Dudakova's second fight
The debut of the 2019 European champion in mixed martial arts in the UFC did not go as everyone expected. Her first takedown attempt resulted in a serious injury for Istela Nunez. The Brazilian broke her arm and could not continue the fight, and the Russian won her seventh victory in a row in her professional career. However, Victoria Dudakova herself hardly had many reasons to rejoice. After all, this success clearly did not help her to establish herself in the eyes of the promotion's management.
This was confirmed by the choice of the opponent for the next fight. Although Jin Yu Frey has had twice as many fights as Nunez, she is not superior to her in terms of level. The 38-year-old fighter is opposed by both her age and an extremely unsightly record of 11-9, which gives an idea of her level. And now there is no reason to remember that once the American won the Invicta FC belt "in the weight of an atom" (up to 47.6 kg). Over the past year and a half, she has failed three times in a row and is in the final stages of her MMA journey. And if Dudakova expects to achieve great heights in the championship, then she must confidently deal with her opponent.
Rehabilitation of Nurmagomedov
Unlike Dudakova, Said Nurmagomedov lost in the last fight. Yes, the loss to Jonathan Martinez was quite controversial — the Russian surpassed his opponent in the number of significant hits (47:38) and takedowns (3:0), except that he controlled him a little less time. But there were still reasons to take the side of the American. In the second round, Khabiba's namesake gave up the initiative and subsequently failed to regain it. Therefore, he did not extend a successful series of four fights.
Initially, Nurmagomedov was supposed to fight in August, but for an unspecified reason he withdrew from the duel with Kyler Phillips, but recovered quickly and got the opportunity to fight in Abu Dhabi. Yes, Muin Gafurov's status is much inferior to the American, but he should not be underestimated. After all, he took the LFA bantamweight title, and before that he fought with the notorious John Lineker for three rounds.
But you can't call it an impassable opponent either. He demonstrated his weaknesses in the fight with John Castaneda - first he missed not the sharpest high kick, and then he allowed himself to be moved to the canvas three times and held there for more than four minutes. Said, on the other hand, is clearly of a higher level and is able to both interrupt the representative of Tajikistan in the standing position and crush in the referee's position.
Ex-contender test for Mokaev
In turn, Muhammad Mokaev will have to prove that he is already capable of performing at the elite level. Tim Elliott will turn 37 in December, but his highest class is undeniable. In 2016, he won one of the most representative seasons in the history of The Ultimate Fighter and received the right to fight with the then king of the flyweight division, Demetrious Johnson. And although he did not rise to such heights later, he remained an extremely dangerous opponent. This was felt by Tagir Ulanbekov, who was unable to oppose anything to the veteran in March 2022.
And now it's Mokaev's turn to face Elliott, who is quite inconvenient for him. He is good in wrestling, and he is ready to perform a submission or choke from almost any position. And Muhammad was recently almost punished for sluggishness on the ground and only at the cost of an injury got out of the knee lever in a duel with Jafel Filho. And if he allows himself to be as relaxed in the fight with Tim, he may lose a zero in the "defeat" column. And after that, you can forget about the imminent inclusion in the number of contenders for the trophy.
Bullet Balls' Debut
Despite the presence of a number of fighters of the first magnitude on the card, the debut of Sharabutdin Magomedov can be safely called one of the most discussed events of UFC 294. In recent years, he has become a real star of Russian MMA and conquered many fans with his bright knockouts and incredible striking technique. Therefore, his signing to the largest promotion on the planet did not come as a surprise to anyone. Moreover, many are already predicting the title of the strongest middleweight of the championship.
He will take his first step towards the trophy in a duel with Bruno Silva, a tough opponent who lacks stars from the sky. In the UFC, he has a record of 4-3, but he won almost all victories over average athletes (but exclusively by knockout). Only league veteran Brad Tavares, who was previously in the top 10 of the category, stands out against their background. Nevertheless, you should not write off the Brazilian, or doubt his ability to launch a bright battle with the Russian. He is unlikely to "dry" the fight and will probably get involved with Magomedov in a tough chop. And fans can't ask for a better start to the show.
Changing the opponent right before the tournament is a common practice in mixed martial arts. So, before the show in Abu Dhabi, both Islam Makhachev and Khamzat Chimaev had to change the training plan abruptly, however, Ikram Aliskerov suffered the most. Initially, he was supposed to fight with Paulo Costa, but he was given a more high-status opponent in the person of Borz, while Nussourdin Imavov was put up against the Russian. However, he was also forced to withdraw due to sudden visa problems.
As a result, Worli Alves will be in the opposite corner from Aliskerov. In the middle of the last decade, he was at his peak - he became the triumphant of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 and prevailed over the future holder of the interim title Colby Covington, but his ascent did not last long. After defeats to Brian Barbarena and Kamaru Usman, he fell out of the welterweight elite and alternated successes with failures, which is why he even dropped out of the top 15.
And although he will only celebrate his 33rd birthday in January, few believe in his ability to build a successful career in the UFC. Now the Brazilian is on a series of two defeats, and the third can not only finally put an end to his prospects, but also deprive him of work in the organization. And so far, everything is moving towards this. Bookmakers consider the Russian to be the clear favorite of the upcoming confrontation, which is hard to disagree with. Especially in light of his impressive performance against Phil Hawes. Then 130 seconds were enough for Ikram to knock out his opponent.
In December last year, the Russian light heavyweight experienced the strongest shock of his career. In the main event of UFC 282, Magomed Ankalaev not only interrupted Jan Blachowicz, but also spent more than 11 minutes in a dominant position, doing everything possible to win the vacant title of 93 kg.
As a result, Ankalaev did not enter the octagon for ten months. During this time, Jamal Hill managed to win the light heavyweight belt and subsequently leave it due to injury, and the Russian himself recovered from numerous injuries. It would seem that in such a situation, the most logical thing would be to give him another chance to compete for the trophy, but the organizers acted differently and appointed him a duel with Johnnie Walker. At the moment, the Brazilian is on a series of three victories, but is not even in the top five of his category.
Recently, Ankalaev has been repeatedly and rightly criticized for not the most spectacular manner of fighting. And if we are to believe his words, he took note of it. As he said in one of his interviews, in Abu Dhabi he will try to perform as spectacularly as possible and win ahead of schedule. And if he keeps his word, he will probably again become the first contender for the belt and at the beginning of next year he will be able to fight with the strongest in a duel between Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira.
Fulfillment of Chimaev's wish
Over the past couple of years, Kamaru Usman has remained one of Khamzat Chimaev's main targets. The native of Chechnya wanted to fight him when he held the welterweight title, and his interest did not wane after the Nigerian lost to Leon Edwards twice in a row and lost the trophy. And although the athletes regularly exchanged insults on social networks and expressed their willingness to share the cage, there was no official announcement. And after the newly-minted representative of the UAE was scheduled to meet with Paolo Costa in 83.9 kg, it began to seem that this battle was in danger of not taking place at all. However, misfortune helped.
Ten days before the tournament, Costa contracted a staph infection and was forced to lie on the operating table, and hopes of performing in Abu Dhabi were dashed. It seemed impossible to find a worthy opponent for Chimaev in such a short time, but suddenly Usman appeared on the horizon. According to him, the manager did not even have time to fully talk about the organizers' proposal, as he agreed to measure his strength with Khamzat. Subsequently, his idea was approved by the coaching staff.
However, it is difficult to agree with him. In recent fights, Usman no longer looked as impressive as before, so he would probably be considered an underdog in the fight with Chimaev, even if it took place in his native category. And in the middleweight division, it may be even more difficult for him to counter the physically more powerful Khamzat. Hardly anyone will dare to reproach Kamara for his lack of character now, but the question is how sensibly he assesses his strength. After all, now not only the title of a contender for the belt is at stake (according to Yahoo! Sports journalist Kevin Lowle), but also the career of the Nigerian. After all, after three consecutive defeats, the 36-year-old athlete may seriously think about leaving the sport.
Despite the similar circumstances, the balance of power in the main event of UFC 294 is somewhat different. Yes, Alexander Volkanovski also urgently came out as a substitute for Charles Oliveira and allegedly put himself in a difficult position, agreeing to have a rematch with Islam Makhachev on short notice. But if Usman is actually risking his career, then the Australian has almost nothing to lose. If by some miracle he prevails, he will not only register one of the most sensational victories in UFC title fights, but also make a bid for inclusion in the pantheon of the greatest. And if he loses, he will be able to justify himself by the lack of proper time to prepare. And who can object to him?
Thus, Makhachev is under even more pressure than in their previous duel. If then he was opposed by the leader of the pound-for-pound rating, who went through a full camp and did not lose for almost ten years, now he is a fighter pulled out of vacation, forced in the shortest possible time not only to get in shape, but also to go through an exhausting weight race. According to him, ten days before the fight, his body weight was 82 kg, 12 more than the division's weight limit.
At the same time, Makhachev will be expected, if not an early victory, then, at least, domination in the octagon. After all, this time everything works for him. The Russian will perform in front of a crowded arena in Abu Dhabi, Khabib Nurmagomedov will help him until the fight, and he himself is in his best shape, according to his coach Javier Mendes. And if everything goes according to plan, then on October 21, he will not only hold the second defense of the title, but also turn the page with Volkanovski. After all, after two defeats, the Australian will no longer have the right to demand a meeting with him - and here a short notice can no longer be considered an excuse. After all, he himself took this risk.