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2015 Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report #1 Light Heavyweight: Mikhail Mokhnatkin

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T.P. Grant and Zane Simon unveil their #1 Light Heavyweight Prospect in MMA for 2015.

We've come to our final Light Heavyweight prospect, and to the surprise of very few that he hails from Russia. The Sambo programs have turned their efforts towards producing MMA fighters and the work is really starting to pay dividends. Both the Welterweight and Light Heavyweight divisions were full of Russian fighters, and while that is looking like it is going to change in our next weightclass, it is a certainly a clear trend.

#1 - Mikhail Mokhnatkin

Record: 6-1 Height: 6'1" Age: 24 Years Pro: 4

Country: Russia Team: Sambo-Peter Base: Sambo

Mokhnatkin hails from St. Petersburg and fights out the MMA wing of a top level Combat Sambo school. Mokhnatkin won a Russian national title in Combat Sambo in 2012, and took bronze at Combat Sambo nationals and gold at the European Championships in 2013. Somewhat obviously, along with this success, he is a Master of Sport in Combat Sambo. In just Mokhnatkin's second fight he bested our #4 prospect Artur Astakhov and has been part of the Fight Nights promotion in Moscow for the last year. Coming up on December 20th, he has a bout with our no. 7 prospect, Jiri Prochazka, a win for Mokhnatkin there would go a long way toward cementing him as the best young light heavyweight outside the UFC or Bellator.

Strengths

T.P. Grant: Mokhnatkin is pretty well rounded. His striking doesn't jump out on the first watch, but he's an accurate puncher with a good, subtle angle game, and solid kicks. Mokhnatkin uses a southpaw stance and has good power in his left hand, and on the ground he can follow up with nasty damage. His submission to strikes win over Valentijn Overeem a year ago looks like a Bob Sapp-esque win on paper, but Mokhnatkin landed a murder-death-kill liver shot on the mat that left Overeem writhing on the ground.

Mokhnatkin's real strength is his takedown and grappling game. He has a good shot, and chain wrestles well and has an excellent finishing game to his takedowns. In the clinch Mokhnatkin has a diverse set of takedowns including trips and turning throws. On the ground he aggressively looks to advance position, strikes well, and catches the back well. Once on the back Mokhnatkin has quite a patient approach to finishing a rear naked choke. He has a good mix of technical grappling, aggression, and athletic ability that could lead to him being one of the better grapplers in the division.

Zane Simon: Mokhnatkin's striking is helped by a couple things. One, as T.P. mentioned, is that he's fairly accurate and selective with his shots. The second is that he's got sneaky power. A lot of that comes from him just generally being a strong dude, but he really seems to generate a lot of force on even small strikes. It's impossible to overstate how important that is for competing in the heavier weight classes.

Beyond that, and more importantly, Mokhnatkin has a really solid wrestling, takedown, and clinch game. He can hit a variety of throws, trips, and shots, and he does a great job of controlling opponents from body lock positions (which is increasingly important in the modern game). And, unlike a lot of the regional, grapple-centric, fighters we've seen, Mokhnatkin is a position first finisher. He is great at establishing and maintaining a base on the ground while searching for powerful ground and pound and submission finishes. He rarely lets himself get out of position in search of a quick sub.

Points of Development

T.P. Grant: Mokhnatkin doesn't really have a glaring hole in his game. He could stand to have a bit more submission threat to his game and some work on his defensive striking ability, which are both skills that take a bit longer to develop. Other than that Mokhnatkin just needs to keep polishing up his game, which is already fairly well geared towards success in Unified Rules judging.

Zane Simon: Mokhnatkin's defensive movement still isn't great. He's an in-and-out rhythm striker, which leaves him open to getting hit hard when he gets overly predictable. His head movement, or lack thereof, doesn't improve that. Still, his striking does look like it's steadily improving, and the fact that he packs a wallop helps a lot. Otherwise, there's not much I don't like about Mokhnatkin's game.

Overall Projection

Mokhnatkin has the athletic ability and game to end up being a Top 10, possibly even a Top 5 Light Heavyweight  in the world. He still has quite a bit of work and development to get to that point, but in the current state of Light Heavyweight an aggressive, athletic and technical wrestler/ground fighter with solid stand up could carve out a nice spot for himself. While it seems doubtful Mokhnatkin will be taking the championships belt from the likes of a Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier, or Alexander Gustafsson in his career, his well roundedness is something of rarity for the division. Mokhnatkin could emerge as what many hoped Phil Davis would develop into, a technical wrestler with the ability to end fights on the feet and on the ground.

Stay tuned for the EXTRA! and to look up other articles in this series check out the table below. Next up is Featherweight! 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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#3. Nurmagomedov
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#6. Vartanyan
#7. Kadestam
#8. Piraev
#9. Amosov
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#1. Mokhnatkin
#2. Martell
#3. Kurbanismailov
#4. Astakhov
#5. Ankalaev
#6. Edilov
#7. Prochazka
#8. Albrektsson
#9. Moore
#10. Gamzatov
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