Four consecutive defeats of Russians
On November 9, the UFC Fight Night 163 tournament was held in Moscow. According to tradition, the card of the home show was crowded with Russian athletes, who together totaled 13 people. Of course, the two main fights of the evening with the participation of Alexander Volkov and Zabit Magomedsharipov caused the greatest excitement, but other fights were no less interesting.
The tournament opened with a match involving Grigory Popov. The lightest Russian fighter made his unsuccessful debut at the UFC and lost by knockout to former title contender Eddie Wynland. The matchmakers decided to give him a chance to rehabilitate and identified the weaker athlete as rivals. They became a member of the show The Ultimate Fighter 18 Davy Grant. The Briton did not miss the stars from the sky and in the last four fights suffered three defeats.
He failed to rehabilitate that evening. Grant expectedly relied on the fight and did not lose. He transferred the opponent to canvas six times, which became a key factor. Popov was sharper in the rack, but not so much as to persuade the judges to his side. Two put 29:28 in his favor, and another voted for the host of the competition.
After the women's duel, which ended in favor of the representative of Sweden, Penny Kianzad, Alexander Yakovlev entered the octagon. In 2016, the Russian welterweight in turn lost first to Camar Usman, and then to Zack Cummings, after which he did not perform for three years. He returned in 2019 and dealt with Alex da Silva, defending the right to fight in the largest promotion of the planet. But in order to confirm his status, he needed to pass Roosevelt Roberts' young talent.
The first two rounds went with varying success. In the debut, Roberts interrupted the vis-a-vis, but in the second Yakovlev managed to reverse the initiative through the struggle. Alexander carried out a takedown and restored parity, but he didn’t have enough for more. In the third five-minute, he almost fell on the guillotine and unconvincingly spent the ending. The judges sided with the American, and the Russian suffered a fifth defeat in eight fights in the UFC.
After the second consecutive fiasco of Russians, tension in the audience began to increase. The audience reacted extremely negatively to Yakovlev’s failure, and Abubakar Nurmagomedov was called to correct the situation. Habib's cousin had all the prerequisites for a successful performance. His experience of speaking in international promotions and the level of his opponent spoke in favor of him. David Zavada lost in the last two battles and was on the verge of being fired.
But to the surprise of the fans, the fight ended in favor of a note outsider. Nurmagomedov expectedly relied on the stalls, but for a second lost his vigilance. German of Polish descent caught his elbow lever and presented one of the main sensations of the tournament.
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On this rainy day for the Russians did not end. Former Fight Nights middleweight champion Roman Kopylov was a favorite in the battle against Karl Roberson and could well count on success. Until the third round, he looked confidently in the rack and could well lead on the referee cards. But in the end, he first got into the eye of an American and was deprived of a point, and then got on a choking back. For 20 seconds, he tried to choose from the capture, but in the end he knocked.
Khabilov’s success and Ankalaev’s beautiful knockout
The first victory of the Russian athlete took place only in the sixth match of the tournament. True, it could not be otherwise, because in it, compatriots Rustam Khabilov and Sergey Khandozhko met among themselves. Long before the show, this battle was one of the most talked about, because previously two fighters from Russia had never met each other in the UFC.
However, a fierce struggle did not work out, and Khabilov’s superiority in the stall played a decisive role. Most of the time, Khandozhko was forced to either be on canvas or with his back against the net and could not demonstrate his strengths. In moments he looked more active than the enemy and was marked by a couple of serious hits, but this was not enough. All the judges sided with Rustam and recorded his first welterweight triumph at the UFC.
Magomed Ankalaev became the first Russian to win against a foreign athlete. The “victim” of the light heavyweight was Dulcha Lungiambula, who had never before been inferior in the largest MMA promotion on the planet. So far, the Congolese has only fought in the octagon and has not left a chance to Decouan Townsend.
The first two rounds were dictated by Ankalaev. He interrupted the opponent in his arms and looked great on the ground, but the denouement came in the third. Magomed watched the gaping Lungiambula and performed a filigree front kick (kick in the jaw at a right angle). The Congolese collapsed on the canvas, and the judge hastened to stop the bout. It is worth noting that previously the Russian only won once after kicking. This happened in a fight with Marcin Prahno at the UFC Fight Night 136 tournament.
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Gamzatov’s successful debut and Imadayev’s first knockout defeat
The program of the main card of the Moscow tournament was opened by the debut fight of Shamil Gamzatov in the UFC. The Russian has successfully performed both in domestic promotions and in the Professional Fighting League (PFL), where he won twice. Thus, he came to the Absolute Fighting Championship with an ideal track record of 13 fights and plans to immediately break into the elite of the division.
The first test for him was Cleedson Abreu. The athlete also recently joined the organization, but could not secure the status of a rising star. In the first battle, he lost to the same Ankalaev, but then rehabilitated in the battle with Sam Alvi. The Brazilian clearly did not pull on the title of top fighter, but he was not a whipping boy.
This was confirmed in the cell. The Brazilian showed decent resistance, but was less successful on his feet. The Russianman delivered almost twice as many significant blows and even a missed takedown did not prevent him from making his debut in the UFC with a victory. The opinion of the judges was divided, but the two were still more impressed by the actions of Shamil.
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Ramadan Emeev could extend the successful series to seven bouts and claim to be in the top 15 welterweight. To do this, he needed to deal with Anthony Rocco Martin. The battle was intense and not without blood. So, by the second round, the American had a broken nose, which did not stop him from confronting his counterparts. The American practically did not concede in the rack and defended himself very well from the aisles in the legs. So, Emeev successfully completed only one attempt at a takedown of nine.
Apparently, the judges were impressed by the protective actions of the American and gave him the victory. And one of them did see Martin's superiority in all three rounds. The audience did not really like this, but Anthony subdued them with an emotional statement about his mother's illness. According to him, she was recently diagnosed with cancer and he dedicated this speech to her.
The next battle was even more bloody. Hadith Ibragimov and Ed Herman fought a real war in a cage, the Russian not only repeated the fate of Martin, but also received a serious cut. Nevertheless, he regularly found gaps in the opponent’s defense and sent powerful blows there. True, the American, too, did not remain in debt and several times coolly hit the right jaw.
By the third five-minute, both got tired, but still continued to delight the audience with a vivid confrontation. Athletes exchanged powerful knees, and Ibragimov was about to let himself be strangled. Hadith courageously resisted and managed to free himself, but still suffered a second failure in a row.
The performances of Volkov and Magomedsharipov were preceded by one of the most scandalous Russian fighters in the UFC. So, in April, the conflict between Imadayev and Griffin was widely discussed, which ended only with the participation of the police. According to the American, the opponent was chasing him around the hotel, but Zelim himself denied these allegations.
More significant, Imadayev lost and questioned his career in the Absolute Fighting Championship. Therefore, the fight with Danny Roberts was a chance for him to correct this misunderstanding and confirm the claim to the championship.
However, Zelim lost control of the American and lost the second time in a row. He had a great first round, but in the second missed a powerful blow. Roberts took counterparts by surprise and inflicted the first early defeat in his career.