Saturday’s ‘UFC Fight Island 3’ event will host a lengthy card consisting of 15 fights with majority containing one European fighter at least, the main attraction of the evening is the thrilling main event involving former champion Robert Whittaker and top UK fighter Darren Till in what has potential to be a title eliminator. However here I will be previewing and breaking down an overlooked light-heavyweight bout that takes place on the main card between another British fighter in Paul Craig, who fights out of Coatbridge, Scotland and 33 year old Russian veteran Gadzhimurad Antigulov.
|Paul Craig||Tale of the Tape||Gadzhimurad Antigulov|
|205 pounds||Weight||205 pounds|
|76 inches||Reach||70.5 inches|
Bearjew’ brings a particularly unique and exciting style to the explosive light heavyweight division. On the feet, he is long, rangy, and has shown many technical improvements over time. Which in turn, has brought him to the point where he is a great mixed martial artist rather than the Bjj fighter with limited striking which he once was. He stands at 6’3 with a 76-inch reach. On the other hand, what he uses to advantage most is the length of his legs. He has incredible submissions off his back and a strong top game.
Craig’s losses in the UFC have all came to very athletic fighters. One example is the Alonzo Menifield loss stands out when thinking of this. He was caught in a position that he can not afford to put himself in against these explosive talented fighters. To me, this is the main factor behind Craig’s losses. He appears to get way too comfortable in certain positions on the feet and on the mat which you simply can’t afford to do.
Craig is coming off a draw with MMA legend Shogun Rua which took place in November 2019. Prior to this, he beat Vinicius Moreira in the first round by knockout. With a win here I feel Craig sets himself up to be one fight away from entering the rankings. Some people would disagree with this due to the fact he has losses to four fighters ahead of him such as Alonzo Menifield and Khalil Rountree JR. However, he also has a win over Magomed Ankalaev who is currently ranked #15. Considering the landscape of the light heavyweight roster I feel he is closer to the top-level than his record would suggest.
Antigulov fought in the Russian circuit for 9 years, and he was the two times light heavyweight champion for to Absolute Championship Berkut. He amassed a record of 18-4 prior to joining the UFC. Antigulov made his promotional debut on November 19, 2016, at UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Nogueira 2 against Marcos Rogério de Lima. He took his first UFC win via a guillotine choke on 67 seconds into round one. Since then he has gone 1-2 in the space of 3 years. He has stayed inactive and now finds himself on a two-fight skid both coming by stoppages.
He is a very athletic and powerful individual who’s the main aim in fights is to smother his opponents and maul them, the problem with that strategy is if you don’t apply the correct footwork when closing the distance you can be walked onto shots and that’s exactly what happened in his last fight against Michał Oleksiejczuk.
The oddsmakers have this pretty much dead even which personally I do not agree with, not to say there should be a huge favorite in this fight but I believe based on their pasts Paul Craig has proven to be a bad matchup for Antigulov stylistically. This is because Craig’s clear main threat is his submission game and he struggles in fights where he can’t apply that whether that’s due to being outmatched on the mat like he was against Jimmy Crute or whether he can’t safely close the distance so puts himself in a terrible position to get finished like against Menifield.
However, that really won’t be an issue against Antigulov as he will be looking to close the distance too and furthermore is a technically worse striker than Craig in my opinion. So ultimately the question for this fight is will Antigulov show improvements in his game and use his takedown threat to hurt Craig on the feet or will he recklessly plod his way into the clinch and try and smother Craig holding the top position.
We will just have to wait and see which approach he takes. To me, he seems a little outmatched here because Craig is comfortable fighting against either of the approaches. Don’t get me wrong his striking defense is questionable but he is always improving and like I said technically is slicker on the feet and I favor that over a basic brute swinging a wild overhand off a takedown threat that really isn’t much of a threat in this matchup because of how happy Craig is to fight off his back. If Antigulov puts him against the cage and takes him down the question becomes can the Russian fight off the submission threat and dominate the grappling which personally I don’t think he can.
This is a very interesting match up. Both men hold very specific skill sets and on Saturday night we will learn who the better mixed martial artist is out of the two.
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