Age is just a number.
Mark Hunt, 44, and Aleksei Oleinik, 41, headline the first-ever show for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in Moscow, Russia, this Saturday (Sept. 15, 2018) inside Olympic Stadium, leading a card full of Eastern European talent. Nikita Krylov returns after four consecutive stoppage wins in UFC Fight Night 136’s co-main event, taking on Jan Blachowicz and his three-fight win streak, while Andrei Arlovski looks to represent Belarus in hostile territory opposite Shamil Abdurakhimov. Finally, to kick off Fight Pass’ main card, undefeated M-1 Welterweight champion Alexey Kunchenko makes his Octagon debut against the ever-dangerous Thiago Alves.
Before all that, though, we’ve got four more “Prelims” undercard bouts to look at (check out the first batch here). Shall we?
185 lbs.: C.B. Dollaway vs. Khalid Murtazaliev
C.B. Dollaway (17-8) fought his way out of a three-fight skid last year with a decision over fellow The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Ed Herman at TUF 25 Finale. He then faced Hector Lombard, who got himself disqualified by knocking out Dollaway after the first-round bell.
“The Doberman” has scored six professional knockouts and three submissions.
Khalid Murtazaliev (13-2) has been nothing if not destructive in his five years as a pro, scoring (technical) knockout finishes in 11 of his 13 victories. His accomplishments also include reaching the Fight Nights Global tournament finals, where he suffered his second defeat to Absupyan Alikhanov in a bloody battle.
He takes this fight on one week’s notice after both Omari Akhmedov and Artem Frolov withdrew because of injury.
Murtazaliev’s as dangerous as the knockout percentage would have you believe, but he’s also an extremely raw talent. Though his kicks are devastatingly fast and powerful, he tends to wing his punches and showed issues getting past Alikhanov’s jab in their rematch. He also gassed late in that fight, allowing Alikhanov to catch him with an uppercut that would have felled a horse.
I see this as less of a challenge for Dollaway than Frolov would have been, but a bit more dangerous than Akhmedov. “The Doberman’s” chin has failed him in the past and Murtazaliev can do some real damage if he winds up landing on top. More likely, though, Dollaway outwrestles and outstrikes his short-notice opponent on his way to an increasingly dominant decision.
Prediction: Dollaway via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Petr Yan vs. Jin Soo Son
Petr Yan (9-1) entered the Octagon as the ACB Bantamweight champion, a title he earned by avenging a loss to Magomed Magomedov and defended with a knockout of unbeaten Matheus Mattos. He came up big as expected in his UFC debut, handing Teruto Ishihara the first knockout loss of his career.
“No Mercy” has knocked out four opponents and submitted one other.
Jin Soo Son (9-2) — a protege of “The Korean Zombie” — has spent almost all of his four-year career in Japan’s venerable DEEP promotion. His current four-fight win streak includes a knockout of Toshiaki Kitada, who had beaten Son by majority decision in 2015.
He steps in for the injured Douglas Andrade on short notice.
Full disclosure, I only managed to find one fight of Son’s, that being the finish of Kitada in April. I even tried searching his name in the original characters (손진수) without success. He wasn’t super active in that fight, either, mostly just stalking Kitada, smiling whenever he got hit, and ultimately putting him away the first time he really committed to his combinations.
It’s a good thing he enjoys getting hit, because Yan is going to hit him ... a lot.
I genuinely believe Yan is already ready for a Top 15- or Top 10-ranked opponent. Andrade would have been an interesting foe, as Yan is a bit easy to hit and Andrade has concrete in his hands, but Son presents no such stylistic intrigue. “No Mercy” scores another early finish.
Prediction: Yan via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Kajan Johnson
Rustam Khabilov (22-3) has quietly assembled a five-fight win streak since dropping consecutive decisions to Benson Henderson and Adriano Martins (all via decision). He was last seen defeating fellow wrestler Des Green, increasing his takedown total to 21 over that five-fight stretch.
This will be his first fight in nearly a year, as he was injured before a planned fight with Johnson in March.
Kajan Johnson (23-13-1) went from being on the wrong end of one of the most violent knockouts in TUF history to winning four straight, among them a one-punch finish of the massively favored Adriano Martins. The run came to an abrupt end in August when Islam Makhachev caught him in an armbar with less than 20 seconds left in the first round.
He has finished 16 opponents as a professional, 11 by submission.
Someone in UFC brass really wants to put Johnson on a losing streak. Though Khabilov isn’t quite as slick a submission artist as Makhachev, he’s every bit as dangerous with his takedowns and looks to be physically stronger to boot. Johnson’s newfound ability to work at his preferred range won’t be much use against someone willing to drive through his strikes to get the clinch and his takedown defense can’t stand up to the Dagestani suplex machine.
Khabilov has a bad habit at times of leaning too much on his stand up and letting himself fall into a hole against sharper strikers, which is definitely a concern, but he generally wises up before the lead gets insurmountable. Khabilov repeats his countryman’s efforts, repeatedly downing Johnson and chipping away with punches from the top all night.
Prediction: Khabilov via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Mairbek Taisumov (26-5) vs. Des Green
Despite the U.S. visa office’s best efforts, Mairbek Taisumov (26-5) has torn through all comers since his 2014 loss to Michel Prazeres, scoring five consecutive knockouts and three straight post-fight bonuses. His latest win was among the most violent yet, a one-punch starching of undefeated Felipe Silva in Rotterdam.
”Beckan” has just one decision victory, 15 of the others coming by (technical) knockout.
Des Green (21-7) — a former Bellator and Titan FC standout — started strong in UFC with an entertaining split decision over Josh Emmett. He struggled against fellow grinders Rustam Khabilov and Michel Prazeres, but righted the ship in June with a decision over Gleison Tibau.
He is one inch taller than Taisumov, though their reaches are identical.
This could go a lot of ways — Green has never been stopped with strikes, and while Taisumov has yet to show any fatigue in his fights since the Prazeres debacle, none of those lasted long enough for us to get an idea of how long he can maintain that vicious pace of his. Green has a legitimate avenue of victory if he can survive those sledgehammer punches and grind the pace to a halt.
Way easier said than done, of course. Taisumov’s speed and low kicks should prevent Green from generating any consistent pressure and “Beckan” is a sound enough wrestler to keep it standing. Taisumov goes to his first UFC decision in ages, outstriking but never quite felling the ever-durable Green.
Prediction: Taisumov via unanimous decision
UFC Fight Night 136 might be short on names, but there are plenty of fighters here who always bring excitement. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 136 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 10:30 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 2 p.m. ET, also on Fight Pass.