submission specialist and along with Werdum, is one of the best grapplers at the 206+ division. Oleinik has 45 wins by submission and don’t let his record fool you. Although he only has 8 knockouts in his 57 wins, he has dropped people with big shots and led into submissions. He has the Heavyweight power and although he is somewhat of a small heavyweight, especially when compared to Overeem, he has managed quite well for himself. He last lost in November 2017 to Curtis Blaydes by knockout and hey, here’s another pattern for you. Oleinik has lost after two UFC wins and guess what? He’s coming off two wins.
My gut leans me towards Overeem. He has brutal power and solid enough submission defense that he shouldn’t succumb to Oleinik’s grip like the many other fighters that have. He should be able to work him around on his feet however he would like. Yet, it is seriously unfortunate that one of the first pictures that comes up when googling Overeem is Ngannou’s knockout. It legitimately changed his ability to take punches. That makes me hesitate because Oleinik always has the possibility to shock him with a punch and use it to pull Ngannou into an Ezekiel choke. However, I think Overeem has enough experience and skill inside the Octagon that he knows his strengths and weaknesses and how to use those to his advantage. I would remain wary, though. Either fighter could screw you over at a moment’s notice.
Take the Shot: Alistair Overeem via Round 2 Knockout
For anyone looking to play a fun game during this card, it’s called ‘which fighter is on steroids?’ We have a fun little card for us in Russia, where Overeem is conveniently out of the reaches of USADA. Look to see quite a few guys extra beefed up. Make sure to tune in at 10 AM EST to see some prospects and wild KOs.
Just a quick shoutout. I recently started a podcast, so feel free to check out The Stockton Slap wherever you get your podcasts.
Until next time, Freaks.