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UFC Copenhagen - New Blood: A little bit of everything

The first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) appearance in Copenhagen, Denmark, goes down tomorrow afternoon (Sat., Sept. 28, 2019), bringing out some of Europe’s best mixed martial arts (MMA) talent, including several quality newcomers. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I thankfully didn’t have to watch any of the footage on Facebook this time, we look at four prospects from all around the continent.

Mark O. “The Olympian” Madsen

Weight Class: Lightweight
Age: 35
Record: 8-0 (2 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Thibaud Larchet

A beloved figure in his native Denmark, Madsen represented his home country in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling, finding increasing success over the years and culminating in a silver medal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He’s thus far spent the entirety of his professional MMA career on the European circuit, where he amassed a perfect (3-0) record in the Cage Warriors promotion and secured five first-round finishes overall.

He trains at Xtreme Couture under Denmark’s most notable MMA export, Martin Kampmann.

Madsen’s gameplan is unsurprising: get to the clinch, then use suffocating top control to grind opponents into the dirt. He had a habit of just stepping in without changing levels in an effort to tie up, but has recently shown a solid double-leg. Once he gets on top, he’s patient and enormously difficult to dislodge, content to chill in guard or half guard and chip away with elbows.

When people to manage to get out from underneath him, he does a great job of finding a rear waist lock and just muscling them back to the mat. He can also strike in transition well, landing punches from that position or firing a sharp elbow when opponents separate, and can do some damage in close-quarters slugfests.

Despite originally debuting in 2013, though, the rest of Madsen’s game still lags well behind. His range striking comprises almost entirely of admittedly powerful lead right hands, whether straight or overhand. He hasn’t shown much ability or inclination to pass guard after securing a takedown; indeed, even if he lands in side control and passes from there, he constantly spends long stretches of time in half guard. He honestly seems to prefer control positions like that or turtle over more dominant but riskier top control, and his ground-and-pound, while powerful, can be too sporadic to deal any real damage.

There’s a reason the finishes evaporated once the level of competition improved, and at 35, I’m not sure he can take the necessary strides before his body gives out on him. I don’t see him rising much past “guy the UFC puts against inferior grapplers on Nordic cards.”

Opponent: Danilo Belluardo, a top control specialist, fits the bill nicely. “Caterpillar’s” ground-and-pound is his most dangerous skill, one which he’ll have no opportunity to use against Madsen. “The Olympian” is the largest favorite on the card and should have little difficulty overwhelming his foe to the hometown crowd’s delight.

Tape:


Makhmud “Mach” Muradov

Weight Class: Middleweight
Age: 29
Record: 22-6 (15 KO, 3 SUB)
Notable Victories: Wendell Oliveira, Alberto Uda

Muradov — the only MMA fighter presently promoted by Floyd Mayweather — enters the Octagon in the midst of an 11-fight win streak that includes nine (technical) knockout finishes. His four-fight 2019 campaign has seen him dispatch UFC veterans Alberto Uda and Wendell Oliveira within the span of two months.

He replaces the injured Peter Sobotta on less than three weeks’ notice.

“Mach” is fundamentally a hyper-mobile striker with a dangerous ground game to fall back on as needed. He’s happy to dance around on the outside, constantly shifting stance as he sends out his favored one-two combinations and front kicks before looking to unload as opponents close the gap. Not too long ago, it looked like he did a lot of movement for the sake of moving, not really using it to set anything enough, but he’s looked more focused in recent efforts. His knockout of Uda came from a lovely overhand right while angling in and he just seems less wasteful overall, moving smoothly in and out of range.

On the inside, he’s fond of jumping knees and has a knack for landing good shots on the break. He does, however, have a habit of backing straight up and then trying to punch his way out of danger once he hits the fence. As we saw from Junior dos Santos, this is not a good problem to have.

His ground-and-pound is probably the most impressive part of his game. While he doesn’t always set up his takedowns well, he’s good at catching kicks to get on top and can do major damage with his punches once there. He straight-up mauled Oliveira and the follow-up shots he landed on the wounded Uda were wince-inducing.

Muradov is definitely skilled and should be able to make a decent run in the Octagon. Not sure it’s enough to get through the shark tank lurking at the top, but he’s worth following.

Opponent: Alessio Di Chirico is a decent generalist, but Muradov’s speed, power and wrestling should be too much for the Italian. This ought to be a dominant debut for “Mach.”

Tape:


Gigi Chikadze

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 31
Record: 7-2 (6 KO, 1 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

A GLORY Kickboxing veteran who put together a 38-6 kickboxing record, Chikadze has won seven of eight since losing his professional MMA debut in the World Series of Fighting (WSOF). He managed to secure a place on “Contender Series” last year, and though he lost to Austin Springer by late submission, he’s since picked up a pair of finishes in a combined 0:57. He fights out of the venerable Kings MMA alongside the likes of Rafael dos Anjos and Beneil Dariush.

Standing 6’0” and, per his own claim ahead of a GLORY bout, starting training camp at 180 pounds, Chikadze uses his size and length to unload a massive arsenal of kicks. He’s fond of axe kicks, rolling thunders, Brazilian kicks, and his signature “Giga Kick” roundhouse to the liver. They’re fast, fluid, and can do serious damage if they connect. To make matters more difficult for his opponents, he can kick well from either stance, though he seems to do his best work from southpaw.

Boxing-wise, he’s more of a single-shot artist than a combination puncher. He can counter well and has shown some pop when he loads up on lead punches, which his effective footwork allows him to land. His kicks and step-in knees are definitely the workhorses of his striking, however.

The big question with any kickboxing convert is, of course, their grappling. Chikadze’s is terrible. He at least understands the basics of takedown defense and will try hip tosses when put on the fence, but once he lands on his back, he can’t do much besides retain guard. He absolutely needs amazing takedown defense and scrambling ability to make his striking work; single kicks and step-in knees will always leave him vulnerable to opponents with good timing. Kings MMA is definitely a good place to develop those skills, but it’s still very much a work-in-progress.

I also want to mention that while he faced and beat some very solid kickboxers, Chikadze’s MMA record is criminally padded. His seven felled opponents had three combined victories, all of which belonged to two men. The two times he’s fought anyone worth a damn, he got dominated on the ground by Gil Guardado and choked out by Springer. He clearly needs more seasoning.

Opponent: Brandon Davis is as durable and relentless as they come. If he obliges Chikadze on the feet, he’s in for a whooping from the much taller and technically superior man. If he remembers that he’s got some submission skill, as he did after Randy Costa teed off on his face for a while, he should be able to dominate the Georgian on the ground.

Tape: His “Contender Series” appearance is on Fight Pass.


Jack “Tank” Shore

Weight Class: Bantamweight
Age: 24
Record: 11-0 (4 KO, 6 SUB)
Notable Victories: Scott Malone, Mike Ekundayo, Vaughan Lee

The Welsh “Tank” went undefeated (12-0) as an amateur career before debuting professionally in 2016 with a quick stoppage victory. Soon after, he joined Cage Warriors, stopping Mike Ekundayo to win its Bantamweight belt and tapping Scott Malone in his lone defense.

He spent his amateur career at lightweight, dropping to 145 pounds in his professional debut and to 135 pounds for his win over Vaughan Lee in March 2018.

Shore’s nickname is definitely appropriate. He’s a big, technically sound Bantamweight who’s skilled in every area but thrives in the wrestling. Though nothing really stands out about his striking, he puts his punches together well, knows to hit the body, and sits down on them enough to give them some pop.

Once he manages to tie up, though, things get interesting. He has a truly remarkable knack for foot sweeps, both in the initial takedown and when kicking people’s legs out from under them when they use the fence to stand back up. His top control, striking, passing, and submission games are all rock-solid, and if his excellent balance doesn’t keep him off of his back, he does a great job of using a butterfly hook to get onto his side and scramble up.

There’s really nothing to complain about with Shore save for possibly some issues dealing with the southpaw straight left; he’s a complete, well-schooled fighter whom I can see becoming a fixture in the upper-middle section of the UFC Bantamweight rankings. He might, however, lack an “X-factor,” some overwhelming physical trait or talent that he can lean on against more specialized opponents. We saw another Welsh grappler in Brett Johns top out just below the Top 15 for a similar lack. Still, the dude is a beast.

Opponent: Though a skilled boxer, Nohelin Hernandez looks like he’s in for a rough night against the “Tank.” Beyond getting dropped more often than one would recommend, Hernandez looks to be on the wrong end of a considerable wrestling disparity. Shore’s top control figures to earn him a dominant victory in his Octagon debut.

Tape: Shore’s Cage Warriors appearance are on Fight Pass


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