The red-hot Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight division rumbles on into CSKA Arena in Moscow, Russia, this Saturday (Nov. 9. 2019) when Dagestani wunderkind Zabit Magomedsharipov faces the lethal boxing of Calvin Kattar in a battle of surging contenders. Up at 265 pounds, Alexander Volkov looks to bounce back from recent difficulties against Greg Hardy, who will attempt to put his controversial “No Contest” with Ben Sosoli behind him. Also, at Welterweight, knockout artist Zelim Imadaev takes on fellow finisher Danny Roberts.
Three UFC Fight Night 163 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), so let’s not dally.
205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Dalcha Lungiambula
A destructive run on the Russian circuit made Magomed Ankalaev (11-1) more than a -700 favorite in his Octagon debut, only for Paul Craig to tap him with a literal last-second triangle. He bounced back with a head kick finish of Marcin Prachnio six months later, then defeated Brazilian prospect Klidson Abreu in his first trip to the judges since 2016.
He stands five inches taller than Dalcha Lungiambula (10-1) at 6’3.”
“Champion Dalcha” lived up to his moniker by claiming both the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight EFC titles during a five-fight win streak. This earned him a spot in the Octagon, where he knocked out late replacement Dequan Townsend in Minneapolis. F
our of his last six wins have come by form of knockout.
UFC has now booked Ankalaev against then-prospect Darko Stosic, the aforementioned Abreu, and now Lungiambula. In a division this starved for interesting contenders, I can’t see the logic in feeding so many potential candidates to Ankalaev.
Not that Lungiambula doesn’t have a chance — dude has some serious pop in his hands and slick judo chops to back that up. Unfortunately, the stylistic match up is just all wrong for him. He’ll struggle badly to get through his far rangier foe’s kicking game and the issues he had with takedown defense in a recent bout suggest bad things against someone with ground-and-pound this nasty. Ankalaev tears him up at long distance before dragging him to the mat and pounding away.
Prediction: Ankalaev via second-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Sergey Khandozhko
Rustam Khabilov’s (23-4) submission loss to Benson Henderson in his first main event, followed by a split decision defeat against Adriano Martins, gave way to a six-fight win streak that set up a clash with fellow contender Diego Ferreira. Despite scoring a trio of takedowns, Khabilov ultimately fell short, losing a decision to the Brazilian in Prague.
This will be his UFC Welterweight debut.
Sergey Khandozhko (27-5-1) started his pro mixed martial arts (MMA) career 21-1-1 before spending his next seven fights alternating losses and wins. He got back on track last year with a pair of finishes, then outlasted Rostem Akman to claim victory in his Octagon debut.
He’s knocked out 12 opponents and submitted another seven.
My first thought upon seeing this match up was, “Oh hey, guy who hits lots of takedowns versus guy who gets taken down a lot.” Khandozhko’s greatest struggles have come against tenacious wrestlers, and while Khabilov may have become hideously boring to watch ever since the Henderson loss, he’s nothing if not persistent. If he can consistently get in on Khandozhko’s hips, he’s happy to exploit that weakness all night.
The point of concern is the weight class. Indeed, we’ve seen Khabilov struggle to overpower people he should have physically dominated, and now he’ll have to out-muscle opponents 15 pounds larger. Still, between the huge wrestling edge and the fact that Khandozhko can’t unleash his wildest kickboxing tricks without leaving himself open to takedowns, this looks like a comfortable win for Khabilov.
Prediction: Khabilov via unanimous decision
185 lbs. Roman Kopylov vs. Karl Roberson
A multiple-time world hand-to-hand combat champion, Roman Kopylov (8-) battered Abusupyan Alikhanov into submission to claim the Fight Night Global Middleweight title in March 2018. His first defense saw him put veteran Yasubey Enomoto away with a body shot for his seventh consecutive (technical) knockout.
This will be his first fight in little more than 10 months thanks to injury scrapping a planned April debut against Krzysztof Jotko.
Karl Roberson (8-2) made the first-ever “Contender Series” main event a memorable one by smashing Ryan Spann with elbows in just 15 seconds, earning a contract in the progress. An undefeated (2-0) Octagon start gave way to a 1-2 skid, though “Baby K” was last seen taking a split decision over Wellington Turman in July.
Despite his kickboxing background, he’s submitted three opponents while knocking out two.
Kopylov is an excellent acquisition for UFC, an entertaining and highly skilled striker in the midst of his prime, and this is a similarly excellent test for his Octagon debut. Roberson has some kickboxing credentials of his own and has yet to have any real difficulties on the feet during his UFC tenure, instead facing his greatest adversity against strong top control artists.
I’ve never seen Kopylov try a takedown and he’s got more than enough defensive wrestling to shrug off Roberson’s grappling, so we’re in for a stand up war. I ever-so-slightly favor Kopylov’s crisper hands and superior stopping power. Roberson will give him everything he could handle and may sway a judge, but expect Kopylov to land enough notable blows to edge out the win.
Prediction: Kopylov via split decision
UFC Fight Night 163 features an excellent main event and some rising names make for a solid morning/afternoon show. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 163 fight card this weekend RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 2 p.m. ET.
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