"Back in 2000 during the first Chechen war our school was destroyed by air strikes and there was no means for me to continue my education. We had to study by sharing books in a small tent. I am taking courses now in order to complete my college degree."
Amagov also comes off as a very down-to-earth guy with infectious humility. He reminisced with Thomas Gerbasi on Strikeforce.com about his first loss to Alexey Olenik in Russia, who he now trains with on the KDojo team in New Jersey.
"The first fight was a tough one for me," said Amagov through translator / co-manager Sam Kardan. "I practically had no experience in the ring. I just started training in martial arts and the opportunity presented itself. I think my opponent had about 18 pro fights and lost to guys like Chael Sonnen. When they were announcing his accomplishments I asked the ring girl ‘am I fighting this guy?' (Laughs) I was planning to ground and pound, but I awoke a few minutes later from an Ezekiel choke."
Fitting the bill for this card's lineup, Amagov is a quickly ascending fighter with unorthodox and searing kickboxing. He fancies the spinning back kick (see the gif after the jump) and has left six of his nine opponents snoozing on the canvas, all in the first frame. Amagov has not tasted defeat since his initial foray against Olenik, though his ten matches since include one draw and narrowly escaping Ronald Stallings in his Strikeforce debut by split decision. Amagov crushed Anthony Smith in his second appearance under the Strikeforce banner, elevating him to a crack at an established pioneer in Lawler.
"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler (18-8) garnered attention in his first two brawls in the Octagon against Aaron Riley and Steve Berger. The young Miletich product was a relentlessly aggressive southpaw and a devastating boxer, drawing comparisons to Roy Jones Jr. for the way he led exchanges with a leaping right hook.
Lawler was on an impressive tear with three straight wins after starching Tiki Ghosn at UFC 40, but would next encounter the fine-tuned Muay Thai of Pete Spratt and succumb to a series of crippling leg kicks. Lawler rebounded with a decision victory while welcoming the game Chris Lytle to the Octagon, but was then finished consecutively by Nick Diaz (TKO) and the late Evan Tanner (triangle choke).
Bouncing around in EliteXC (where he became the middleweight champion), the ICON promotion (in which he was a two-time middleweight champ), Pride FC, the IFL and eventually Strikeforce, Lawler managed to sustain his reputation outside of the UFC. In the twelve fights that followed his release, Lawler won nine with one draw and losses to top-shelfers in Jason Miller and Jake Shields (both by submission). His latest four-piece stretch has been rough, dropping fights to Renato Sobral, Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy, but reeling off a smashing KO over Matt Lindland.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Unleashing his preferred assault, Amagov shows his scary striking acumen in the sequence to the right.
Not only is the kick executed beautifully, but notice Amagov's head and his subtle feint with the right hand to set things up. You can see his unfortunate adversary raise his guard to defend the right hand. A moment of confused hesitation follows and the poor soul switches his defensive guard to protect his body from the kick, which is the wrong choice as it sails high in a nasty arc instead. Amagov's premiere knockouts resulted in Russian legends Fedor and Aleksander Emelianenko inviting him to train, where Amagov picked up some Combat Sambo experience.
Already an unruly striker, Amagov developed a stout clinch game with a variety of throws and trips. Here, Amagov ties up with Stallings and takes him for a ride with a hip throw in duplicate. Having such a well rounded and feisty clinch game opens up more opportunities for the fight-ending heft of his striking. His ground game seems to be continually improving under the watchful eye of AMA Fight Club's Mike Contantino, a respected team and trainer that Amagov works with when he's not at KDojo under Murat Keshtov.
Much like fellow Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine cast member Lorenz Larkin, Amagov's creative kickboxing is much more than just pretty to watch.
His kicks are searingly effective, they cover a lot of range and are concisely adapted to MMA. He backs up the magic in his feet with a fully functional set of hands. Another notably unique aspect of his striking is the slightly detectable shades of Russian boxing in the way he "casts" his punches out, torquing hard at the waist and generating a lot of whip while turning his corkscrew-like punches over.
Ah, the old Robbie Lawler. He's been entrenched long enough for us to get a good bead on his approach: wicked boxing combinations unleashed with pinpoint accuracy and garish intentions. Lawler delivered a slice of nostalgia in his destruction of Matt Lindland (left): artfully dodging the left straight to plunge a vicious right hook downstairs and following up with two ungodly punches that beeline directly to Lindland's chin. Even the closing right hand that Lawler pounces with lands dead-center even though "The Law" is attempting to roll into guard.
The speed and precision of his hands in the animation above are downright poetic.
Lawler was handed losses in his last two by the stratosphere BJJ of "Jacare" and the overwhelming, gorilla-like wrestling of Tim Kennedy. Against the latter, Lawler's takedown defense was still on-point. Having greats like Pat Miletich and Jeremy Horn in his corner for years has shaped him into a technically sound machine in every aspect. Lawler now trains under Marc Fiore in Granite City, IL., at the reputable Finney's H.I.T. Squad academy.
He started off in the Kennedy fight bouncing light on his toes and seemingly poised to explode with his thunderous boxing.
The gif to the left shows uncanny composure in his ability to let his hands go while still being able to react quickly enough to defend Kennedy's shot. This is a very crucial and under-rated skill for a striker that Lawler excels with.
I'm sure I'm not alone in observing that Lawler's killer instinct was amiss in the late rounds against Kennedy.
He'd apparently created an ideal scenario by shucking off the grappler's incessant takedowns to keep the fight in the location he desired, so it was somewhat of a shock that Lawler barely squeezed trigger on the feet, especially since he had to realize he was down on the score cards. It's always convenient for us to criticize from the couch, but I was left with the feeling that Lawler wasted a prime opportunity with his uncharacteristic third-round hesitancy.
That makes his pairing with Amagov a little tougher to call. Despite the obvious talent and skill of Amagov, I would normally side with a high-level and vastly experienced striker like Lawler in a heartbeat over a newcomer who prefers to stand. His hiccups against Kennedy and the way he's struggled with technically adept kickers in the past are causes for concern.
Amagov might wreak havoc by targeting Lawler's heavy lead leg with low kicks; a tactic that Melvin Manhoef proved was not fully remedied after Pete Spratt used a series of them to nearly dislocated Lawler's hip. Plus, Robbie has been in the game for over a decade now and training and competing at the elite level for that long just eventually takes its toll on the mind, body and spirit.
This is another bout in which I'm tempted to call for an upset, but will settle for stating a cautionary warning to watch out for Amagov while leaning towards the trusty veteran.
My Prediction: Robbie Lawler by TKO.
Amagov spinning back kick gif via Caposa
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com