UFC Moscow (Fight Night 136) marked the promotion’s first venture into Russia. It was a great night of fights and certainly lived up to expectations in a country that truly appreciates and respects combat sports.
The UFC stacked the card with a fair mix of Russian veterans and prospects, but it was the younger fighters who really stood out. 26-year-old light heavyweight Magomed Ankalaev turned in a dominant performance, with one of the year’s best knockouts. He is a dangerous striker in both stances, with great fluidity. Combine that with his grappling prowess and you have what they call a blue-chip prospect. Fellow Russians, Petr Yan and Khalid Murtazaliev, also had great showings in Moscow.
As for non-Russian prospects, Jordan Johnson and Jin Soo Son really stood out from the crowd. Although Son was outclassed by Yan, he turned in one of the most savage and entertaining performances in recent memory. Considering he was the biggest underdog on the card and relatively unknown, he really made the most out of this opportunity and gained a plethora of new fans, despite the loss.
IS JORDAN JOHNSON A LEGIT CONTENDER AT 185-POUNDS?
Jordan Johnson may not be the most flashy or exciting fighter to watch, but he pushes a relentless pace and is able to rely on his elite wrestling skills to grind out victories, furthermore, his striking ability continues to rapidly improve. The middleweight division is certainly more talent-stacked than the light heavyweight division, however, the size advantage which Johnson gains by moving down in weight may very well offset the higher level of competition.
It’s definitely a trade-off, but only time will tell if this is a worthwhile career choice for the now 10-0 Johnson. One thing is for sure; Johnson looked phenomenal on Saturday, submitting Adam Yandiev and handing him his first professional loss in the process.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR JAN BLACHOWICZ?
The 35-year-old has had quite an interesting career arc in the UFC, thus far. After debuting with a first-round TKO of Ilir Latifi, Blachowicz faced some of the light heavyweight division’s top talent and dropped four out of five decisions to fighters including Corey Anderson, Jimi Manuwa and Alexander Gustafsson. On Saturday, he made easy work of Nikita Krylov, a man who was once viewed as one of the division’s best young fighters.
Blachowicz has won four in a row and is certainly one of the most qualified contenders for Daniel Cormier’s belt. “DC” was called out by Blachowicz in his post-fight interview, but it seems unlikely that we’ll ever witness that fight. Seemingly aware of this fact, Blachowicz also called out Alexander Gustafsson as a consolation.
Earlier this year, Blachowicz was able to avenge his 2015 loss to Jimi Manuwa, and I’d be interested to see if he can do the same against Gustafsson. Blachowicz has fought four times (and looked great each time) in the time span since Gustafsson last made an appearance in the octagon. I could see the Polish veteran riding this momentum into a victory over “Gus” and an eventual title-shot. Then again, Gustafsson has all the tools that make him a nightmare opponent for even the division’s best fighters.
THE 41-YEAR-OLD CONTENDER
Aleksei Oleinik is now 6-2 in the UFC and his win over Mark Hunt should launch him into the heavyweight division’s top-10. Things appeared to be unraveling quickly for Oleinik, as several heavy leg kicks by Hunt rendered the Russian’s lead leg nearly useless. Furthermore, Hunt caught him with a heavy right hand that would have put most opponents to sleep.
However, the now 57-11 heavyweight showed amazing resilience and toughness as he hung in there and eventually was able to secure the takedown in the latter-part of round one. Once the fight hit the mat, Hunt had no answer for the submission specialist and quickly found himself on the losing end of a rear-naked choke.
A SHOUTOUT TO THE COMMENTARY TEAM
As per usual with European fight cards, fans were treated to the excellent commentary of Dan Hardy and John Gooden, with an added bonus — lightweight Paul Felder. Felder has shown his natural commentary chops over the past year on various fight night and contender series events, but he hasn’t quite made it to the top of the commentator pecking order. Saturday’s commentary trio was entertaining and displayed solid chemistry. I would love to see more of this trio going forward.