It feels like I can't hardly take the time out of my day to polish my set of onyx GSP statuettes anymore without the UFC picking up another few fighters. After years of dismissing it the UFC appears to have opened the pipeline to Russia full blast and is bringing on another two Russian welterweights, one of which is the highly flying prospect Albert Tumenov. This isn't to say that the home turf is being forgotten though, as they have also signed Michigan's own Kevin Lee, one of the top prospects at 155 lbs.
First off, the American. Lee announced his UFC signing via Twitter late Tuesday:
Just realized I am the first Detroit Born&Raised and one of the youngest UFC Fighters! Dreams do come true. Hard Work, Dedication THATS IT!— Kevin Lee (@MoTownPhenom) December 11, 2013
A 21 year old Michigan native, Lee is a product of a pretty small camp in Triumph MMA. The 5' 9" lightweight has put together a 7-0 record in a little under two years as a pro, with his unbeaten streak coming against solid, if unspectacular, opposition. He is the first loss for four of his seven opponents and the other three were all solid journeyman fighters. One of his opponents, Mansour Barnouri has since gone on to defeat UFC vet Curt Warburton and fights Colin Fletcher next week. Lee's record is split fairly evenly between submissions and decisions, but he's currently on a nice streak, with each of his last four wins by tapout.
Watching him fight, it's easy to see that Lee's striking is still a work in progress. He has a lot of confidence in his hands, his footwork is good and he puts together some decent combinations, but his technique appears to come in fits and starts. At times he's winging big, looping hooks, at other times his punches are straight, tight and controlled. He closes distance well behind a good jab and a decent (but not exceptional) kicking game. In the clinch and on the ground is where Lee is really strong. Not only does he appear to be exceptionally powerful, but he has a strong variety of technique and listens to instruction very well. His wrestling is nicely chained between takedowns and grinding fence/clinch control. He appears really solid in transitioning from positional grappling to submissions as well, making use of his long arms to be dangerous in transition. No debut date has been set for Lee, but he is expecting to appear on a card early next year.
Lee isn't the only 21 year old prospect picked up today. Combate reports that the UFC has signed 12-1 Russian K Dojo Warrior Tribe product Albert Tumenov. I mentioned Tumenov briefly last week in my write up of Oleksiy Oliynyk, as one of the more notable training partners of the Ukranian heavyweight. The young welterweight is fresh off a one-round pasting of former M-1 Welterweight champion Yasubey Enomoto at Fight Nights: Battle of Moscow 13 in October, by far the biggest win of his four year career.
Of his 12 wins, 8 have come by KO/TKO and watching Tumenov fight, it's obvious that he's something of a striking phenom. Tumenov's footwork, hand speed and all around striking game look to be exceptionally polished. A counter striker first and foremost, he creates openings at distance by feinting and throwing switch head kicks, or lunging in behind power shots. Not only does he have a ton of power and accuracy in his hands, but he has the kind of timing and distance control that make less studied MMA strikers look frightfully bad. Honestly, because he's KO'd his last six opponents I have no idea what his ground game looks like, but I'd venture that it's a weakness. He sprawls well and stays on his feet with good footwork, so I don't expect it to be a glaring hole, but it's really hard to say with what footage there is of him. Tumenov is set to make his debut against Ildemar Alcantara at UFC Fight Night 36 in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil and I expect that he'll make spectacular showing in his first UFC fight.
And finally, another new Welterweight out of Russia, Gasan Umalatov has been signed to face Neil Magny at UFC 169 in Newark, New Jersey. BloodAndSweat.ru reported the signing and FightNights.ru reported the matchup. Umalatov, age 31, is 14-2-1 in his 6 year pro career. He fights out of the Fight Nights Team alongside Ali Bagautinov and Vitaly Minakov (along with a host of other hot prospects). He has a recent split decision loss to a decent prospect in Aigun Akhmedov, so he's entering the UFC with only one win in-between. And to be honest, while not a bad record it's decidedly lacking in strong competition.
Watching Umalatov fight, he's definitely a better striker than grappler. He's got some really decent boxing and moves his head well while throwing punches. He digs to the body especially well and changes up his combinations. I've seen him get a bit wild at times, but when on point he's a very studied puncher. He throws some decent leg kicks as well, but his boxing is definitely where his striking shines. In the clinch he's more of a scrambler. He'll pursue trip takedowns and drags and will take the occasional shot, but he's not a transition wizard, so if something isn't working in his attempts to get the fight down he's likely to struggle a bit. Once the fight hits the mat, he's okay on top, but not entirely solid. He can be swept, in part because he's willing to give up position for submissions. Overall, he's not a terrible pickup, but not likely to light the division on fire. He could, however, certainly beat Neil Magny.
To get us better acquainted check out some video of the fighters.
Kevin Lee in his last fight against Eric Moon:
Albert Tumenov in his most recent fight against Yasubey Enomoto:
Gasan Umalatov in his latest fight against Gregor Herb:
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