Abdul Razak Alhassan has moved up to middleweight to face off against Jacob Malkoun this Saturday at UFC Vegas 24, at the APEX facility.
This bout is the third of a six-fight main card. It is headlined by near a guaranteed exciting fight between former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and former interim title challenger Kelvin Gastelum. The two were previously booked in a championship fight in Australia in 2019, however, it fell through on the day of the fight as Robert Whittaker was admitted to hospital.
The main card is collectively is strong, with a blend of familiar names and some lesser-known to UFC fans. The middleweight bout between Abdul Razak Alhassan and Jacob Malkoun promises to be a very interesting watch.
The pair, on paper, promises an exhilarating scrap, with Alhassan making his debut at Middleweight and Malkoun coming back after his first professional defeat. The mix of their fighting styles could likely produce another clip for one of their highlight reels.
Alhassan vs Malkoun: Meet the Fighters
Abdul Razak Alhassan
Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3-0) will look to start 2021 off positively, following the first string of losses in his professional MMA career last year. ‘Judo Thunder’ made the walk twice in 2020. His first loss of the year was at the hands of UFC debutant, Mounir Lazzez at UFC Fight Island 1. Alhassan missed the Welterweight limit by 3 pounds, he lost convincingly to the Tunisian-born fighter on the judge’s scorecards. His second walk to the octagon in November 2020, facing off against Khaos Williams. The Ghanian-born fighter missed the Welterweight mark again, this time by 1.5 pounds. That became a footnote in the story of the fight when he was stiffened unconsciously by Williams only 30 seconds into the fight.
Although 2020 was a hard year for Abdul Razak Alhassan, in the octagon, and on the scales, he has proven himself to be a very dangerous fighter until that point. Scoring some very impressive victories, especially his win over Niko Price in 2018, he has shown real power in the octagon. Having made the move up in weight class, the first battle of fight week, weigh-ins, should be a far less daunting and draining exercise.
Speaking to media ahead of Saturday’s bout, Alhassan thought he was done with MMA after his two losses in 2020, but with advice from Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman on weight cutting and changing his mindset in the build-up to fights, he is ready to come back as a Middleweight.
Jacob Malkoun (4-1-0) can still be considered a newcomer to MMA, having only five bouts at the time of writing. The Australian fighter carried quite a bit of hype into his UFC debut, winning the ADCC 2019 Asia trials and a Pan Pacific gold medal in the same year. The hype seemed to be met with the same enthusiasm by the UFC, debuting Robert Whittaker training partner on PPV at UFC 254.
Malkoun was stopped 18 seconds into the first round of his debut fight in the promotion by fellow debutant, Phil Hawes. On the back foot, Malkoun succumbed to a flurry of combinations.
The disappointment of such an emphatic loss on such a big stage has damped the hype around Malkoun. “Mamba” spoke to the UFC’s press arm ahead of the bout on Saturday. He doesn’t want to dwell on his last fight, instead of lending his focus to the task at hand this weekend.
So, how do Adbul Razak Alhassan and Jacob Malkoun shape up?
Alhassan vs Malkoun: Breakdown
Although Abdul is moving up a weight class, he and his opponent have an identical reach of 73″, and he is taller by one inch at 5’10”. This could be interesting for Alhassan and I think this favours him, as the more powerful between the two.
The Ghanaian-born fighter will look to pressure Malkoun, similar to how Hawes did at UFC 254, swinging wild punches when he knows he has his opponent hurt. It sounds like a shallow tactic, however, Alhassan has been wildly successful with it, with all of his wins coming in the first round by TKO/KO.
It will be interesting to see how powerful the dangerous striker looks, now that he won’t be depleting his body as badly during his weight cut.
He must however be aware of the grappling prowess of Malkoun, and possibly give up the forward pressure at times if the Australian looks for the takedown. Alhassan has shown a beautiful short uppercut in previous fights, the same punch that left Sabah Homasi unconscious in their rematch at UFC 220.
Abdul Razak Alhassan’s path to victory is fairly clear, he will look to pressure his opponent with some caution early, trying to hurt him before letting his hands fly, a tactic that has come up trumps for him so many times before. It cannot be understated that reckless striking could also be his downfall, allowing Malkoun to implement his superior grappling.
Jacob Malkoun’s Jiu-Jitsu experience has been spoken about a lot in the last few years, however, he is a pretty well-rounded fighter. 3-0 in professional boxing, has a very nice jab, and always looks to follow it up with combinations. However fighting on the back foot was an issue in his last fight, and he will need to have learned from the mistakes of that bout if he to have any joy on the feet with Alhassan and his raw power.
The grappling record of the Australian is very impressive, but the translation to MMA is questionable to some. On the ground, he will pose real issues for Alhassan, but getting the fight there could be an issue. Simply put, his wrestling is nowhere near as good as his Jiu-Jitsu. His takedown attempts are telegraphed, he needs to threaten more in the striking before closing the distance in this fight, otherwise, his opponent will be able to move away from the grappling exchange before Malkoun tries to engage.
Malkoun has a few paths to victory. He must look to mix in striking before shooting for a takedown, once he has got him down, he will likely control Alhassan and look submit him. Another way could be through the overzealous nature, at times, of his opponent striking he may find at times he may not need to close the distance himself, and either tire him out early or get the takedown. The final could be simply serving the second round. We have very little of Alhassan in rounds two and three, and what we have seen is a loss of power, leading to two of his three defeats. Malkoun could take advantage of this and grind out the victory to a decision. There are more paths to victory for Malkoun, however, it cannot be overstated how dangerous Alhassan’s striking is and if he can land some good early shots to hurt the Australian, it could be a short evening.
Prediction: Alhassan def. Malkoun via TKO/KO R1
Who do you see winning this exciting heavyweight bout? Abdul Razak Alhassan or Jacob Malkoun? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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