On Thursday, it was announced that Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves would take place at UFC 262 on May 15. AG Fight originally broke the news, and it was confirmed by Ismagulov’s Instagram. Interestingly, the fight will take place at lightweight, Ismagulov’s primary division.
Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves Set for Lightweight Clash in Houston
May 16 marks Damir Ismagulov’s (19-2-0, 3-0-0 UFC) first fight since August 2019 when he defeated Thiago Moises by unanimous decision. The Russian prospect seeks to extend a three-fight win streak after decision wins over Alex Gorgees, Joel Alvarez, and Moises. However, UFC debutant Rafael Alves stands in his way. Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves should be a fantastic clash of lightweights, and Ismagulov wants to erase all doubt that he is the better fighter.
Rafael Alves (19-9-0, 0-0-0 UFC) is coming off a strange start to his UFC career, to say the least. Alves missed weight for his featherweight debut at 11.5 pounds due to a case of food poisoning, which put him over Rumble Johnson’s record for largest weight miss in UFC history. The bout was called off, much to Alves and his opponents’ chagrin. For context, he missed by so much that he missed the lightweight limit as well, and Mick Maynard even informed him that he would probably never fight at 145 again. If there is a weight miss before Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves, that may signal an end to the fighter’s UFC career.
Keys to the Fight: Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves
The Russian Ismagulov sports a 100% takedown defense rate in his three UFC fights, but his opponent in Alves is quite skilled at grappling. Alves sports seven recorded submission wins on his record. Nonetheless, Ismagulov will look to use his size over Alves, as he is used to fighting a division up from his opponent.
Keeping the fight in the clinch will likely be crucial for Ismagulov, who could get caught by Alves either on the feet or the floor. The clinch allows Ismagulov to control the fight and its pace, which is something he will almost certainly look to utilize as all three of his UFC fights have gone to the judges’ scorecards. If he can do this, Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves will likely side in the favor of the former.
Alves is a skilled grappler and striker and has fought for so long (since 2007) that neither Tapology nor Sherdog has a method of a win for the majority of his pro and amateur MMA fights. While he remains a fantastic offensive grappler, six of his losses have come via submission, which raises major questions about the Brazilian’s submission defense. To win the fight, Alves needs to make it a grappling match, as Ismagulov only has one submission win to his credit. If he cannot get Ismagulov to the ground, Alves must keep his distance and avoid the clinch control from his bigger opponent, otherwise, Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves has the potential to be one-sided.
He is as dangerous on his feet as he is on the ground, and he may put away his opponent through a well-timed strike. Additionally, there is an unseen mental factor for Alves. His original debut went about as poorly as possible, as he missed weight by a UFC-record 11.5 pounds and had the fight called off. The nerves may still be there, and the calamity of his last outing may add to it. To perform to his standards, Alves must stomach these feelings early and finish the fight, as Ismagulov has the cardio and patience to send a fight to the judge’s scorecards.
Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves may go to the scorecards, but that is not stopping this from shaping up to be a must-watch fight: either man could gain the upper hand at any time.
Potential Post-Fight Matchmaking
Ismagulov is riding a three-fight UFC win streak, and so four straight would look good for the Russian. He would seek to fight a top-15 contender coming off a loss, and Diego Ferreira or Drew Dober would make perfect sense. Dober was just dominated by Islam Makhachev and so he looks to bounce back from that tough loss.
Rafael Alves needs to perform well in this bout. His disaster of a debut raised calls for the UFC to cut him, and a finish loss could spell the end for Alves. A split decision loss may keep him, but if he wins, he will look towards another young lightweight prospect. European lightweight sensation Paddy Pimblett has reportedly signed with the UFC and the streaking Scouser might make the perfect fight for Alves. Pimblett has dominated his Cage Warriors competition, and Alves provides a new challenge.
Damir Ismagulov vs Rafael Alves looks to be a fantastic scrap at UFC 262. How do you see it playing out? Let me know in the comments!