Russia is the largest country in the world, populating roughly one-ninth of the entire world's land area with majestic mountain landscapes, a blistering cold Siberian tundra, and beautiful rivers and streams. It's known to many within the wildlife community as one of the last places on Earth where nature still exists in all its glory.
In the context of mixed martial arts, it has produced one of the most devastating fighters to ever grace the ring or cage, yet most casual fans are in the dark as to who he is or what he represents within the history of our sport. Fedor Emelianenko embodies exactly what a true mixed martial artist should possess in his arsenal of weapons both offensively and defensively, and he's one of the most successful athletes, even to this day, in the sport.
But Russia hasn't been able to find a suitable replacement for the "Last Emperor", and the outlook is rather grim if we take one look at how many Russian-born fighters we've showcased within our rankings. The young phenom Alexander Sarnavskiy chimed in at #7 on our lightweight list, but his inexperience against much stiffer competition fuels a lot of skepticism about his chances in a promotion like the UFC. At #4 on our 2011 World MMA Middleweight Scouting Report, a better hope for the future may fall in the hands of Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (11-1).
Offensive Skills: Vasilevsky's appeal mostly stems from his boxing skills. He's proved in numerous bouts under the M-1 banner that his speedy footwork, in and out movement, and quick combination punching can wreck anyone that the Russian-based promotion can throw at him. While I've never been high on M-1's aim to showcase their fighters with awful matchmaking, i.e. Sarnavskiy vs. Ubaidulaev, their hope to hone these young fighters is in the fighter's best interest.
Vasilevsky's ground tactics are an area of concern. He has a phenomenal trips and takedowns from his Judo and Combat Sambo background, but he isn't great at producing offense from top control. While that isn't a deal breaker by any means, it does hint that he would have some problems against Brazilian jiu-jitsu aces.
Defensive Skills: We haven't seen Vasilevsky tested off his back frequently enough to determine if he's competent enough to withstand the style of a wrestler with a relentless gas tank, but we have seen plenty of Vasilevsky's prowess in the takedown department. To counter takedown attempts, Vasilevsky uses a combination of his quick footwork and trip takedowns, and it has worked effectively in hindering his opponents from toppling him and smothering him in ground and pound. The only problem is that Vasilevsky doesn't have a whole lot to offer once he's tangled in full or half guard.
On the feet, he's one of the best in our list of prospects in the striking department. He isn't as explosive or powerful as Njie, but his technique is something that every trainer would want to see from their fighters. His footwork and defense with his hands combine to create a bulwark that many have found to be impenetrable.
Progression: As I've mentioned previously, there isn't a plethora of footage that features Vasilevsky off his back, and that may be a good or bad depending on how you look at it. On the positive, it shows that he's very tough to take down and gain an advantageous position, but it doesn't give us any sense of what he can do when he meets the stiffer middleweight competition that resides in a promotion like the UFC or Strikeforce.
Environment: He's currently trained by Alexei Chugreeva, a man who has trained several Combat Sambo champions, and it shows in the techniques that Vasilevsky puts to use in the ring. He also has a background in Judo, and he's been working on his boxing extensively.
As with most Russian fighters, he's working to become a complete fighter, and he has all of the tools he needs in Russia to get to that goal. The only question is whether he'll try to progress his level of skill with trips to larger camps that house better training partners. I wouldn't hold out much hope as he is a groomed M-1 prospect.
|#1 - Thiago Michel
#2 - Ricardo Tirloni
#3 - Magno Almeida
#4 - Ui Cheol Nam
#5 - Henrique Mello
#6 - Reza Madadi
#7 - Alexander Sarnavskiy
#8 - Ole Laursen
#9 - Guillaume DeLorenzi
#10 - Al Iaquinta
|#1 - Yuri Villefort
#2 - Alex Garcia
#3 - Erick Silva
#4 - Douglas Lima
#5 - Luis "Sapo" Santos
#6 - Jesse Juarez
#7 - Gunnar Nelson
#8 - Quinn Mulhern
#9 - Alberto Mina
#10 - Joe Ray
|#4 - Vyacheslav Vasilevsky
#5 - Bruno Santos
#6 - Costantinos Philippou
#7 - Jordan Smith
#8 - Uriah Hall
#9 - Victor O'Donnell
#10 - Assan Njie
Potential: Most readers will comment that Vasilevsky is a 205 pounder who is the current M-1 Light Heavyweight champion, but the fact that he weighed in at 191 pounds against Tomasz Narkun on December 10th hints that he belongs at middleweight. Thus, we're ranking him there, especially with the scarcity of talent within the division.
Perhaps his stint at light heavyweight is a way in which he can use his strength in the footwork department to take advantage of slower opponents. In any case, he may be making a case for dropping down to 185 pounds, especially if he's going to give up so much weight to his opponents.
With pinpoint striking and speedy footwork, Vyacheslav Vasilesky makes a case for being one of the more exciting prospects on our list, and it will be interesting to see what M-1 has in store for him in 2011.
Vyacheslav Vasilevsky vs.Shamil Tinagadzhiev
Tomasz Narkun vs.Vyacheslav Vasilevsky
Xavier Foupa Pokam vs. Vyacheslav Vasilevsky