It’s hard to know for sure how to feel about UFC Moscow. The main event between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Calvin Kattar was a lot of fun, but it was the rare three-round main event. Though Greg Hardy finally got the undisputed loss hung on him, it wasn’t the violent KO many were hoping would befall him. In fact, it could be argued he walked out with his stock higher than it was going in. There were several highlight reel finishes, but there were also a few snoozers. Overall, it was a perfectly acceptable Fight Night card, though I also can see if you feel strongly one way or the other.
Zabit Magomedsharipov: Opinions on Zabit’s performance were all over the place. He looked good over the first two rounds, but he faded down the stretch. He won the fight, but what if it had been five rounds? All the hype surrounding him for the last couple of years is starting to rear its head as he inches closer to the top of the division. Regardless, Kattar is a quality opponent – perhaps the best Zabit has faced – and there’s little doubt he deserved the win. Whether he deserves a shot at the title as some have speculated… it’s a fair argument that could go either way. There are several tough opponents he has been able to skate around – Yair Rodriguez, Renato Moicano, Chan Sung Jung, and Brian Ortega – some who might even have a stronger argument for that shot. Regardless of how you see it, Zabit deserves to be in the conversation at the very least, which often makes them deserving enough for the shot at the gold.
Danny Roberts: It’s only natural to question how well Roberts would come back from not just back-to-back losses, but one where he was outright embarrassed by Michel Prazeres. Roberts came back strong, engaging in a fun back-and-forth with Zelim Imadaev before ending it emphatically with a HEAVY left hand that spun Imadaev around to the ground. It was easily the most memorable singular moment in Roberts’ career. I can’t say whether this marks a turning point in his career as he’s been mired outside the rankings as a fun action fighter, but these type of moments have been known to spur a fighter to greater success.
Ed Herman: 13 years later after his UFC debut and Herman is still trucking along winning fights in the UFC. He wasn’t technical in all aspects of the fight – some of those punches, yeesh! – but he made up for it in the clinch and with his overall brilliant strategy to wear down the younger Khadis Ibragimov. As the only fighter on the UFC roster from the first four seasons of TUF at the moment, a lot of credit needs to go to the veteran for his staying power. Can we please put Herman in the video game now? Woo!
Anthony Rocco Martin: It looked like the UFC was setting Martin up for a trap contest. Ramazan Emeev isn’t a flashy opponent, one most fans haven’t heard of. But he also looked like a bad opponent on paper for Martin in addition to being dangerous. Instead, Martin came out on fire, yelling and screaming all throughout the introductions and carrying that forward into the contest. His attack wasn’t exactly sexy, landing a LOT of calf kicks as opposed to looking to take off Emeev’s head. However, forcing Emeev to fight at a distance took the Russian out of his comfort level as Martin never allowed the fight to go to the clinch for a long period of time. It was a clear sign of growth as Martin executed the perfect strategy.
Shamil Gamzatov: I was reluctant to put Gamzatov here, but he turned up the volume in the final round to take a fight that was up in the air. That’s enough for me to put him here as it showed he wanted it more. However, he’ll need to show more moving forward as most of the fight was a tepid kickboxing with a Brazilian who isn’t known for his own kickboxing abilities. Perhaps UFC jitters is part of it, but I’d like to think Gamzatov is better than that.
Magomed Ankalaev: The biggest complaint about Ankalaev coming into the event was the lack of flash from the formerly hot prospect. It looked like more of the same in the first as Ankalaev engaged in a tentative kickboxing contest with Dalcha Lungiambula. However, the tide began to change in the second with Ankalaev delivering Khabib-esque GnP, carving up Lungiambula’s face with short elbows and punches. The third is where Ankalaev really turned it up, landing a front kick out of nowhere that staggered Lungiambula, followed by a couple of punches to put on the exclamation point. Somewhere, Anderson Silva was smiling.
Karl Roberson: There have been a lot of questions about Roberson’s ability to climb the middleweight ladder. At this point, at least we know he has the cajones. Despite coasting to an uneventful lead over the first two rounds, Roberson didn’t want to throw in the towel despite one of the worst eye pokes in recent memory at the hands of Roman Kopylov. Roberson’s eye filled with blood and he later admitted he couldn’t see out of it. Had the fight been called, Roberson would have won. Instead, he opts to continue, turned Kopylov’s aggression against him, and securing a RNC. Cajones indeed.
David Zawada: Zawada’s submission of Abubakar Nurmagomedov was a big FU to those who say the German is a wild man who takes whatever is given to him. Zawada knew Nurmagomedov was going to get him to the mat. He also knew he’d be able to find a triangle as Nurmagomedov didn’t show Zawada’s guard any respect. The combination armbar-triangle choke proved to be a lethal combination, Nurmagomedov sinking deeper into one as he fought the other. It was the choke that eventually did the job, allowing Zawada to keep his job.
Roosevelt Roberts: Far from a flawless performance, it’s nonetheless hard not to be impressed by the continued progress from the American. Working his way out of several sticky situations presented to him from the wily Alexander Yakovlev, Roberts proved he’s able to wade through some deep waters to pull out a victory. The youngster still has a long way to go to fulfill the hype Dana White has thrown his way, but the path he’s on could lead in that direction.
Pannie Kianzad: I had been under the impression Kianzad would need to use her wrestling to get the better of Jessica-Rose Clark. I assumed wrong. Kianzad looked more technical and comfortable on the feet than I can ever remember. Perhaps the best part for her was Kianzad looked confident, something that hasn’t been the case for a while. This could be a good foundation for the Swede to get her career back on track.
Davey Grant: It’s hard for me to feel very high on Grant’s UFC future, but he did look better than he ever has in the UFC in his victory over Grigorii Popov. It could have been more impressive had Grant not put himself in several bad situations a more skilled grappler would have taken advantage of, but Grant also escaped each time. He also demonstrated perfectly how aggression can overwhelm technique as he was the more effective striker most of the contest, despite Popov’s Muay Thai background.
Zelim Imadaev: Based on the reputation Imadaev has gained outside the cage, many would say Imadaev getting violently flattened was a well-deserved outcome. That isn’t to say Imadaev looked like crap up until the KO. An argument could be made he was winning. Nonetheless, that makes two losses in two tries under the UFC banner. I won’t say he’s going to be cut at this point, but it isn’t an impossibility. I wouldn’t take that route as he’s only 24 and should learn from these performances, but the UFC has been doing a mini-purge as of late.
Khadis Ibragimov: The moment that stands out the most in Ibragimov’s contest with Herman was Ibraimov’s very loud grunt as he tried to wrest Herman to the ground with pure strength. Ibragimov is a strong kid, but try using some technique buddy! Ibragimov did land some hard shots and it was a fun contest, but being stupid with his technique gassed him quickly and made it clear early in the contest he was more than likely going down. Ibragimov has a LOT of talent, enough that I don’t see the UFC cutting him loose quite yet. But the youngster needs to learn how to properly use those gifts.
Ramazan Emeev: Given Emeev’s grinding style, everyone knew the UFC wasn’t going to give him many opportunities to score a breakout win. He may have just wasted the only opportunity he’s going to get. Martin isn’t a star, but he is a name many fans recognize and he presented a style that appeared favorable to Emeev. Emeev looked rattled from a mental standpoint early and never got the fight where he wanted it. I don’t see Emeev getting cut, but a career similar to that of Khabilov appears very likely.
Klidson Abreu: I scored the contest with Gamzatov in favor of Abreu. That doesn’t mean Abreu was robbed as he opted to coast in the final round of what had been a very close fight, but it also helps explain why I liked what I saw out of Abreu more than I did out of Gamzatov despite Gamzatov emerging the winner. However, Abreu taking the final round off is a glaring negative as the first two rounds were close. If there is even an inkling that one of your rounds is close, you NEVER take off the final round. Abreu’s boxing and movement is looking better in addition to looking comfortable at middleweight. But it’s clear his mindset still needs some adjustment.
Dalcha Lungiambula: It’s hard not to be impressed by Lungiambula’s explosiveness. He had a moment in the first where he clipped Ankalaev with a punch that stunned the Russian. However, that’s about where the positives end for the former EFC champion. Ankalaev overwhelmed him on the mat, then landed a rare front kick KO. Lungiambula’s lack of size is going to be an issue as it makes it difficult for him to cover the ground needed to knock his opponent silly. I’m not ready to declare he needs to go to middleweight, but this strengthens that argument.
Sergey Khandozhko: No one was surprised Khandozhko was unable to fend off Rustam Khabilov’s pressure. Nonetheless, it was still a painful affair to watch and it captured exactly why many were lukewarm about Khandozhko’s future prospects with his lack of takedown defense. To Khandozhko’s credit, he did look better in that aspect than he did on the regional scene. Regardless, it was a grinding loss to a former lightweight. Not a good day for Khandozhko.
Roman Kopylov: While I don’t believe the loss to Roberson is as bad on the surface as it looks, it looks really bad. Kopylov damages Roberson’s vision with an illegal tactic. Roberson could have been honest, claimed he couldn’t see out of the eye, and walked away with a win. Instead, he gives Kopylov every opportunity to steal the contest. Kopylov couldn’t do it. I don’t think it’s as bad as it seems as the fight was close in the first two rounds and Kopylov did try to take advantage of the situation, but damn… it looks bad.
Abubakar Nurmagomedov: It’s got to be hard being Khabib’s cousin. Abubakar clearly isn’t as gifted, but he gets a heavy does of expectations because of the association. Then, Abubakar gets subbed in about two minutes and the partisan crowd immediately goes silent. It’s times like that when silence is deafening. The disappointment was most visible in Abubakar’s reaction; he looked devastated. Did I mention Conor McGregor threw some jabs out on Twitter too? While McGregor’s commentary was hardly clever – more on that in a bit = it does bring more attention to Abubakar’s loss, hardly something he would want.
Alexander Yakovlev: Yakovlev is one of those fighters who would greatly benefit from a 165 lb. weight class. He’s not strong enough at 170, but is so depleted at 155 that his energy levels are low. Yakovlev did have some success, timing a takedown early in the second and putting Roberts in bad situations. However, it was his inability to compete with Roosevelt’s activity on the feet that cost him early and a lack of overall energy late. Given 165 doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon, it’s more than likely we never see what an optimal Yakovlev looks like.
Jessica-Rose Clark: It isn’t often the UFC presents a fighter with an opportunity to get revenge when there is no financial incentive to do so. And yet, they did so for Clark. Unfortunately for the Aussie, she didn’t let her fists fly enough to defeat Kianzad. Some may say this is the reason Clark should have stayed at flyweight. I disagree. Clark didn’t look bad; she was incredibly accurate and looked very technically sound. It was simply the lack of volume. However, that’s also an indication she could have won this contest. This loss is on her.
Grigorii Popov: Popov very easily could have beaten Grant. In fact, most fighters in his position would have found a way to do so. However, Popov showed his inexperience on the ground, losing several submission attempts as he didn’t properly secure the proper positioning, preventing him from finishing the fight on the mat. Popov needs more seasoning. The problem is he started his MMA career late; he’s already 35. It doesn’t look like Popov is going to get that time.
Russia: Traveling a long distance is always a disadvantage for fighters. Thus, you’d think the Russians would have had a pretty good night with their opposition – in most cases – having further to travel. At the very least, they would have the crowd behind them. Well, a 4-7 record in contests where they weren’t squaring off against one another says otherwise. Ouch.
Calvin Kattar: There are many who questioned whether Kattar deserved to be fighting the caliber of opponent of Zabit. However, many would also acknowledge the only way to find out is to put him in there with him. Kattar may have lost, but he proved he deserved to be in there with the likes of Zabit. Given Zabit is being discussed as getting a title shot, Kattar can compete with the best. What needs to be remembered is Kattar lost and though he was competitive, he lost decisively. Kattar struggled with being the shorter fighter – something he isn’t accustomed to – but he’s also one of the smarter fighters in the organization. He can get better. He will get better.
Alexander Volkov: There’s been a lot of criticism of Volkov’s performance given he didn’t put Hardy away. There’s a lot of things to be taken into account. First, Volkov has never been a power striker. His game was always about volume and cardio, something you don’t find a lot of in the heavyweight division. Second, love him or hate him, Hardy is a tough SOB. And third, Volkov was coming off a heartbreaking loss to Derrick Lewis. He needed a win more than he needed a statement and playing it safe was the best way for that to happen as opposed to recklessly searching for a finish. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any disappointment in his inability to finish Hardy, thus why he’s here. Volkov was once Bellator world champion, has a win over former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum. Hardy hadn’t fought anyone worthwhile. While the performance wasn’t bad, the expectations were reasonable and they weren’t met.
Greg Hardy: Those who eternally hate Hardy will disagree with me putting Hardy here and acknowledging any sort of positive, but I will give the same disclaimer I’ve given before. This has nothing to do with what Hardy has done in his personal life. This has everything to do with his MMA career and what he did in the cage. Hardy hung tough with Vokov, never shriveled, and landed a few nice shots. He did hurt his power hand early in the fight, limiting what he did down the stretch. He did fall short, but he’s also going to learn from this experience given he’s still very green. It’s plausible his development is going to be accelerated from this fight.
Rustam Khabilov: Khabilov still hasn’t figured out why he never was able to get high profile fights at lightweight. Either that, or he doesn’t care. Khabilov did get back on the winning track by smothering Khandozhko for 15 minutes, but it was also devoid of excitement. Unless Khabilov can produce excitement in his next contest, don’t be surprised if his next loss is his last fight in the UFC.