A lot of MMA fans are now on the Jon Jones bandwagon after his impressive performance against Stephan Bonner at UFC 94 on Saturday night. He's a young man who many will follow in the years to come, with high hopes of Jones continuing to head to the gym and work hard while his career progresses.
There are a number of young up and comers fighting in the UFC, Affliction and other organizations, which should help excite fight fans for years to come.
I'm going to take a step back and talk about another young talent who suffered a loss during his first major MMA event.
Kiril “Baby Fedor” Sidelnikov suffered a rough TKO loss to Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello during Affliction Day of Reckoning, but proved he is a fighter we should pay attention to in the future.
It was Buentello’s reach advantage — using the jab — that helped him keep the advantage against the young Russian, who ate shot after shot while Buentello did a great job mixing it up while on the feet. He attempted just one poor shot which Buentello was able to stuff easily, then resorted to try and trade with Buentello on the feet.
Despite the loss, Sidelnikov showed that he’s a fighter of the future, with Buentello even confirming the thought during the post-fight conference. The in-ring experience the older fighter brought helped him, as Sidelnikov was unable to answer on the feet. The fight was ended at 4:18 in the third round via TKO, with ring-side doctors electing to stop the fight due to cuts.
“I consider myself as a young up and coming fighter,” Sidelnikov told FightSport magazine. “I will take every opportunity I can to reach the top of MMA. I think that I can be in the top five in five years. Then I will only be 25."
Sidelnikov’s short MMA career of a few years has seen him record a 5-3-0 record, although he has been involved in combat sambo and mixfight for several years now.
"I really like exchanging punches and making reversals on the ground. And last but not least ground and pound."
He’s an excellent sambo practitioner but enjoys standing and exchanging — a tactic that he will likely need to leave behind against experienced fighters such as Buentello. Members of Emelianenko's camp say Baby Fedor has good takedowns and strong sambo, so he'll need to use those skills rather than stand and bang if he wants to succeed.
I was impressed with Baby Fedor’s performance as he showed an impressive chin while fighting a very experienced opponent. He’s just 20 years old and is one of Fedor Emelianenko’s main training partners, so his future is likely extremely bright. I think Affliction should have found other opponents for both fighters, and having Baby Fedor try and fight Buentello simply was too soon.
Cutting down to light heavyweight may not seem that appealing to Baby Fedor at the moment, but it’s a move that could make sense for him later down the road. Regardless of where he fights next, I’ll look forward to seeing him develop inside the cage. He's undersized at heavyweight, and may not be strong enough to battle the larger, more experienced fighters in the HW division.
It also didn't help that this fight was his first attempt at fighting three five-minute rounds, as M-1 Challenge rules have two five-minute rounds with the possibility of a bonus round.
Despite the loss, I can't wait to see who M-1 or Affliction pairs him up against in the future. With fighters like Jones, Sidelnikov and others, MMA fans have a lot to look forward to in the future.