All roads lead to the UFC it appears (or at least all roads that don't appear on Spike TV and run "The Toughest Tournament in Sports"). As the UFC continues to snap up fighters from across the globe to fill out their ever expanding roster and schedule, fighters are finding their way to the Zuffa run company through channels that used to be thought of as dead ends. Today it's another four fighters, one welterweight, and three lightweights. While his own fight team broke the news of his signing on Facebook, MMA Fighting reports that former M-1 welterweight champion Rashid Magomedov will make his lightweight debut in the UFC against Tony Martin at UFC 169. Likewise, Polish MMA site MMA Rocks! reported the signing of welterweight prospect Pawel Pawlak and COR MMA reported the signing of ROAD FC champion Yui Chul Nam on Wednesday.
Starting with Magomedov, Rashid is one of the best fighters on the Russian scene and someone I, quite frankly, thought would be tied up by M-1 forever. The Russian national Hand-to-Hand Combat champion, and former M-1 title holder will enter the UFC on an 8 fight win streak and a 15-1 record overall. At 29 years of age, the Gorec MMA fighter has already defeated Yasubey Enomoto, Alexander Yakovlev, and Igor Araujo. He has seven wins by KO/TKO and 1 submission to his name.
Watching him fight, Magomedov is definitely a counter puncher at heart. He uses leg kicks at range to try and force action out of his opponents, which at times can let grapplers in on him. He counters shots well with quick knees, but is perhaps a bit overly reliant on the ring and rope system to hold him up and make takedowns more difficult. He works well off his back however, and is very capable at getting to his feet once on the bottom (a highly necessary skill in the UFC). When his counterstriking opportunities do open up he throws boxing combinations with speed, accuracy, and power. The biggest strength that Magomedov has on his side however, is that he is a defensively sound fighter. His drop in weight should help with his takedown defense and otherwise, even as a somewhat one dimensional talent, he's a definite fighter to watch.
Magomedov's first opponent will be an incredibly green newcomer in former middleweight Tony Martin. The 24 year old Martin is 8-0 and will be something of a behemoth at 155, standing 6' 1". He splits his time training between the GetSum Fight team in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and ATT down in Florida; a small camp product with a bit of big camp experience. His record is a mix of cans, prospects, and journeymen, with one notable exception, a win over Anderson Silva doppleganger Phillipe Nover.
Watching him fight, he's a very energetic, athletic striker. He moves well around the cage and leads exchanges with kicks and punches equally. He will willingly punch his way into the clinch where he tries to use his athletic advantages to bring fighters to the mat. He gets in and out well on combinations, and throws his strikes with a fair degree of technical alacrity. He has six submission wins in his 8 fights, and most are by kimura. It's good move for a fighter who will be a lot bigger than most of his competition at 155. His grappling game is definitely strong, overall but he can get over aggressive and get reversed. Fighting someone as seasoned as Magomedov will be a hell of a test for his entry in to the UFC.
Moving on to the fighters who don't have a debut announced. Pawel Pawlak will be making his entrance to the UFC welterweight division next year. The Gracie Barra Lodz product is 10-0 at just 24 years of age. His record is pretty weak with a lot of too green rookies and regional central European cans. However, like a decent prospect fighting that level of opposition he's finished all but one of his fights by knockout or submission.
Watching Pawlak fight, his striking is obviously a point of growth. He throws some nice headkicks and punches, but they're all one off shots. His technique isn't bad, but it's not connected to the rest of his game. When he finds himself in the clinch, again, he isn't particularly strong or productive. He's not bad on the inside, but there doesn't seem to be a real plan to getting the fight to the ground where he excels. He is very patient in his striking, which is a big benefit to his style, but will make him a bit un-fun to watch. On the ground he's good at scrambling from guard and punishing on top. Really he has all the basic tools of a great prospect and it will be interesting to see how he develops.
Finally, as something of a non-prospect, but similar to the Magomedov pickup, the UFC has signed ROAD FC lightweight champion Yui Chul Nam. The 32 year old Posse MMA product has been strong on the Asian circuit, where he's racked up a 17-4-1 record with victories over Takasuke Kume, Hacran Dias, and Vuisille Colossa. All of his losses have come to strong competition, even if they aren't all particularly well known. While he has gone through some decision heavy stretches in his career 8 of his 17 victories come by TKO/KO.
From the first moment of watching Nam fight, it's obvious that he's a brawler, pure and simple. He keeps his hands low to sprawl on shot attempts, and leans in to his opponent with short sharp hooks. Essentially he's built in the Bobby Voelker mold. He's strong, he hits with power, and he' really not interested in anything other than boxing his way in and out of the clinch. He will use his strength and speed to shoot for the occasional takedown, but it's all predicated on athletic ability and thus more easily defended than a really technical shot. Because of this there's probably some threat that he becomes something of a grinder in the UFC as he looks, but is unable, to take fighters down and ends up pressing them against the cage interminably.
To get us better acquainted with everyone, check out some of their recent fights.
Rashid Magomedov defending his title against Alexander Yakovlev at M-1 35:
Tony Martin facing off against Tyler Hellenbrand (his fight is about 15 minutes in):
Pawel Pawlak vs. Mateusz Strzelczyk:
And finally Yui Chul Nam vs. Kume Takasuke in the first of their two battles:
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