The first question you should be asking is: what's a Bagautinov and why is whatever it may be favored substantially to win despite no Octagon time? The answer:
And, further, the bio of Russian flyweight and Octagon debutante Ali Bagautinov (10-2), who meets Marcos Vinicius (20-4) in the main-card of opener of Wednesday's UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Bader, from UFC.com:
- Master of Sports on International level (Russian honor awarded to top sportsmen)
- Champion of Dagestan Republic in Combat Sambo and Freestyle Wrestling
- Prize winner in Russian Championship in Greco-Roman Wrestling
- Three-time Moscow Champion in Combat Sambo and Pankration
- One-time Moscow Champion in Pankration and Grappling
- Four-time Russian Champion in Combat Sambo
- One-time Russian Champion in Pankration and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Two-time World Champion in Combat Sambo
- Europe Champion in Combat Sambo
- World Champion in Pankration
- Euroasia champion in MMA
- Europe champion in MMA
- Russian champion in MMA.
So there you have it. Following in the footsteps of the great Fedor Emelianenko, Russian Combat Sambo champions have proven to be unusually equipped to perform at MMA's highest level, even when absent of top-shelf competition in the past.
Young fighters who've risen up training MMA as a whole with no singular fighting base from the onset are justifiably trumpeted in the UFC, such as fighters like Rory MacDonald and Michael McDonald have been. Though conjoining the arts of wrestling and submission grappling is the most sensible and effective union for reps of those trades, fighters like Jake Shields and, nowadays, Demian Maia -- who, at their best, are adept at both forcing and finishing ground fights -- are still rare. Speaking in general terms, MMA's standard submission specialist often struggles the most to impose that trade through takedowns while wrestling juggernauts can typically do just that, but lack the polished finesse of elite submissionists in the aspects of guard passing and dynamic submission prowess.
For the small percentage of mixed martial artists who can boast such a vaunted medley, their experience and ability with recomposing guard to sweep, submit or escape makes diving on an armbar that might result in sacrificing a dominant position a less daunting task. Additionally, the influential control that results from powerful wrestling is highly conducive to fostering such lucrative scenarios -- when you can dictate your opponent's position and location with commanding wrestling, the opportunities to lock on a fight-ending submission multiply greatly.
And when said wrestler has a wide-ranging arsenal of technical submissions rather than just basic knowledge of guillotines and rear-naked chokes from the top ... you have a very rare and dangerous breed of animal on your hands.
However, more befitting praise is to be bestowed on our Dagestani Republic newcomer. Bloody Elbow readers might recall the 27-year-old Russian's name from Anton Tabuena's 2012 report on the contest in which half his ear was torn free from his head. No -- this is not intended to inspire a compassionate understanding for one of Bagautinov's two career defeats. Considering that he not only fought on with an ear and a half and a liberal amount of resulting blood loss, but eventually finished his opponent off with a guillotine choke, the mention reinforces Bagautinov's undeniable toughness. No random, run-of-the-mill pussy can claim such a grisly but valiant accomplishment.
While the rundown on Bagautinov explains how he arrived on the big stage and commands such a substantial push on the betting lines, it does not assure victory. Sure, Marcos "Vina" Vinicius (20-4) did not dazzle in his stint on the first iteration of the TUF: Brazil series.Though earning his spot in the house with a 1st-round TKO over Pedro Nobre, Vinicius went on to fall twice: first, to the game Hugo Viana by decision and, next, after Rodrigo Damm was forced out via injury, to finalist Godofredo Pepey by 2nd-round submission.
Disclaimers apply -- as he's slated for his flyweight debut on the card, Vina competed a full 20-pounds over his current weight class on the reality show. Still, Vina hung out at featherweight to pick up a win and "Knockout of the Night" honors over Wagner Campos in his official premiere at UFC 147. The finish-hungry Brazilian, who's stopped every foe in victory (13 subs, 7 TKO's), set his sights on the bantamweight division but the 2nd-round TKO at the hands of Johnny Bedford in his last outing ushered Vina all the way down to the flyweight class.
Though Bagautinov's atypical background and skill set are viable grounds for the gap on the betting lines, along with the usual concerns of the infamous "Octagon jitters" and vast leap in competition, he'll be entangled with an opponent who has double the overall experience (24 fights vs. 12), most of which transpired against competition two weight classes higher, and the respectable laurel of decisive stoppages in all 20 of his career wins.
Vina might even have the better open-space striking than Bagautinov, as the Russian's takedown and submission acumen make up his best assets. Vina's skill on the ground will also not make for easy pickin's and Bagautinov's only career losses were in fights that went the distance, so the promising new arrival still has a lot to prove and must do so against a worthy opponent.
I rarely side with an unproven newcomer over a more experienced veteran, but these are rare circumstances and Bagautinov's claim to fame as Combat Sambo champion is a style that's proven to be an exception from the norm.