The Ultimate Fighting Championship was in Russia for the first time this weekend for UFC Fight Night 136 and the country’s first event certainly didn’t disappoint. It was a showcase night for the region’s talent with Russians winning all but one fight and putting on some of the best performances of the year.
Today we go over the best techniques and strategies from UFC Fight Night Moscow.
The night started off with Merab Dvalishvili earning his first Octagon victory over Terrion Ware in dominant fashion. As expected, Dvalishvili wanted to get the fight to the ground and did so with ease. He landed a total of five takedowns with four-guard passes and outstruck Ware a shocking 205-22. Dvalishvili had a rough start to his UFC career, but he showed this weekend that he can dominate opponents on the ground, especially those that lack a grappling background.
Next up, former M-1 Global middleweight champion Ramazan Emeev continued the Russian dominance with a victory over Stefan Sekulic. Although the judging was all over the place, the fight was much closer than expected, but Emeev’s counter right hook was finding its home all fight and his grappling was just enough to edge out some close rounds.
Former NCAA Division-1 wrestler Jordan Johnson looked better than ever this weekend when he submitted UFC newcomer Adam Yandev in the 2nd round. Johnson dominated the fight from start to finish, outlanding Yandev 55-1 on strikes with three successful takedowns. Early in the 2nd frame, Johnson locked up an arm triangle and finished the choke in half guard. Generally you need to be in side control to finish an arm triangle, but Johnson has a tight enough squeeze to finish the choke in a relatively safe position for the opponent. Johnson has proved to be one of the most dominate grapplers in the division and is now 4-0 in the UFC and a perfect 10-0 overall.
Magomed Ankalaev scored the best knockout of the night with this beautiful head kick to Marcin Prachnio. The head kick was the finishing blow, but it was set up with a perfectly timed counter lead hook as Prachnio was throwing an overhand right. The 26-year-old Russian out of Akhmat Fight Team is now 9-1 overall with a 1-1 UFC record and has a very bright future in one of UFC’s most depleted divisions.
Next up, Mairbek Taisumov took on Desmond Green in a very close fight despite the unanimous decision. The two were about as even as possible with Taisumov landing 28 of 83 strikes and Green landing 27 of 83. The fight could have gone either way, but the judging in Russia can be a bit biased and the judges game Taisumov a unanimous 30-27 decision victory. Green’s left straight was landing with ease, but Taisumov’s varied kicks slowed him down tremendously and were probably the deciding factor. Taisumov is now 7-1 in the UFC with five knockouts -- three in the first round -- and has proved he belongs in UFC’s toughest division.
Next up was the closest fight of the night when Rustam Khabilov took on Kajan Johnson. The fight wasn’t the most exciting, but Johnson outstruck Khabilov 44-17 in significant strikes and still lost a split decision due to the hometown judging. Khabilov did score three takedowns, but wasn’t able to do much with them and didn’t have much top control time but the judges saw something different and gave him a 29-28 split decision victory. The rule in MMA is to never leave it up to the judges, but incompetent judging like this is unacceptable at the highest levels, especially in a country that is known for combat sports.
Next up, top prospect Petr Yan put on the best performance of the night with his dominant and exciting victory over Jin Soo Son. Yan dominated the fight from bell to bell, but Son has one hell of a chin and just wouldn’t go away, despite eating nearly 100 significant strikes. For a young prospect like Yan, a performance like this does much more for his stock than a first round finish. This fight allowed him to show more tricks and technical abilities and should put fellow bantamweights on their toes. Expect Yan to get a top-15 opponent next after a showcase like this.
Next up was one of the most disturbing late stoppages of the year when Khalid Murtazaliev brutally finished C.B. Dollaway at the end of the 2nd round. After dominating the first round, Khalid got the fight to the ground towards the end of the second and dropped nasty ground-and-pound for the last minute of the fight. The fight could have been stopped many times during this sequence, but Herb Dean let him take uncontested shots while showing no signs of improving position. The fight was called off between rounds, despite Dollaway’s corner shouting for him to get up and fight. The refs usually get the blame when this happens, but fans and fellow fighters need to remember that incompetent corners are just as dangerous as poor officiating.
Next up was the battle of leg kicks when Alexey Kunchenko took on longtime veteran Thiago Alves. Alves went back to what got him to the dance and hammered in 26 leg kicks on the lead and on the counter. Unfortunately for Alves, most judges don’t score leg kicks correctly and Kunchenko blows to the head were perceived as more damaging and won him a unanimous decision.
The co-main event saw the return of Nikita Krylov when he took on top light heavyweight contender Jan Blachowicz. Jan submitted him with an arm triangle midway through the second round. Many thought Krylov would run away with this one, but Jan continues to impress when being the underdog and is now on his best winning streak since joining the UFC. Jan has been calling for a title show against Daniel Cormier and with the division in shambles, he just might get his wish.
The main event was a classic striker vs grappler matchup between Mark Hunt and Aleksei Oleinik, who are both legends in the respective disciplines. Early on Hunt relied on his leg kicks and nearly finished the fight until he was dropped with these lead hooks.
The fight was all but over once it hit the ground and Oleinik locked up a rear-naked choke, despite Hunt’s lack of neck to choke. Oleinik didn’t come into the UFC until he was 37, but he has racked up an impressive 6-2 record despite being years out of his athletic prime. At 41 years-old it might be crazy to say Oleinik could be fighting for a title with a couple of more good wins, but with the state of the division and his grappling prowess it’s not as crazy as you think. And if we are being honest who wouldn’t want to see Oleinik and Cormier battle it out on the ground?