During this MMA hiatus, we’ve taken to scouting the world and selecting five favorite prospects from each country for the most part. In this edition, we take a look at some of the top fighting prospects coming out of Russia. Right there with the US and Brazil, Russia is among the best producers of fighting talent worldwide. Just to name a few of the well-known ones, there are UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, Alexey Oleynik, Alexander Volkov, Vitaly Minakov, and of course Fedor Emelianenko.
Bantamweight, Rustam Kerimov (14-0)
Rustam Kerimov is a product out of a top camp in DagFighter and is one of the best up-and-comers out of Russia right now. He has one of the best resumes of all fighters outside the UFC, fighting nothing but good competition in the second half of his career. Kerimov has beat solid opponents and has been dominant, most notably a good prospect in Alexander Peduson, Abdul-Rakhman Dudaev, Japanese legend Takeya Mizugaki, and Oleg Borisov. Kerimov is obviously a good wrestler but it’s his timing on his shots that is done so well to complement his best weapon, his ground-and-pound. On the feet, he is a good kickboxer along with good power in his hands. He throws a little bit of flash but really is a technically sound fighter.
Bantamweight, Magomed Magomedov (16-1)
Magomed Magomedov is another one of the best prospects out of Russia. His record speaks for itself, as he has fought good competition including UFC bantamweight contender Petr Yan, beating him once and losing to him once. Magomedov is a good striker that has improved over the years but owns a better kicking game. He likes to get flashy at times, throwing a lot of spinning kicks which may be his best weapon. He is an excellent wrestler with superb grappling and can wrestle/grapple throughout the duration of the fight with his tremendous endurance.
Lightweight, Alexander Shabliy (19-3)
Alexander Shabliy is a veteran of Russian fighting, competing for WFCA, ProFC, ACA/ACB, and Fight Nights Global. In the last six years, he’s only lost once which was a split decision to Eduard Vartanyan. Now on a four-fight win streak, it seems he’s at his peak. Shabliy, although violent, is an efficient counter fighter, reacting well to his opponents’ advances. His takedowns generally happen when his opponents try a takedown themselves, but he overpowers and throws them to the mat. On the feet, he is calm but he brings the heat when needed, and if he catches his competition then he will try his best to end the fight, whether that be with his strikes or knees. Shabliy is an intelligent fighter that makes very few mistakes.
Lightweight, Yusup Raisov (16-1)
Yusup Raisov is a world-class talent at only 24 and has suffered just one loss to former ACB lightweight champion Marat Balaev, who he rematched later on and took the title from. His stand-up is very technical but still explosive. He uses a lot of spinning kicks and flying knees but he throws them so fast that opponents can’t really react quick enough to counter. Raisov is just exceptionally fast and very light on his feet. He moves in and out very well and on the mat he has six submission wins, so he is more than dangerous there as well. But his wrestling is a big weapon for him as he can get takedown after takedown, beating his opponents physically and mentally.
Bantamweight, Timur Valiev (16-2)
Aside from competing in Freestyle Wrestling, BJJ, Grappling, and Kickboxing, Timur Valiev is a three-time Russian style Unifight champion, as well as a Russian Pankration Champion, European Pankration Champion, and a Dagestan/New Jersey Grappling Champion. His accolades speak for themselves. The Jackson-Wink MMA product is a top prospect to watch for who is long overdue for that UFC contract. Valiev is a well-rounded athlete who is on an impressive six-fight win streak. On the feet, he has solid kickboxing and throws combinations with his hands and legs together fluidly. As good as he is on the feet, Valiev is an excellent wrestler with solid top position all around. To top it off he has exceptional cardio fighting at the same pace the duration of the fight. Valiev previously competed for the WSOF and PFL.