Magomed Ankalaev is not the typical Dagestani MMA fighter. Though he does have the usual sambo and wrestling backgrounds, he is a striker. The 26-year old light heavyweight prospect looked sharp through his first two UFC fights. Although he did lose his debut, he dominated for 14:59 of the match before getting caught in a triangle. With that being the only loss of Ankalaev’s career, it still feels like he is undefeated. He will look to continue his run of great performances against promotional newcomer Klidson Abreu at UFC Prague.
Ankalaev made his promotional debut against Paul Craig at UFC Fight Night 127. Though he did fall to the triangle right before the final horn, there were many positive takeaways from this fight for Magomed Ankalaev. He showed promise in all aspects of the fight- the feet, the clinch, and on the ground.
On the feet, Magomed Ankalaev was sharp both offensively and defensively. Offensively, he showed he has speed and power in both of his hands. He appeared to be content fighting out of either stance, though he spent most of his time in southpaw. In the southpaw stance, Ankalaev’s go to weapon was his left leg. Whether he was throwing body kicks or high kicks, he was quick and accurate with that leg. His left body kicks were particularly impressive and damaging.
Defensively, Ankalaev’s head movement was pretty good as he was hard for Craig to hit throughout the fight. Ankalaev was content to stay at range, use his jab and kicking game to stay out of any real danger. Due to this, Craig only landed a few powerful shots throughout the fight.
In the clinch, Ankalaev again fought well both offensively and defensively. Offensively, he landed several knees to the body while the two were clinched. He also broke the clinch effectively multiple times, stunning Craig with hard shots that he never saw coming.
Ankalaev’s defense in the clinch was pretty good, though he did take a few knees to the body. His takedown defense from the clinch was particularly good, as he fought off two or three takedown attempts while landing solid knees.
On the Mat
Surprisingly for a Dagestani, Magomed Ankalaev was taken down twice in this fight. Both times it was just a nice level change by Craig that Ankalaev didn’t react to in time. But, when Ankalaev was on his back, he had a strong guard and didn’t really take any damage. Both times he was taken down, he ended up reversing Craig and got top position.
In one instance, Ankalaev showed incredible strength by fighting to a 50-50 position after being taken down. From the 50-50 spot, he worked a double-leg on Craig from his knees for the reversal. Three times throughout the fight, Ankalaev found himself in mount. All three times he landed hard and accurate ground and pound strikes. Though he doesn’t do much wrestling, if Ankalaev finds his way to full mount, his opponent is in serious trouble.
Impressive Second Fight
Magomed Ankalaev’s second UFC fight came against Marcin Prachnio at UFC Fight Night 136. He bounced back impressively from the letdown in his debut, knocking Prachnio out roughly three minutes into the first round. The takeaways from this fight were all about Ankalaev’s pressure as well as his striking.
Unlike what we saw in his first fight, Ankalaev spent pretty much this entire fight going forward. He kept the pressure on Prachnio the entire fight, never letting him establish much of a rhythm. Keeping Prachnio on his back foot was key for Ankalaev, as he was able to get in, land a few shots, and get out before Prachnio had time to throw any significant shots. Again in this fight, Ankalaev was virtually unhittable. His head movement was great and he slipped and countered several of Prachnio’s punches.
The striking takeaways from Ankalaev’s debut were confirmed in this fight. He had the most success fighting out of the southpaw stance. He landed powerful shots with his left hand, right hand, and left leg, just as before. The fight ending sequence showcased each aspect of Ankalaev’s striking. He was able to slip a shot, counter with a right hook, and finish his opponent off with a devastating left high kick. This kind of striking versatility will continue to play a major role in Ankalaev’s success, especially in the light heavyweight division.
Fight at UFC Prague
Magomed Ankalaev’s path to victory will likely be through striking with Klidson Abreu. All of Abreu’s career finished have come via submission. Ankalaev needs to keep the fight on the feet and tighten up his takedown defense. If the fight does make its way to the ground, whether either guy gets taken down or Ankalaev gets a knockdown, Ankalaev needs to be careful when in top position. If he looks to finish the fight with ground and pound, he needs to be cautious to not make himself vulnerable to a triangle like in his UFC debut.
He also needs to choose wisely when to throw his left high kick, as it will likely make him very vulnerable to be taken down. If he finds himself on the ground, his guard seems to be strong enough to take away a major threat of submission, though Abreu does have ten submission victories. Magomed Ankalaev comes into this fight as a substantial betting favorite, and him winning via knockout is the most likely scenario.