Prospect Watch: Russia’s Rustam Kerimov

Rustam Kerimov
Rustam Kerimov Credit: ACA

Russia’s Rustam Kerimov may just be the next big thing out of Russia in MMA. Kerimov is the current ACA bantamweight champion and could be making the move to the UFC very soon.

Tale of the Tape

Fighting out of Makhachkala, Russia
Age: 29
Weightclass: Bantamweight
Height: 5’5”
Training out of DagFighter
Record: 14-0
2 Submissions’


  • High-level wrestling
  • Hight fight IQ
  • Powerful striker
  • Good movement
  • An active kicking attack
  • Kicks to wrestle very well
  • Always attacking/High work rate
  • Fast
  • Solid ground and pound
  • Fast starter


  • Throws with wasted motion

Striking/Kickboxing: A

Kerimov is an all volume striker/kickboxer who is going to overwhelm guys. With his hands, he a good striker letting opponents just walk into a combination. He throws a sharp one-two and is always mixing it up the angles. Kerimov does have some power behind his hands when he commits to it. His legs are his main weapon on the feet and maybe his most useful weapon in his toolbox. Kerimov has a very busy kicking attack and complex kicking style. The Russian will kick the legs, the body, go to the head, and also loves to use spinning kicks, especially to the midsection. Kerimov will spin to the body so much he will surprise his opposition and throw the spinning back fist instead. Just his flow on the feet makes him really good.

Movement: A-

Kerimov does have good movement but what really stands out is his quickness and vision. He’s so quick at getting off his shots and getting right out of the way. He can plant his feet to land the one-two and be on the other side of the cage in a split second.

Clinch: C+

There is nothing too important that stands out to give a good assessment in this category. Kerimov does have good control and from time to time you will see him let loose with some knees.

Wrestling: A

As good as his striking/kickboxing is his 14-0 record wouldn’t be there without the way he’s wrestled. Kerimov isn’t like most Dagestani wrestlers who will chain wrestle mainly. Instead, almost every time his takedowns are off of setups. Better than anyone, Kerimov will throw a kick and immediately shoot and complete a takedown. When he lands a glancing head kick and follows up with a takedown, the transition is incredibly smooth. For more on how good his wrestling is check out this in-depth breakdown from Down 4 Rounds here.

Grappling: C+

Frequently in every fight and in every round, Rustam Kerimov gets the fight to the mat. With that said he’s not much of a grappler. Usually, when Kerimov gets takedowns he’s quickly back up to his feet. He definitely is capable on the mat in other areas, as he has top-notch ground and pound and scrambles very well.

Cardio: B

Kerimov has gone to the scorecards on six different occasions. He’s gone in into championship rounds going all five rounds twice. Into the fourth and final round, Kerimov does slow. With his work rate, there is no shame in that, and he is still dangerous. For three rounds though he has excellent cardio and his pressure will break opponents.

Defense: B-

Kerimov has the “0” on his record so that leads one to conclude that his takedown defense is pretty good. He has been taken down though, and his takedown defense has been the biggest question. That said, even on his back, he has never been in any danger if my memory is correct. Kerimov has taken some good shots on the chin as well but it’s held up thus far. His defense is hardly tested cause his offense is so dominating.

Overall: A

Kerimov is one of the best prospects out of Russia and his record affirms that. He’s beat Abdul-Rakhman Dudaev, Oleg Borisov, Takeya Mizugaki, Tural Ragimov, Alexander Peduson, and Andrey Goncharov. Those fighters combined have a record of 117-38-3. Where Kerimov is so challenging is his wrestling but it’s complimented and set up with his striking/kickboxing.

Animated GIFKerimov is very good at letting foes come forward and then surprises them with the level change to get the takedown. He fights behind his kicks which is what he sets his takedowns up with and how he controls the pace. Don’t sleep on his hands though because if you do you’ll be waking up not knowing what happened. More imposing than his power is his hand speed and movement.

Animated GIFWhat he does lack in is control on the mat. He can get multiple takedowns a fight but just doesn’t keep it there. He does have two submissions but those were seven years ago. Kerimov does bring some nasty ground and pound to the table though.

Animated GIFKerimov is the real deal and the competition he’s already beat shows to me he can jump right into a promotion like the UFC or Bellator and do very well.