Though Contender Series graduate, Jake Hadley wound, up having to withdraw, there’s another young English Flyweight set to debut this Saturday (March 19, 2022) inside O2 Arena in London, England. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where geo-blocks are an unexpected hazard, we look at a 21-year-old phenom with one of the most extensive amateur pedigrees you’re likely to see.
Muhammad “The Punisher” Mokaev
Weight Class: Flyweight
Record: 6-0 (2 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Abdul Hussein
Mokaev was perfect (23-0) as an amateur, taking home two IMMAF world titles along the way, before making his professional debut in 2020. He’s spent much of his professional career under the Brave CF banner, most recently choking out Blaine O’Driscoll in Sept. 2021.
Flowing, relentless wrestling is Mokaev’s weapon of choice. “The Punisher” mixes a powerful and versatile takedown arsenal with excellent scrambling abilities and an impressive knack for exploiting the slightest openings to get out of bad positions. He’s incredibly difficult to dislodge once he’s got his hands on you, does a good job of using the threat of front chokes to keep people from forcing their way to their feet, and can dish out some nasty elbows and punches while slowly slicing through and opponents’ guard.
It’s a remarkably developed ground game for someone just old enough to drink in the United States, but his greenness does show at times. Though he’s got the all-important wherewithal to bust out the right move at the right time from his deep bag of tricks, he can lose position chasing high-level techniques. He landed a great hip throw while countering a takedown from Abdul Hussein, but still wound up pressed against the fence, and he lost a chance to scramble to his feet after surrendering a takedown by lingering on the ground in apparent pursuit of a kimura.
Still, it’s a UFC-caliber wrestling attack that just needs a tiny bit more polish.
His striking is in a weird place right now. He largely relies on kicks, particularly low kicks, front kicks, and a super-quick switch head kick. His jab is excellent when he throws it, he feints well enough to set up his level changes, and he’s got really nice timing with his pull counters, but his boxing combinations seem to turn into awkward blitzes that leave his seldom-moving upper body exposed.
The raw material’s there for a solid kickboxing offense, but he really needs to tighten up his hands.
In case I wasn’t clear enough, Mokaev is incredibly promising for his age and should be able to make an immediate impact in the Flyweight division, though it may be another year or two before he’s ready to test himself against the elite.
Opponent: He meets another wrestling specialist in Cody Durden. Durden’s ability to punish Mokaev’s minor lapses on the ground could carry him to an early lead, but the complete cardio failure he suffered against Aoriqileng has me thinking Mokaev will take over late.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC London fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 4 p.m. ET.
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