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World MMA Heavyweight Scouting Report: #7 - Vitaly Minakov

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Russia has a storied history of producing great heavyweight talent, most notably Fedor Emelianenko, Aleksander Emelianenko, Igor Vovchanchyn and Sergei Kharitonov. While Fedor was obviously a kingpin at the top of the worldwide division for roughly a decade, time and the progressing skills of other top-flight talents are now obstacles in the way of his continued dominance. The newest breed of heavyweights are now emerging from the Russian scene. At #7 on the 2011 World MMA Scouting Report, three-time World Sambo champion Vitaly Minakov (4-0) takes his place as the one of the many Russian-born talents making their way onto our countdown.

Offensive Skills: Minakov's background in Sambo has a profound effect on his style inside the ring. He has shown a limited capacity to strike with his opponents, but his goal in every fight is to bring opponents into his world on the ground. He is, however, a lighter weight heavyweight fighter, normally undersized in comparison to some of the larger fighters he's faced. He makes up for that difference with surprising strength and technique in his takedown game. Look no further than the one-armed toss at the 1:35 mark of the Ruslan Kabdulin bout below for an incredible example. Once on the floor, Minakov has dominated the opposition, normally transitioning to the armbar with above average grappling skills.

Defensive Skills: The limited number of fights that Minakov has had so far in his career leaves us grasping at straws when we refer to his defensive tactics. His striking defense is rather limited, mainly due to his unfamiliarity with it. But he has the ground game to defend against anything his opposition can throw at him at this stage in his career. My biggest concern is the heavier fighters who possess better striking or smothering wrestling skills from the top.

Progression: Again, four fights doesn't give us enough footage to compare and critique his early fights versus his more recent bouts. As his career continues, his striking game will be a major focal point along with his ability to work from top control and off his back. At 26 years old, he has plenty of time to improve those skills and take on better fighters. He was supposed to fight in the same heavyweight tournament as Konstantin Gluhov this past weekend, which would have been his stiffest test to date. It's too bad his opening round bout with Jair Goncalves was scrapped. It would have given us a sense of where he ranks.

Environment: I haven't been able to dig up any information regarding Minakov's training camp, but I imagine he's working with the same Sambo coaches who helped him with three straight World Sambo championship titles. Hopefully, Minakov finds a boxing coach who can teach him the finer points of striking to supplement his impressive ground game.

Bantamweight Featherweight Lightweight
#1 - Eduardo Dantas
#2 - Farkhad Sharipov
#3 - Jimmie Rivera
#4 - Yusup Saadulaev
#5 - John Lineker
#6 - Adrian Wooley
#7 - Rodrigo Lima
#8 - Tommy Vargas
#9 - Mike Easton
#10 - Denis Puric
#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 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
#7 - Vitaly Minakov
#8 - Konstantin Gluhov
#9 - Nick Gaston
#10 - Mark Potter


Potential: Minakov is a rather small heavyweight fighter, so there is some thought that he should move down to light heavyweight. Against more technically sound heavyweight competition, he'll have problems getting the fight to the ground and running a clinic in the submission game. His size will plague him in the future, but the question is whether his technique and background can overcome those obstacles. He has shown impressive strength inside the ring so far, utilizing judo and grappling techniques to overwhelm his competition. The jury is still out on whether Minakov can succeed against the bigger heavyweights in the prospect pool, but he's one of the most interesting, heavily-credentialed fighters on our countdown.


Valeri Scherbakov vs. Vitaliy Minakov

Vitaly Minakov vs. Ruslan Kabdulin

Vitaly Minakov - Alexander Zubachov

Minakov vs Iliyev (Sambo)