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2015 Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report #4 Welterweight: Khusein Khaliev

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T.P. Grant and Zane Simon continue to move up their list of the top Welterweight prospects in MMA.

The Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report is continuing the delve into the Top 5 Welterweight prospects currently in MMA. The first half of the top ten was covered in a single article, and the write up of Prospect #5 have already been posted, as well as how fighters were selected, graded, and ranked was covered in the Methodology post.

So let's move to the next prospect:

#4 - Khusein Khaliev

Record: 13-1 Height: 5'11" Age: 26 Years Pro: 4.25

Country: Russia Team: K Dojo Warrior Tribe Base: Kudo/Combat Sambo

The Khaliev family already has one member in the UFC as Khusein's brother Adam Khaliev has been signed and awaiting his Octagon debut for just about a year now. Khusein fights out the K Dojo Warrior Tribe gym that is located in Fairfield, New Jersey, a team that specializes in no gi adaptations of Combat Sambo and Judo. Beyond his MMA career, Khaliev is also a world champion in Daido-Juku Karate competition (KUDO), as well as a Russian youth full-contact fighting champion. He also holds titles in shootboxing, kick-jitsu, and pankration.

Khusein is originally from Chechnya and the majority of his professional fights have taken place in and around Russia, having spent time in M-1 Challenge, as well as a few other regional shows. Most recently however Khaliev took a fight in the Untied States, in an Arkansas promotion. While Khaliev faced a good slate of fighters early in his career, in the last two years he hasn't taken the step up in competition you'd like to see in a young fighter. He lost a narrow fight to tough Swiss fighter and prospect tester Yasubey Enomoto that could have been his breakout win, and since then he has taken a few safer bouts. That doesn't take away from his talent but has seemed to slow his rise a bit.

Strengths

T.P. Grant: The best aspect of Khaliev's striking game is his kicks. He can uncork a heavy leg kick in addition to going upstairs and landing a head kick. The Khaliev family has a love of spinning of kicks, mostly springing from their background in Taekwondo, and Khaliev is no exception. He attempts quite a few of spinning kicks in his fights, but his low kicks are a far more effective weapon.

What really makes Khaliev an exciting prospect is his wrestling, which is top notch. In his current state, he would be one of the best takedown artists in the division. His base is excellent, he has a great feel for his opponent's balance, and chain wrestles very well, transitioning from shot takedowns to the clinch extremely well.

On the ground Khaliev is extremely aggressive with a fantastic feel for positional transitions and has already shown the ability to strike while transitioning, which is one of those elite level skills that many fighters develop later in their careers.

Zane Simon: One of the biggest, overall strengths for Khaliev is how well his overall game works together. his outstanding speed and athletic ability allow him to throw kicks with unreal speed and power, which tends to force opponents to try and close distance on him. Once inside, they fall right into his technical wrestling and ground and pound game. Each of his skills supports the other and make him a very hard fighter to break down and defeat.

While his technical grappling may not always be on point, he's also shown a great ability to pick up submissions in transition, most importantly from the front headlock position, but he's got a nice armbar chain as well. He appears to have an incredibly good squeeze when applying chokes, and I don't think I've ever seen him choke an opponent who didn't end up unconscious.

Points of Development

T.P. Grant: The biggest thing Khaliev needs to work on is his submission grappling. His offensive and defensive submission game is pretty rudimentary. His prevention and escapes from submissions are just good enough to not lose him fights but against more advanced submission players his current state of submission defense will not cut it. His submission offense is a less pressing problem, mainly because his ground striking is so good, but against good grapplers he is not a serious threat to find a submission.

Also, while Khaliev has an excellent sense of transition, his step-by-step grappling needs some work. Enomoto used the high guard to really take away the transition from Khaliev and showed that a good guard player could contain Khaliev. Developing a bit more guard passing would really help Khaliev with is submission defense problem as it is pretty easy to avoid submissions if you are on top past the guard.

Zane Simon: First and foremost, to me, is that I have yet to see Khaliev ply his trade as a consistent range striker. No doubt, whether he ends up at lightweight or stays at welterweight, he will eventually (probably) meet someone he can't take down, when that happens, I'm not sure how well he can stick and move at range, and remain elusive with a kick heavy offense. It'd be nice to see him use his hands more, and become a more consistent range striker.

Alongside that, as Grant mentioned, his grappling game as a whole needs work. He often thrusts himself into bad defensive positions for the sake of creating offense and will give up position for submission to try for armbars. Both have worked well at the lower levels, where his strength and speed let him just wrench out of things, but against more powerful and athletic grapplers, he could find himself getting subbed.

Overall Progression

Khaliev has the wrestling and athleticism to be a real player in the Welterweight division. His ground fighting has real potential to become a strong tool in his favor if he is able to improve his ability to pass guard and defend submissions. His recent step back in competition likely makes him still a few steps away from Bellator or UFC contract.

Khaliev's strong takedown game, aggressive top game, sneaky good striking, and sub-par submission game makes him a perfect comparison to Chael Sonnen. While the comparison does work, Khaliev has better ability to finish with strikes on the ground and has time to patch the holes in his game. If he does Khaliev could very well contend at some point in his career.

2015 Bloody Elbow Scouting Report

Flyweight Bantamweight Featherweight Lightweight Welterweight
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Stay tuned for #3, to look up other articles in this series click on the Stream link up and to the right. For comments, questions, or suggestions head down to the comment line or reach out to T.P. and Zane on Twitter: @TP_Grant and @TheZaneSimon