Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is leaning on its established stars for the blockbuster UFC 238 pay-per-view (PPV) event this weekend (Sat., June 8, 2019), and as such we have but one fresh face to look at. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I struggle to come up with a new tagline each week, we look at Muay Thai veteran Grigory Popov, the latest out of super camp Tiger Muay Thai.
Weight Class: Bantamweight
Record: 13-1 (4 KO, 3 SUB)
Significant Victories: None
Yet another fresh face out of Tiger Muay Thai, Popov has spent his career fighting in both his native Russia and in China. He’s currently on a nine-fight win streak that includes two gogoplatas and a flying crane kick knockout. Overall, six of those nine victories have come inside the distance.
Popov entered the mixed martial arts (MMA) world with a background in Muay Thai, so it’s not surprising that he’s a stalking striker with a hard right hand and crushing leg kicks at range. His clinch game is similarly effective, featuring some slick trips alongside the customary dirty boxing and elbows. He’s not the highest-volume striker and he tends to lead with the low kicks without setting them up, but he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with if you’re willing (or simply unable not) to engage him on the feet.
Problems arise when people don’t oblige him. His takedown defense is flat-out terrible. Indeed, before scoring that crane kick knockout, he’d spent two rounds stuck beneath a low-level opponent. Just three fights ago, he surrendered a takedown to an 0-0 fighter and only got out because said 0-0 fighter — who had no idea what he was doing on the feet — tried a leglock instead of maintaining position. Sure, he hit those gogoplatas, but he did so against opponents who were 0-1 and 3-2, respectively.
That’s the kicker, really: his strength of schedule has been complete garbage. The one time he faced a solid foe, current Featherweight standout Alexey Polpudnikov, he was taken down and punched unconscious in minutes. At 35, I just don’t see him making the adjustments necessary to survive against essentially any UFC-caliber fighter with basic wrestling knowledge.
UFC might be able to scrounge up.
Opponent: Eddie Wineland has hit one (1) takedown in the last seven years, so Popov should get the striking battle he wants. Even with Wineland’s recent struggles, though, I favor the American, as Popov’s low kicks leave him open to Wineland’s vicious punches. Still, Johnny Eduardo laid out a gameplan for beating Wineland that Popov may have the skills to replicate, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye on.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 238 fight card this weekend right HERE, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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