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The Russians Are Coming
Fedor Emelianenko is considered by many to be the pound-for-pound greatest mixed martial artist of all time. The former heavyweight champion and 2004 Grand Prix champion of Pride amassed a 35-4-1 record in his twelve-year career. Fedor went an incredible 32-1-1 between May 2000 and June 2009; his lone loss in almost a decade was a doctor’s stoppage, due to a cut back in December 2000.
Throughout history Russia has been known for being a tough fighting nation and has never failed to produce talented fighters. Oleg Taktarov was the first Russian MMA fighter to make a name for himself. Taktarov won UFC 6 and also holds impressive wins over the likes of Mark Kerr and Marco Ruas. Hard-hitting heavyweight’s Sergei Kharitonov and Alexander Emelianenko (Fedor’s baby brother) have also had respectable careers in the sport. Bellator Middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko and former heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov are two more talented Russian fighters, though neither off the two have managed to reach the ‘elite’ level.
Apart from the previous mentioned, Russian fighter’s recently haven’t made much of an impression in MMA compared to other nations. The UFC is still yet to see its first Russian champion; this may be about to change. We have seen a steady rise in Russian fighters in the UFC this year and all make big impressions in their fights. Let’s take a look at some of the talented Russian fighters we have seen this year.
Bagautinov is 11-2 in his MMA career and has never been finished. The former Sambo world champion made his mixed martial arts debut in December 2009, just over two years later he has signed with the premier mixed martial arts organization. His UFC debut, at UFC Fight Night 28, ended with a vicious TKO win in the third round against Marcos Vinicius. Bagautinov is expected to face Tim Elliott at UFC 167. A strong second performance in the UFC against Elliott could lead to Bagautinov fighting for a number one contender’s bout early in 2014.
Amagov is 13-2-1 in his MMA career and 2-0 since joining with the UFC. The fighter has fought at light-heavyweight, middleweight and now currently fight’s in the welterweight division. Even as an undersized light heavyweight the fighter was successful, amassing an incredible 8-1 record at 205lbs. The Russian is on a three fight win streak since his debut in the Welterweight division, his last loss came at the hands of Robbie Lawler in January 2012. Since dropping to welterweight ‘The Wolf’ has looked unbeatable. He dominated Chris Spang in his UFC debut in April and followed that up with a vicious K.O over T.J Waldburger at UFC 166. Amagov hasn’t yet got a fight booked but after his previous performance it’s unlikely anyone will be calling him out.
Khabilov is 17-1 in his career so far; the only blemish on his record is a controversial split decision loss to Ruslan Khaskhanov in February 2011. ‘Tiger’ is now on a five-fight winning streak, with three of those in the UFC’s lightweight division. In his UFC debut at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale, the former Sambo champion destroyed Vinc Pichel with vicious suplexes, his final one knocking out Pichel. After that win he slammed Yancy Medeiros en route to a TKO win.His latest win was without question Khabilov’s most impressive performance, a fight of the night war with Jorge Masvidal just a few days ago. If not for Masvidal’s iron chin, Khabilov would have no doubt won knockout of the night after his ferocious, excellently timed wheel kick. He showed an impressive striking game against Masvidal who is a top-level striker. Khabilov’s next fight should be against a big named opponent. One more impressive win for the Russian should no doubt break him into the top ten at 155lbs.
With one of the most impressive winning streaks in his mixed martial arts career Khabib Nurmagomedov is without doubt the biggest Russian prospect on the list. Nurmagomedov is a multiple world Sambo champion and has been unbeatable since his cross over to the cage, gathering an impressive 21-0 record. The 25-year-old Russian has shown he has no problem standing or on the mat and he can go three rounds with ease. ‘The Eagles’ UFC debut came in January last year where he submitted Kamal Shalorus in the third round. Since then the Russian has won another four fights, making him 5-0 in the UFC. His next fight is expected to be at UFC 169 against Gilbert Melendez, a win over ‘El Nino’ is likely to put the fighter next in line for a tile shot at 155lbs.
The standouts have had a very impressive year so far, all putting in dominant performances leading to Russian fighters being 8-0 in the UFC this year. We are yet to see one yet but 2014 could very well be the year where the first Russian fighter lifts a UFC belt.