The UFC and its roster seem to be filled with more fighters from Russia each year, and that poses the question, who will be the next Russian UFC champion?
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Petr Yan are the only two men so far to hold the gold from that part of the world, and it is looking more of a certainty than a chance that we will see more Russian UFC champions in the not-so-distant future. Here are a few of the most likely contenders in the UFC today.
Petr Yan – Bantamweight
Petr Yan is one of the most technically proficient strikers trying to be the next UFC champion. Other than his last bout with champion Aljamain Sterling, he has looked like an absolute terror for the entire division. The former champion has stopped the Likes of Jose Aldo and Uriah Faber and is next slated to fight superstar Sean O"Malley at UFC 280. If he succeeds in beating “The Suga Show" in an impressive fashion, he will surely be back at the front of the line when it comes to the next shot at the title.
Islam Makhachev – Lightweight
Also on the UFC 280 card is the heir apparent to the lightweight throne that coach Khabib Nurmagomedov once ruled the 155 division from. Russian UFC fighter, Islam Makhachev is currently the holder of a 10-fight win streak and faces off with Charles Oliviera, the Lazarus-like champion who has won over MMA fans across the globe, one win at a time. Makhachev will look to end the heartwarming resurgence using his all too familiar pressure-wrestling to try and break “Do Bronx".
Much like compatriot Islam Makhachev, Ankalaev lost a lot of momentum due to an early UFC slip-up, his against Paul Craig. He dominated the entire fight, and yet that slippery devil Craig fought with everything he had when perhaps Ankalaev was already celebrating. The pain caused that day has been duly taken out on half of the light-heavyweight roster. Krylov, Oedzimir, Santos and Smith are the last four to fall by the wayside at the hands of the Dagestan-born Sambo master. It would appear that a title bout with a certain Samurai is on the horizon.
Aliaskhab Khizriev – Middleweight
An outsider that could be overlooked is Aliaskhab Khizriev, an undefeated and recently returning middleweight who took out Rousimar Palhares in the first round, earning him a shot on Dana White"s Contender Series 2020, where he earned a contract. Following a two-year layoff, Khizriev returned at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Daukaus, winning by submission in the second round against Denis Tiuliulin, “The Black Wolf" does look to be a nightmare match-up for many of 185"s elite, even if he is a way off from facing them yet.
Sergei Pavlovich – Heavyweight
The UFC"s scariest Ivan Drago impersonator, Sergei Pavlovich, almost feels overlooked in the heavyweight title picture. 16-1, with thirteen knockouts, he fits the bill of a Dana White kinda fighter. Pavlovich took out Derrick Lewis at UFC 277, cementing him as a threat to anyone in the division. With so much chaos and hold-ups in at heavyweight, could Pavlovich be flying under the radar, and straight for Francis Ngannou"s belt?
Mosvar Evloev – Featherweight
Another undefeated Russian in the mix is 145-pound Greco-Roman specialist Mosvar Evloev. Perhaps flying under the radar, the American Top Team combatant most recently beat Dan Ige. Now 6-0 in the UFC and ranked number seven, most of the fighters ahead of him are either injured or have recently fought. A bout with Arnold Allen may be on the horizon, with the winner in prime position to challenge for the title.
Umar Nurmagomedov – Bantamweight
Umar Nurmagomedov may be relatively new to the UFC, but he has made quite the impression. With better striking than most of the sambo-heavy fighters from Dagestan, Umar looks to be the complete package. A younger cousin of Khabib, Nurmagomedov has a while to go yet before a title shot, but it wouldn"t be surprising to see him competing near the top of the division in a short space of time. Currently a flawless 15-0, he has competed at both 135 and 145 in the UFC.
With so many bright prospects on the horizon, it looks more a matter of when than if there will be a Russian UFC champion. Islam Makhachev is the closest to touching the gold, but we could have multiple champions from the land of vodka and everlasting winters.
Who do you think the next Russian UFC champion will be?
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