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2015 Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report #10 - #6 Featherweight Prospects

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The Bloody Elbow MMA Scouting Report is back! T.P. Grant and Zane Simon are breaking down the best 145-pound unsigned prospects in MMA.

T.P. Grant and Zane Simon are back on the grind, this time looking at 130 Featherweights, searching for the ten best. Together, Zane and I have watched tape on fighters from all over the world. The 145-pound weightclass is an incredibly talent rich division and awash in excellent, young fighters. It not only has fighters who meet our "prospect status" requirements (outlined in the Methodology post) but also fighters who are really finished products waiting for their chance, such as Musa Khamanaev.

So while we will being doing a bonus EXTRA! piece to help capture more of the quality of this division there are quite a lot good fighters at this weight. And while the influx of Eastern European talent into the sport is still apparent, the traditional powerhouses of Brazil and the U.S. had more to offer in this search.

So let's dig into the list, and be sure to catch Number 1, he might very well be the best prospect in all of MMA.

#10 - Anzor Azhiev

Record: 5-1 Height: 5'7" Age: 24 Years Pro: 3.2

Country: Poland/Russia Team: Ankos Zapasy Base: Wrestling

Originally born in Chechnya, Azhiev was a three time national youth champion in Freestyle Wrestling and earned the title of Master of Sport in Wrestling. He moved to Poland in 2010 and began training MMA there. He took his first professional fight about a year after starting training and after his first fight he was signed by the KSW promotion. He has stayed decently active taking two fights a year and has a 4-1 record with a NC in KSW since 2012.

T.P. Grant: Azhiev has two things in spades: aggression and wrestling. Azhiev is on the attack at pretty much all times and really throws a fully variety of strikes as he bulldozes forward. He is a pretty outstanding athlete which allows him to mix in spinning kicks, flying knees, and superman punches with little apparent effort. His wrestling isn't always apparent as he doesn't employ it offensively often, but it comes out when fighters attempt to take Azhiev down, even when fighters get in on his hips he as excellent recovery skills and is very difficult to put on his back.

The downside is that Azhiev's striking, while powerful, is very raw. He does have a weird, ugly accuracy with his strikes but his overall striking game isn't very developed. Combined with his sometimes unthinking aggression, and you get a fighter ripe to be exploited on the feet as overexertion would be an understatement on some of his attacks.

Zane Simon: In a lot of ways, Anzor Azhiev fits perfectly the profile of our marginal top ten prospects. He's fantastically athletic, and capable of performing at a level well above most of his competition, but technically he's very raw and much of his development will hinge on his ability to improve his base skills, rather than fitness or game planning deficiencies.

The biggest thing he has going for him at the moment is that his pure, technical wrestling is on point. When someone tries to get in and take him down, or when he's searching for his own takedowns, he wrestles aggressively and with skill, switching his angles and methods as he goes. That base skill can take him a long way as his striking and grappling games round into form.

Overall Projection: When looking for an MMA prospect really the first things you look for is athletic talent, a skill set to build on, and aggression. Azhiev has all these things. So at this point it is really about development and polishing, which is a matter of coaching, experience, and Azhiev having his head in the right place. He needs to tighten up his striking game in order to compete at higher levels of this sport, and in his current state he isn't ready to step off the regional scene. As it stands, if he worked more offensive wrestling into his game he could be a more athletic Clay Gudia. If Azhiev is able to find his way to a more established camp he could developed a skill set similar to that of Johny Hendricks, right down to the ugly and yet accurate striking.

#9 - Alexander Matmuratov

Record: 4-0 Height: 5'6" Age: 25 Years Pro: 1.5

Country: Russia Team: Novokuznetsk Sports School No. 2 Base: Karate

Karatekas from Russia have begun to make something of a consistent appearance in our scouting process, as it appears that another formerly untapped group of combat athletes are starting to make their way into MMA. Matmuratov hails from south-western Siberia and is an accomplished competitor in Koshiki Karate. He won a World Championship in 2013, but in the incredibly divided world of Karate that doesn't have quite the meaning it does in other martial arts. More significantly Matmuratov was the 2012 Champion of Russia in Karate and is considered a Master of Sport.

He made his professional Mixed Martial arts debut in August of 2013 and has four fights on regional shows in Central and Eastern Russia.

T.P. Grant: Simply put Matmuratov is in the Top 5 of pure athletes I've scouted thus far. When Matmuratov is at range in striking exchanges he shines with a quick kicking game and is a solid counter puncher. He has a good feel for distance, both in striking and creating distance between the hips when defending takedowns. Maturatov will take the fight to the ground, mostly off of caught kicks.

Matmuratov's overall game is still a work in progress, and while he does have a mostly functional game in place, it pretty much all needs development with an eye towards Mixed Martial Arts competition. He is serviceable in the clinch, but he doesn't seek to disengage from it and get back to his preferred realm of fighting and gets bogged down there. His ground fighting at the moment is rather bare bones, but he does actively avoid engaging in ground fighting when he has the choice.

Zane Simon: There's no question that Matmuratov has the kind of freak athletic ability to be a great talent in MMA. Add to that a very decisive skill base in his karate background, and the raw tools of a great fighter are there. The big question, then becomes just how dedicated is he. Matmuratov's ground game and wrestling are still both major works in process, things that he can survive through on athletic ability alone, against bad competition.

To compliment that, at the moment, he is neither fighting good competition, nor even quite traditional MMA rules bouts, but instead "Draka rules", while still competing on the karate tournament circuit. If he makes a real push toward his MMA career and works on his takedown defense and clinch offense, the sky's the limit for him.

Overall Projection: Matmuratov has the athletic ability to be a real player on the high levels of MMA and he is young enough to fill in his gaps technically speaking. However it is going to be a long road, he has yet to fight an MMA bout that has full five minute rounds. His athletic ability makes him a possible blue chipper, but it is still very early in his career so expect a few more fights before he steps up his competition, but if he finds his stride Matmuratov has the tools to really take off.

#8 - Mike Grundy

Record: 2-0 Height: 5'8" Age: 27 Years Pro: 0.4

Country: United Kingdom Team: Team Kaobon Base: Wrestling

English wrestling is often the butt of jokes in the MMA world, but in Grundy we have a legitimate and respected wrestler.  Grundy has been the national champion of Great Britain multiple times, has medaled at the Commonwealth games, and represented Great Britain in the 2012 Summer Games in London. He now serves as the wrestling coach of Team Kaobon.  He took two amateur fights in the OMMAC promotion in 2011-2012 and in the last year has turned pro with two quick submission wins in the BAMMA organization.

T.P. Grant: Grundy is powerfully built for the division and is very strong and technical in the clinch. He strikes well in close and against the cage. He has a good shot from the outside in addition to his chain wrestling in close as well. At range on the feet he has some heavy kicks, but hasn't shown much in the way of boxing or a way to get inside currently. On the ground he is aggressive, with an amazingly solid base. He strikes very well on the ground and likes to look for front headlock chokes, specifically the D'arce choke.

Zane Simon: Grundy is one of those fighters that, after I scouted him I kept returning to the idea of him as a top ten fighter. He's not the most athletic man on this list (in fact he may be the least), but his MMA game is just so well designed around his wrestling and so stable. Not only does he wrestle well, but he strikes well inside and has a very strong top control game. All of those together, along with a consistent, aggressive work rate, make him an incredibly dangerous fighter, even less than a year into his career.

It's unlikely that we see Grundy on a big stage anytime soon, as it such early days and very few European prospects make the jump to the UFC early in their careers, but whenever his chance comes, I expect Grundy to do very well at the higher levels of MMA.

Overall Projection: Team Kaobon is a well connected camp, as evidenced by Grundy making his pro debut in BAMMA, so it is highly likely he will get some time in the either the UFC or Bellator. Time is a factor with Grundy as he is already 27-years-old and is just coming to the end of his first year as a professional. So it is a bit of race to tighten up his game and really develop higher level ways to close the gap on the feet. As it stands right now Grundy would likely be a fairly average grinder if he were to step into the UFC today. With some further development and growth Grundy could be something akin to Rick Story. If he really takes off he could end up being a Nate Marquardt, but with a bit more wrestling and fewer Tekken combos.


#7 - Khusein Askhabov

Record: 8-0 Height: 5'9" Age: 19 Years Pro: 1.8

Country: France/Russia Team: Gladiator FC Base: Wrestling/Karate

Another émigré from Chechnya, Askhabov settled in France with his brother in 2012. There he began fighting for the Paris team Gladiator Fight. Before moving to France, Askhabov was a champion Combat Sambist, grappler, and won the 2011 World Championship in Ukado, a full contact style of Karate in Russia similar to Combat Sambo.

He was alarmingly active in his first year of pro competition, taking and winning seven fights in 2013. He took the first half of 2014 off and then returned to competition taking 3 fights in the last 6 months. It has been on low level regional shows across Europe.

T.P. Grant: Askhabov is already a pretty outstanding athlete while just a teenager and his Ukado background really shows itself in his kicking game. Askhabov has a fantastic fluidity to his kicks which he throws off a quick dashes forward. But the Karate and Combat Sambo origins of his striking also show in his lack of combinations and tendency to throw single strikes in exchanges.

In the clinch Askhabov likes to wrestle over striking, and really likes to attack a no gi uchi mata and then look to chain wrestle in the scramble it creates. His defensive wrestling seems to be on point already and on the ground Askhabov has an aggressive striking game. Askhabov's positional game on the ground clearly needs work, as he relies largely on athletic explosion and he is the kind of fighter that can go from having the full mount to being mounted in the span of a few seconds. He does have a decent sense for finding the armbar, but he has a tendency to favor high risk entries. All that said Askhabov does seem to have a natural feel for the ground game and transitional grappling.

Zane Simon: Askhabov is essentially, raw, early potential personified. He wrestles well, he strikes with flair, and he's amazingly fast and fluid, but everything doesn't quite meld into a finished style yet. Given that he's only 19 and that he's been fighting for less than two years, time is very much on Askhabov's side. I'm still unsure of whether he'll grow into featherweight or eventually be forced down to bantamweight, but I expect he'll have the talent to compete in either division.

One of the biggest points of concern for Askhabov is really his striking. While he's a dynamic and fluid striker, he has some notable gaps in his footwork and the consistency with which he uses his hands. It could be possible that the's setting himself up with some very inadequate boxing fundamentals that will be hard to unlearn as a striker as his career goes on, but that's a really minor concern at the moment.

Overall Projection: Askhabov has a good deal of natural talent, but as it stands he is still a teenager and is in all likelihood still a few years away from being ready for higher level competition. All aspects of his game need growth, but the building blocks for a well rounded skill set are there, he could be an excellent wrestle-kickboxer and he has the tools to easily reach the average level of ground fighting in higher level MMA. Askhabov also needs to grow into the division a bit as he is undersized currently, but being a teenager he has a lot of time to either bulk up a bit with man strength or drop down to Bantamweight. A good way to think of Askhabov currently is much like Max Holloway when he was coming off his second year of professional fighting. Holloway was also undefeated, but took a short notice fight with Dustin Poirier as a way to get his foot in the door with the UFC far too early in his career and Poirier toyed with him on the ground. Holloway then has basically spent the past three years learning on the job in the UFC. Askhabov has a chance to get much of learning done outside the UFC, but he and his camp need to protect his body and bit and scale back on the frequency of fights he is taking.

#6 - Pavel Vitruk

Record: 11-0 Height: 5'4" Age: 24 Years Pro: 3.4

Country: Ukraine Team: Alexander Nevsky Base: Combat Sambo/Muay Thai

Vitruk is a Ukrainian who trains at the prestigious Combat Sambo/MMA school Alexander Nevsky. Originally a Thai boxer in Russia, Vitruk won the St. Petersburg title for Muay Thai three times and was also the 2011 Champion of Russia in Ukado, the Russian form of full contact karate. Vitruk has been fighting for just over three years and has several fights in M-1 and has won two one-night tournaments in his short MMA career.

T.P. Grant: Power. For a featherweight Vitruk may be small but he packs a serious punch on the feet and on the ground. Vitruk will fight orthodox and southpaw on the feet and seems comfortable out of both stances, but favors orthodox. He is at his best moving forward and pressuring his opponents and sets up his heavy punches well with bodywork. He does have solid low kicks and a clinch striking game, but they are secondary to his hands. He can be forced off his game by aggressive strikers and has the bad habit of moving straight backwards, a very bad habit for a fighter as small as Vitruk.

Vitruk has serviceable wrestling, and on the ground he is always seeking a way to strike his opponent. He will throw punches, elbows, shoulder strikes, knees to the tailbone, any thing he can do to cause some form of pain to his opponent. Vitruk is very strong, but his cardio depletes quickly.

Zane Simon: Pavel Vitruk is a very strange case as a fighter, because I wouldn't immediately label him an elite talent. But, he's a talent, with an elite, fight changing skill and a well rounded enough game to make him more than a one note brawler. Vitruk has that fantastic fighter build of not being necessarily incredibly tall for his weight class, but having a massive reach advantage. And with his freakishly big arms comes freakish, fight ending power.

But, he's not a brawler, rather (at least when he's pressing forward) Vitruk has a very technical and multi-faceted striking game. He strikes well to the body, has a fantastic, sharp kicking game, and throws his punches with great technique and speed. If it weren't for the fact that his striking defense is notably lax, he'd be an amazing force to be reckoned with. Still, it's not hard to look at the fighter he is right now and see a man already capable of putting on great fights.

Overall Projection: Vitruk's future more than likely resides down a weightclass, or even two, as he is almost always the smaller, shorter fighter in his matches, a problem that will only increase the higher he goes in the division. The level of his competition has been up and down, a mix of local jobbers and known regional commodities.  A tempered expectation of Vitruk is him being a John Howard type action fighter for the lower weightclasses. If his development continues his ceiling could be John Lineker or Hector Lombard minus his Judo.


Stay tuned for the #5 Featherweight coming soon! 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

Flyweight Bantamweight Featherweight Lightweight Welterweight
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#6. Vitruk
#7. Askhabov
#8. Grundy
#9. Matmuratov
#10. Azhiev
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#1. Usman
#2. Mustafaev
#3. Nurmagomedov
#4. Khaliev
#5. Scope
#6. Vartanyan
#7. Kadestam
#8. Piraev
#9. Amosov
#10. Tokov
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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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