Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight finishers Nikita Krylov and Magomed Ankalaev will battle this weekend (Sat., Feb. 27, 2021) at UFC Vegas 20 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After 32 professional fights in the books, Krylov scored the first decision win of his career last time out opposite Johnny Walker. That’s absurd! More important than a rare statistic, Krylov has only lost to elite Light Heavyweights in the last four years, as the Ukrainian only seems to grow more confident and skilled each year. Alternatively, Ankalaev very much looks the part of a future champion. The Dagestani combatant has plus skills in most every area, and the 28-year-old currently rides a five-fight win streak. Now that he’s finally passed all the Ion Cutelaba drama, Ankalaev will try to make a run.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Johnny Walker (UFC Fight Night 170), Ovince Saint Preux (UFC 236), Walt Harris (UFC on FOX 10), Marcos Rogerio de Lima (UFC Fight Night 69), Fabio Maldonado (Fight Nights Global 87)
Key Losses: Jan Blachowicz (UFC Fight Night 136), Glover Teixeira (UFC Fight Night 158), Misha Cirkunov (UFC 206), Ovince Saint Preux (UFC 171)
Keys to Victory: Krylov is a funny fighter. Despite his Kyokushin Karate background and sneaky head kicks, Krylov has reinvented himself as a grinder, pushing forward with endless takedowns and dragging his opponents into a war of attrition. Yet, he’s still quite happy to abandon top position and chase the submission at any time.
It doesn’t make the least bit of sense, but it’s mostly working for him.
This is a tricky, tricky fight for “Miner.” On the feet, Krylov’s kickboxing is offensively dangerous, but he’s long been a defensive liability. Now, he’s fighting one of the sharpest counter punchers in the division, and it’s not as though Ankalaev will be an easy man to wrestle to the mat.
Krylov has a solid chin, but I don’t think anyone at 205 pounds can handle repeated Ankalaev crosses direct to the jawline. Though taking down a decorated combat Sambo fighter is rarely easy, wrestling along the fence is generally a better option than getting blasted with left hands.
Krylov is a very competent wrestler with heart and conditioning. If he can make this an ugly fight, he may be able to tire Ankalaev and force a mistake from the favorite.
Key Wins: Ion Cutelaba (UFC 254, UFC Fight Night 169), Klidson Abreu (UFC Fight Night 145), Dalcha Lungiambula (UFC Fight Night 163)
Key Losses: Paul Craig (UFC Fight Night 127)
Keys to Victory: Men hailing from Dagestan with the rank “Master of Sport” in Combat Sambo tend to be pretty damn good fighters. Such is the case for Ankalaev, who is a vicious counter striker with a penchant for head kicks. Oh, and he has some top-notch wrestling and a particularly mean-spirited ground striking attack, too.
There are two clear ways for Ankalaev to dominate this fight. On the feet, his ability to cut angles and cream opponents with that laser of a left hand is a perfect antidote to Krylov’s wild pressure. However, Krylov also has a habit of making strange decisions on the mat. He’ll sell out on low-percentage submissions and put himself in bad positions, and when momentum builds against him, it only gets worse.
Ankalaev has the skills to capitalize on either trait. Ultimately, taking top position and hammering away as Krylov tries to land an Americana from his back seems the better position, simply because it eliminates the chance of slipping into a head kick.
All Krylov fights are fun, and this one carries serious implications for the division.
Credit to “Miner,” his recent losses have aged well. He’s been defeated by the current champion and current top Light Heavyweight contender. If Krylov hands the division’s hottest prospect a defeat, it goes a long way in showing just how far he has come. Plus, at 28 years of age, there is still time for Krylov to fill the holes in his game and continue to grow.
As for Ankalaev, he looks like a complete product even with half of his opponent’s experience. He’s a nearly 4:1 favorite over a contender ranked in the Top 10 — clearly he’s expected to climb the ranks. If Ankalaev can dominate Krylov, it’s certainly the biggest win of his career ... and it could set him up for a potential title eliminator.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 20 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 20, Nikita Krylov and Magomed Ankalaev will duel in a pivotal Light Heavyweight battle. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?