World MMA Bantamweight Scouting Report: #4 - Yusup Saadulaev

Strangely, our #4 ranked bantamweight on the 2011 World MMA Bantamweight Scouting Report fits into a category of fighter that I didn't believe we'd be seeing so soon. As I wrote back in January, Russia and many of the former Soviet republics are mass producers of top-flight wrestling talent, proven in the brightest spotlight of the Olympics. But Russia isn't a dominant country in mixed martial arts. Unlike America, successful amateur wrestlers are national heroes, taken care of by their communities and highest powers.

Yusup Saadulaev wasn't an Olympic champion or upper-echelon wrestler in Russia, but he wrestled in a region that is well-known for producing the very best. His transition to mixed martial arts following his move to the United States has been impressive. It's been so successful that Saadulaev has quickly become one of the best prospects in the country at 135 lbs., earning himself respectable Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu credentials in only two years following his migration stateside. With a diverse skill-set in grappling, wrestling, and striking, Saadulaev could make his way into the UFC or Bellator by the end of 2011.

Offensive Skills: Saadulaev is unique in that he's gained considerable skill in a short time frame. He wrestled for two years with Top Team Russia before making his way to Chicago where he took up Jiu-Jitsu under Christian Uflacker and Muay Thai under Ricardo Perez. In two years, he became a Pan American world champion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and it shows in his technique in the cage.

Saadulaev has shown a propensity to want to strike with his opponents, but he's more dangerous on the ground. In some of the grappling footage I've watched, Saadulaev has an unique way in which he goes about his business, mixing his wrestling background with submissions. It's a combination that we don't see too often in mixed martial arts.

Defensive Skills: Obviously, his creative grappling prowess is a means to combating the wrestlers that litter the sport. His own wrestling credentials help him keep fights on the feet. He does, however, have some openings in his defenses in the stand-up department. The level of improvement in his other areas leads me to believe that won't be a problem as he progresses.

Progression: As aforementioned, Saadulaev has enjoyed a significant increase in his skills over the last couple of years. Having a strong wrestling base has helped him immensely, but the transition to the submission game has been incredible to say the least. If he can continue to progress his stand-up game, it isn't unfathomable that Saadulaev has the chops to be a tough opponent for anyone in the UFC.

Bantamweight Featherweight Lightweight
#10 - Denis Puric
#9 - Mike Easton
#8 - Tommy Vargas
#7 - Rodrigo Lima
#6 - Adrian Wooley
#5 - John Lineker
#4 - Yusup Saadulaev
#1 - Antonio Carvalho
#2 - Taiki Tsuchiya
#3 - Mark Adams
#4 - Alan Omer
#5 - Koichiro Matsumoto
#6 - Tom Niinimaki
#7 - Marcos Vinicius
#8 - Matt Fiordirosa
#9 - Isaac DeJesus
#10 - Michel Gagnon
#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
Welterweight Middleweight Light Heavyweight
#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
#1 - Papy Abedi
#2 - Chris Weidman
#3 - Vitor Vianna
#4 - Vyacheslav Vasilevsky
#5 - Bruno Santos
#6 - Costantinos Philippou
#7 - Jordan Smith
#8 - Uriah Hall
#9 - Victor O'Donnell
#10 - Assan Njie
#1 - Marcos Pezao
#2 - Gian Villante
#3 - Jimi Manuwa
#4 - Glover Teixeira
#5 - Jan Blachowicz
#6 - Yoel Romero
#7 - Ryan Jimmo
#8 - Nik Fekete
#9 - Marcus Vanttinen
#10 - Ronny Markes


Environment: Saadulaev splits time between Uflacker Academy and Team Toro in the Chicagoland. He has honed his grappling chops under Christian Uflacker since 2007. Ricardo Perez has served as his Muay Thai coach since his introduction to the sport as well. Interestingly enough, Saadulaev and Uflacker are roughly the same age, around 25 years old.

Potential: Saadulaev's strength of record is his most glaring weakness when compared to other top flight prospects. At 7-0-1, his best victory came against Jared McMahan two years ago. Unfortunately, the fight lasted a mere 0:16 seconds due to a leg injury that McMahan sustained, thus never proving that Saadulaev can hack it against better fighters.

In order to move up the ladder, Saadulaev will need to find game opponents who can challenge his progressing skill-set. We have yet to truly know where Saadulaev stands among the elite in the regional scenes, let alone the UFC's bantamweight division. From all the facts I've gathered, Saadulaev has the youth and skills to be a major player in the future of the UFC's bantamweight division. Whether or not he'll get the opportunity is up to him in 2011.


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