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2015 Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report #4 Light Heavyweight: Artur Astakhov

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The Bloody Elbow scouting report is narrowing down toward its no. 1 LHW prospect. Here's #4.

The Bloody Elbow Scouting Report continues on looking at the top 10 Light Heavyweight prospects in MMA for 2015. Myself and Zane Simon have scoured the MMA world looking for 205-pound fighters worthy of mention. While the division is often portrayed as being talented starved, after looking at over 100 fighters we found about 30 fighters who were contenders for our Top 10 list. Zane and I narrowed it down to ten and here is our fourth selection.

#4 - Artur Astakhov

Record: 13-2 Height: 6'1" Age: 26 Years Pro: 2.8

Country: Russia Team: Alexander Nevsky Club Base: Kickboxing/Combat Sambo

Astakhov was a competitor on the second season of M-1's reality MMA show, M-1 Fighter, eventually losing in the finals to fellow prospect Vagab Vagabov. Since then, he's gone undefeated in eleven straight bouts. He's a master of sport in combat sambo and kickboxing, and a Central Federal District (Moscow and the surrounding territories) champion in combat sambo.

Strengths

T.P. Grant: Astakhov's number #1 tool is his power, he has legitimate fight ending strikes on the feet and on the ground. Astakhov has really good hand speed and when he touches guys they get hurt. He throws solid combinations, has decent footwork and command of distance. He also has hard kicks that he works in to the legs and body, in addition to mixing in a few spinning back kicks.

On the ground Astakhov scrambles back to the feet fairly well, and can threaten leg locks as a method of getting back to his feet but doesn't really have much of a finishing game there. He is an outstanding athlete, has great speed, and has a good ability to explode on the ground.

Zane Simon: Astakhov is a kickboxer first and foremost and a pretty decent one at that. His defensive movement isn't always elite, but for a young fighter, he shows good footwork and solid in-and-out combination striking. He throws his hands well, following up with kicks to all levels. Couple that with his real, natural power and decent mechanics and it makes Astakhov a fighter to watch out for.

Most of the rest of Astakhov game is athletics. He uses submissions to sweep back to his feet, and is good enough at picking the right ones to threaten his opponent, but he's not exactly a "submission threat." He's shown flashes of decent takedown defense, but really needs to work on advanced movement and not relying on the ring. He's early in his career, and already has one standout skill set, so it just remains to be seen if the rest of his game evolves to meet it.

Points of Development

T.P. Grant: Short answer is wrestling and grappling. Astakhov's counter wrestling is pretty basic and while he can sprawl on an initial shot pretty well, but he doesn't really have an answer for chain wrestling. In fact, Astakhov commits so hard to the sprawl he ends getting elevated and slammed fairly frequently. And once on the ground he has a good, explosive get up, but other than that he has very little game from off his back. While the lack of game from his back isn't a deal-breaker, the poor wrestling defense is a barrier between Astakhov and higher level MMA, though he has shown improvement in recent fights.

Zane Simon: Definitely wrestling, more than anything. I really do think that Astakhov has the size, power, and chin to compete at 205, but he needs to be able to defend the takedown and stay at range. A big part of that will be footwork, and his ability to stay mobile and create angles, but just ensuring that he's always getting underhooks and creating "steering wheel" defense would be good moves as well. An evolving ground game would be nice, and important for his long term chances of success, but LHW is a pretty limited group, and much of the success there is predicated on a striker's ability to stay upright or a wrestler/grappler's ability to get the fight to the mat.

Overall Projection

Astakhov's power and striking ability stands out and in the Light Heavyweight division, which is a fairly stand up focused group of fighters. As such, that alone could take him rather far. Clearly his lack of wrestling and grappling are problems, and if they don't improve it will cap his potential. Currently he seems like an older Albert Tumenov who could end up being a Top 20 Light Heavyweight. If he fills in his wrestling and ground game he could end up being a shorter, lesser version of Alexander Gustafsson.

Stay tuned for #4 and to look up other articles in this series check out the table below. 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

2015 Bloody Elbow Scouting Report

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