Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicks off 2016 with what is expected to be a thoroughly entertaining UFC 195 pay-per-view (PPV) event, featuring a Welterweight title headliner between reigning champion, Robbie Lawler, and former interim titleholder, Carlos Condit.
The hard-hitting duo are two of the most dangerous strikers in the 170-pound division and may be in the running for a "Fight of the Year" award when 2016 is wrapped up and in the history books. But, Lawler and Condit aren't the only hard-hitting 170-pound fighters aiming to captivate the audience inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, later this evening (Sat., Jan. 2, 2015).
Albert Tumenov, 24, is fast approaching contender status with a 4-1 UFC record (16-2) overall. He will fight resurgent Strikeforce import, Lorenz Larkin, on UFC 195's main card. "Einstein" has taken out three competitors via knockout on his run up the 170-pound ladder and is a force to be reckoned with.
Tumenov's tour of duty in MMA began more than five years ago in Russia, where fight-ending blows were initially hard to come by.
A native of Nalchi -- the capital of the Kabardino-Balkar republic -- Tumenov compiled four straight wins in the ProFC promotion, with only one via knockout.
One of his more impressive victories in that span was his professional debut against Kadzhik Abadzhyan, who he crippled with a right hand in little more than two minutes. Though he'd later become known for his outstanding left hook, Tumenov was able to land the counter right flush.
At that time, just a power-punching teenager, Tumenov fought three times in 2010 before starting anew in 2011, which is when he suffered the first loss of his professional career. Tumenov dropped a unanimous decision to the equally dangerous, Murad Abdulaev, outside of ProFC.
Unfortunately, there aren't too many videos on YouTube -- or around the Internet -- showcasing Tumenov's early years.
Following the loss to "Hunter," Tumenov strung together eight victories in-a-row, competing in several different promotions. He accumulated seven victories by technical (knockout) across a 16-month span between 2012-2013. He fought an astounding five times in 2012 and went on to capture the Fight Nights Welterweight championship in 2013.
One of his more vicious displays of violence was a 38-second finish of Viskhan Amirkhanov, where you can see him land a well-timed counter right in the video below.
Despite the lack of film on Tumenov, his natural instincts, quickness and power were apparent, making him a great prospect to watch in the states when he eventually signed with UFC in Dec. 2013.
With a lengthy win streak in tow, he made his Octagon debut in Feb. 2014 against Brazilian knockout artist, Illdemar Alcantara. Their exchange saw Tumenov jump out in front with an aggressive striking attack, but he was cut open by an Alcantara punch early and then lost valuable mount position in the second frame.
"Marajo" bested the upstart Tumenov via split decision although that it was pretty clear the former took round two.
However, a UFC win would not evade the bruising Russian for long as he stiffened up the ground ace Anthony Lapsley four minutes into their meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. Earlier in the fight, Tumenov caught a body kick from the Southpaw and floored him with two good left hands to get him on his heels.
Tumenov then wrecked Canadian stand-up fighter Matt Dwyer in Oct. 2014 by way of first-round head kick. Once again, Tumenov dropped his opponent twice in one round as Dwyer survived a left high kick just moments before the former turned his hips again.
He was now starting to garner a head of steam as one of the more revered strikers in the Welterweight class. More important, he began implementing kicks into his arsenal, which would only help his cause in the future.
Nico Musoke was the next man up and he made Tumenov work as hard as possible to attain the win in their Jan. 2015 bout. The Swede targeted the body with devastating kicks to try and zap the power from his opponent, but the judges awarded the latter a unanimous-decision victory off the strength of his pressure.
Most recently, Tumenov starched Blackhouse product, Alan Jouban, with a crippling left high kick and follow-up strikes to score the stoppage three minutes into their bout at UFC 192 back in October.
With four wins under the ZUFFA banner in his back pocket, Tumenov will take on his biggest name yet in "The Monsoon." Larkin enjoyed a notable run in Strikeforce, where he compiled a 4-1-(1) record, with wins over current Welterweight champion, Robbie Lawler, and Light Heavyweight veteran, Gian Villante.
However, that was at Middleweight.
The 29-year-old began his UFC career at 185 pounds, but after going winless (0-3) in 2014, he made the drop to Welterweight.
The difference was immediately apparent as Larkin appeared much lighter on his feet, more mobile and very potent. He has since accumulated two straight wins by knockout and emits high self confidence. One of his biggest weapons is his striking, but his kicks are specifically dangerous. Larkin's base is in boxing, but he's an avid fan of Karate and practices the art.
His two victories in 2015 came via his hands, which he used to oust John Howard and Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Tumenov will surely have his hands full. But, he has faced numerous styles in UFC similar to Larkin's, which I believe will give him the upperhand in this contest. Whether he is the cat, or mouse, he's usually remained in control of the pace of each fight. Lapsley was aggressive, then look what happened. Same thing with Jouban.
We've yet to see Larkin be the one to press the action, so it will be interesting to see if he rises to the occasion.
Another factor in the fight: Larkin's chin. He's been knocked out twice in his career. Tumenov will have fun head hunting.
Personally, I feel that this bout won't end with one man staring up at the rafters. I've got a hunch it will be a back-and-forth affair.
Prediction: Tumenov via unanimous decision