It’s hard to pick out a theme for this section of the card for UFC Moscow. There are a few prospects, a few veterans in decline, and even a few veterans on the rise. Who to pay attention to? Hard to say. Petr Yan is one of the prospects, though he’s getting a youthful short-notice opponent who doesn’t appear likely to test him too much. Mairbek Taisumov has been dispatching of all opposition in impressive manner, but can’t get his VISA issues sorted out to allow him to compete on bigger shows. If that ever gets sorted out, he’d be the one I’d be highlighting. Here’s hoping that happens sooner rather than later.
The prelims for UFC Moscow begin at 10:30 AM ET/7:30 AM PT on Saturday, exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.
Khalid Murtazaliev (13-2) vs. CB Dollaway (17-8), Middleweight
There always has to be something funky about a CB Dollaway fight. Whether it’s him emerging the victor despite asking repeatedly “what happened?” as he’s carried out of the cage on a stretcher or being forced to pull out of a contest due to an elevator falling and getting stuck, there’s always something. This time, shenanigans began prior to the fight as Murtazaliev is his third opponent after Omari Akhmedov and Artem Frolov both had to pull out due to injury. Murtazaliev was announced less than a week before the event. All is well in Dollaway-land….
Despite the unique circumstances that seem to surround him, Dollaway is a sound test for a youngster looking to make his way. The former collegiate All-American wrestler can fall in love with his big right hand from time to time, though he generally does a good job of mixing in takedowns with his boxing. Don’t sleep on Dollaway’s subs either as he’s pulled out a couple of surprise victories after an opponent didn’t take his grappling serious. However, he does appear to be shopworn after the years inside the cage against higher level competition.
Murtazaliev is in many ways your typical Russian prospect: a bulldozer reliant on his powerful wrestling with more than enough pop in his fists to spare. He is surprisingly adept at passing guard, the crucifix being his favorite position to lay in the punishment on his opposition. Murtazaliev’s standup still has a long way to go as he is too tentative for his own good. However, to the surprise of no one, he can turn out the lights with a single punch.
It’s hard to say if Dollaway still has something left in the tank. Sure, he has won two in a row, but the last victory came by way of DQ. He’ll have a hard time getting his wrestling going against Murtazaliev, though Murtazaliev will have the same issue as Dollaway isn’t easy to get to the mat either. Though Murtazaliev is taking the fight on late notice, I still favor his youth and durability over Dollaway’s declining chin. Murtazaliev via TKO of RD1
Petr Yan (9-1) vs. Jin Soo Son (9-2), Bantamweight
Yan made a hell of a statement in his UFC debut, finishing off an uber-tough Teruto Ishihara, something no one else had previously been able to do. Mixing some straight forward power with a little bit of flair – nailing Ishihara with some brutal straight punches with a spinning back fist in there for good measure – Yan displayed a striking prowess that can only come with years of competitive experience. He’s also known for his kicks and GnP, but didn’t get an opportunity to display those against Ishihara.
Son would prefer it stay that way. The young Korean offers a lanky and ripped frame with good power in his single power strikes. The 25-year old is often smiling, laughing, and jawing with his opponent, potentially getting into their head before he springs his attack. Son has been developing a jab, though he still prefers to throw low kicks out there to gauge the distance rather than punches.
Son is getting a tough assignment filling in for Douglas da Silva Andrade on short notice. Son did take the DEEP bantamweight title in his last contest, but Yan is a BIG jump in competition from the opposition Son was fighting. He has potential and the UFC could have something in him, but it’ll be a few years before Son is ready to compete with the likes of Yan. Yan via TKO of RD1
Rustam Khabilov (22-3) vs. Kajan Johnson (23-13-1), Lightweight
In some ways, it seems like it’s been even longer than four years since Khabilov was the hottest new thing in the lightweight division. The UFC set him up opposite Benson Henderson and when Khabilov couldn’t secure the win, he’s largely been buried ever since. Even though he’s won five in a row, Khabilov can’t secure a contest with a ranked opponent. Part of that has to do with his inability to do anything other than grind out boring victories, though the contests have been clear cut wins for the Russian. If Khabilov can pull out a suplex or two similar to the ones that put him on the map, he’s probably going to get the level of opponent he’s looking for.
Many are surprised Johnson is still on the UFC roster following his loss to Islam Makhachev. Not because he doesn’t deserve to be there, but his support of unionization puts him at odds with UFC management. Nonetheless, the lanky lightweight is getting another chance against another tough grinder. His best hope will be to stay on the outside and pick apart Khabilov. Johnson has proven he can implement that strategy to great effect, though he tired himself out about halfway through the contest the last time he utilized this strategy.
Johnson’s caginess was only going to take him so far as his loss to Makhachev proved. As stated, Khabilov is incredibly similar to Makhachev. That doesn’t bode well for the Canadian. Khabilov doesn’t have the killer instinct Makhachev does, so Johnson should be able to at least go the distance. Khabilov via decision
Mairbek Taisumov (26-5) vs. Desmond Green (21-7), Lightweight
Many are surprised that Green is still in this contest as he was involved in a multiple car crash that left two dead with early indications being Green was at fault. Forgetting about how his physical skills match up with Taisumov, there are serious questions whether his head is in the right place for this contest.
Should Green make it to the contest with his head on straight, he does provide a different type of skill set than those that Taisumov has been presented with in his recent contests. Green’s an athletic wrestle-boxer whose tentativeness has been his biggest issue holding him back from climbing the ladder. He did let his fists fly against Gleison Tibau, making the most effective use of a jab that he ever has in his career. Then again, Tibau isn’t known for his striking….
Taisumov may be one of the best strikers in the division, a lack of contests with top competition being the only thing from allowing him to prove he is. The Russian has won five straight contests, all via strikes, none of them coming later than the second round. Most of the finishes have come off his slick boxing, but he’s mixed in some head kicks as well. His recent string of success has led many to forget he’s a solid wrestler too, the brickhouse Michel Prazeres the only one who has successfully taken down Taisumov in his UFC run.
Even if there were no questions about Green’s state of mind, I doubt many people would be favoring the American in this one. Given the recent circumstances, there’s no way in hell I can see anyone confidently picking Green. Taisumov should get his fast hands working and find the angle to put away Green… no easy feat. Taisumov via TKO of RD2