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Wrestling breakdown, Part 2: 2018 World champion Zaurbek Sidakov

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Highlighting the career of Russia’s 74 kilogram kingpin, including his dramatic win over Jordan Burroughs.

Day Six: Minsk 2019 - 2nd European Games Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

Read part 1 of the Zaurbek Sidakov breakdown here. Part 2 covers his run through the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

2018 Yarygin

After about one year at 70 kg, Sidakov had grown into his body and was ready for the move to 74, an Olympic weight.

His first major tournament at 74 since his European Championship title loss to Suleymanov would be the Ivan Yarygin.

On his way to the finals, Sidakov outscored his two opponents 18-2.

In the finals he would meet Russia’s 2014 World champion and 2017 World silver medalist, Khetik Tsabolov.

Tsabolov defeated his first two opponents by technical fall before winning a tight 5-3 match against Mongolia’s Olympia representative and World Military champion, Mandakhnaran Ganzorig.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Tsabolov kept the match close, holding the aggressive Sidakov at arm’s length and keeping him out of his preferred underhooks for most of the match.

When Sidakov did commit and press forward off those collar and elbow ties, Tsabolov was able to time him and intercept for a clean shot entry.

Tsabolov read Sidakov’s offense and stayed out of danger, holding on for a 3-1 victory and an Ivan Yarygin title.

If Sidakov wanted to make the team, he would have to go through Tsabolov.

2018 Russian Nationals

After being tested by three World champions, Sidakov had no trouble winning a U23 European Championship. It was time to make the leap and take on the best in the country, and then the world.

In the Russian National quarterfinals, Sidakov met Timur Bizhoev, a U23 World and Cadet World bronze medalist.

The stout Bizhoev held the center of the mat, refusing to be moved around and allow Sidakov opportunities for explosive offense. Both wrestlers gave up one point for passivity, and the match was tied 1-1 with under one minute left, the criteria favoring Bizhoev.

Driving forward, Sidakov got to his underhook and convinced Bizhoev to bite hard on the whizzer. As soon as he had a strong lock on his opponent, Sidakov dropped to his knees and got to a high crotch, scrambling through to finish the match winning takedown.

Thankfully, the semifinals were a breeze, Sidakov disposed of an overmatched Evengi Lapshov via 10-0 technical fall, setting up the rematch with Tsabolov. It was a battle between two Ossetians.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

With the World team spot on the line, Tsabolov was far more aggressive, pushing off the elbows of Sidakov to enter powerfully on the double, standing with the single when he met the concrete hips of Sidakov.

Sidakov showed off his terrific balance and flexibility, fighting to create distance while bouncing on one leg, at one point doing a full split. But eventually, Tsabolov was able to reattack and finish the takedown to take a 2-0 lead. Absurd hips and masterful wrist fighting from Sidakov prevented any further scoring as Tsabolov attempted to roll through with a lace.

Perhaps less comfortable with his lead than he was at the Yarygin, Tsabolov attacked, looking to ice the match. Sidakov’s flexibility and dog-tough scrambling allowed him to stalemate Tsabolov’s shots, keeping the match close as the final seconds drew near.

Sidakov began to pick up steam and with just over 30 seconds left, Tsabolov changed levels and attacked in an effort to cool off the young contender.

But the shot attempt gave Sidakov exactly what he needed - a right side underhook.

Just as he did against Chamizo, Sidakov punched through and attacked the trailing left leg, collapsing Tsabolov’s base and quickly collecting both ankles.

Tsabolov frantically crawled out of bounds, but Sidakov began his leg lace before leaving the outer ring and rolled the former World champion through for two points. He now held the 2-2 lead on criteria with 27 seconds remaining.

Tsabolov attacked with fury, constantly running Sidakov down and taking vicious bites at his legs. Sidakov did all his could to retreat while circling away from the edge, but Tsabolov soon found his way to a leg.

Sidakov pressed in with his hips, whizzered and fought what would be the connecting wrist while continuing to step away from the edge. Tsabolov worked back to his base and drove in hard, but Sidakov never gave up the angle and managed to escape the single, attacking his own go-behind.

Tsabolov spun out and as Sidakov retreated, he pounced on the trail leg, back in on a single once again. But Sidakov’s feet never stopped moving, he stayed square, whizzered and fought to keep Tsabolov’s hands unlocked.

When he finally disengaged, Sidakov intercepted the rush of Tsabolov, entering on his own shot. He held on tight and watched the clock expire.

Sidakov was a national champion once again.

2018 World Wrestling Championships

Round 1

Jordan Burroughs earns a forfeit.

Frank Chamizo earns a dominant 9-0 victory over Tajikistan.

The young Georgian Avtandil Kentchadze upsets World bronze Bekzod Abdurakhmonov 12-12 on criteria.

Zaurbek Sidakov faces the Bulgarian Miroslav Kirov, a 2011 Junior World bronze medalist.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Until this point, Sidakov’s biggest weakness was his lack of options from collar ties, he could be slowed down in the handfight if he was unable to get to the right underhook.

Against Kirov, Sidakov revealed a new weapon that would work to eliminate this problem - the slide by.

As both wrestlers reach for collar ties, Sidakov drapes his hand on his lead side inside the posting arm of Kirov.

As Kirov stepped in, Sidakov gripped the inside of the arm, turned out and ripped Kirov to his left, catching a grip on his lat. With both arms behind Kirov, he was able to drag him down to the mat for two.

Slide by’s and explosive intercepting shots delivered Sidakov a commanding 10-0 technical fall.

Round 2

Jordan Burroughs wins a tight match over Iran’s 2016 Asian Championships gold medalist Hosseinkhani, 4-3.

Frank Chamizo defeated 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist Byung-min Gong of South Korea, 5-1.

Avtandil Kentchadze destroys Poland’s Sokalski via 12-2 technical fall.

Zaurbek Sidakov shut down Puerto Rico’s 2011 World silver medalist and 2009 NCAA Division 1 champion Franklin Gomez 6-0.

Quarterfinal

Frank Chamizo defeats Kazakhstan’s Sakayev 6-1.

Avtandil Kentchadze controls Junior World silver medalist Abakarov 5-2.

Zaurbek Sidakov faces the reigning World champion, Jordan Burroughs.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

It’s likely Burroughs did his homework on the Russian representative, as he went immediately to handfighting and breaking his opponent down from the collar ties.

The American style is often designed to wear out foreign opposition, who are often not used to the hellish pace and physicality of some of the American elite.

But Sidakov prepared specifically for Jordan Burroughs, even before he made the team. He knew who the man to beat was at 74 kg.

In tight, he was able to throw Burroughs by from the outside tie on the shoulder, rather than his underhook. But the five-time gold medalist was able to get out of dodge before Sidakov could capitalize on the disruption.

From the wrist ties, Burroughs swung to the right leg, Sidakov sprawled left to his knees in response. Sidakov began to build back to his feet, expecting Burroughs to do the same.

Instead, the American did what he does best, launched into a double leg entry through the arms of Sidakov, knocking him over for the first takedown of the match. 2-0, Burroughs.

Once they were back fighting in the collar ties, Sidakov unleashed the slide by, reaching inside the arm and pulling hard as he pivoted off to his left. But finishing the takedown would not be as easy as it was against Kirov.

Burroughs quickly circled back out, preventing Sidakov from reaching across his back. But Sidakov still had a hold of his face, dropping to his knees and yanking the Olympic champion’s head toward the mat, the rest of his body followed, allowing Sidakov to reach for the lat and circle behind. 2-2, Sidakov.

It became clear that if they were in ties, Sidakov would have the advantage. From the outside, Sidakov could not afford not to react to Burroughs’ fakes, but those reactions were exactly what put him in danger.

Burroughs snapped the head and dropped to his knees, Sidakov followed suit. Once again, the second Sidakov raised his head, Burroughs launched himself forward on a shot from his knees, snatching an ankle the millisecond it became available.

Sidakov whizzered and turned his hip away, Burroughs stood with the leg, forcing the Russian to square up. But when Burroughs finally found the chance to reattack and get to Sidakov’s back, he could not break down the quad pod of the crafty young wrestler, settling for a one-point pushout. 3-2, Burroughs.

With a lead in the second period, Burroughs would not be pressuring in from collar ties as he did before.

Sidakov was forced to take shots from shallow ties, Burroughs easily escaped his grasp. But in wrestling, even when you’re failing, you’re setting up the next attack. With just 40 seconds left, Sidakov made his move.

Sidakov reached for the collar once again, but as Burroughs’ eyes went high and his hands reached, the Russian disappeared.

Off a long head outside single, Sidakov finally got a grip on a leg.

Sidakov swiftly looked to turn the corner, Burroughs attacked the ankle and squared his hips, doing a full split to keep Sidakov from doubling off. But the crafty challenger circled off to the opposite side, putting him across Burroughs’s body and closing the distance to the remaining leg. 4-3, Sidakov, with 30 seconds left.

If you’ve followed the career of Jordan Burroughs at all, you’ll know the clutch gene is strong with the leader of team USA. More often than not, when he needs to “go get one”, he gets one.

With 17 seconds on the clock, Burroughs got back to his fakes and level changes, clubbing the head of Sidakov. Eventually, the motion of Burroughs was too difficult to match, and Sidakov was caught standing straight up. Burroughs shot to the hips of Sidakov, locking his hands on a single, driving forward and collecting the second leg for two on the edge. 5-4, Burroughs, with 8.4 seconds left.

You have time for one move, what do you do?

Sidakov didn’t have time to get to his underhook. He couldn’t rely on Burroughs to get to the collar tie. One other strategy had worked on Burroughs.

Off the whistle, Sidakov reached for Burroughs’ lead arm, and as the champion’s hand came up to to push him away, Sidakov ducked and shot across with the rear arm.

Burroughs sprawled quickly, leaving Sidakov completely extended, flat on his stomach.

He wasted no time, building back to his knees and pulling in on the single, bringing Burroughs’ remaining leg just out of reach. Sidakov surged up off his knees and barreled forward, reaching for the hip, nearly falling over backward driving forward and attempting to stand.

But Sidakov made it to his feet with the leg still secure, and his hand on the hip of Jordan Burroughs. He had 2.7 seconds left.

From the center of the mat, Sidakov ran his feet like his life depended on it. Exploding forward, Sidakov lifted Burroughs through the air and planted him out of bounds.

Burroughs looked up at the clock.

.5 seconds left.

5-5, Sidakov.

Semifinal

Frank Chamizo Marquez. The rematch.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sidakov and Chamizo certainly wrestled a slower pace than in the quarterfinal round.

Chamizo looked to work his fakes and motion from the outside, while Sidakov latched on to the Russian two on one and stifled Chamizo in the collar ties.

While the level changes of Jordan Burroughs worked wonders on Sidakov in the quarters, the Russian was much wiser one match later.

In fact, he turned Chamizo’s motion into his own offense. When Chamizo finally convinced him to sprawl, he intercepted the attacking Chamizo with a shot of his own.

When Chamizo pressured in hard off ties, Sidakov was there with the slide by, using his length to reach across Chamizo’s back with relative ease.

Sidakov had grown considerably since their first meeting, physically, mentally and technically.

When the dust settled, Sidakov earned a narrow 3-2 victory, but the match was never out of his hands.

Final

If you recall, Sidakov and Kentchadze met in the bronze medal match at the Junior World Championships three years prior.

Since then, Kentchadze had captured a bronze medal at the 2017 U23 World Championships, but no one could have seen his run to the Senior World finals coming. In the semifinals, Ketchadze thrashed Turkey’s 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Soener Demirtas 8-1.

With both heavy favorites to win the World title at 74 kg out of the picture, it was down to the underdogs.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

The athletic Georgian proved a tougher stylistic matchup than both Burroughs and Chamizo.

His shots had enough pop to get to Sidakov’s legs from distance, he didn’t push forward recklessly from collar ties, and he was more than savvy enough to keep Sidakov out of his favorite positions.

It was Sidakov’s impeccable scrambling and defense which limited the efficacy of Kentchadze’s attacks, holding him to just two points in the first period.

When it came time for Sidakov to put up points of his own, he went back to old reliable - fake the collar tie and shoot long.

With criteria in hand, Sidakov placed the responsibility to attack back on Kentchadze.

The Georgian pushed forward tenaciously, but now Sidakov saw his shots coming, sprawling and controlling the head and hands to prevent him from building up.

When Kentchadze came in too hot, Sidakov was there on his own attack, keeping him honest.

Perhaps passivity calls could have been more generous, but Sidakov wrestled exactly the way he needed to in order to do the impossible.

2-2 final, Sidakov.

On his way to a 2018 World title, Sidakov defeated World champion Tsabolov to make the team, four-time World and one-time Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs in the quarters, and two-time World champion and Olympic bronze medalist Frank Chamizo in the semifinals.

After Senior Worlds concluded, Kentchadze won the 2018 U23 World Championships, adding another titlist to Sidakov’s resume.

2019 Tournaments

What has the reigning World champion been up to since Budapest?

First was the 2019 Ivan Yarygin.

In the quarterfinals, Sidakov went to the wire once again with the Russian Timur Bizhoev, winning 2-2 on criteria.

In the semifinals he met Azamat Nurkyau, the wrestler that defeated Sidakov in the bronze medal match at the 2016 European Championships.

Sidakov dominated, 7-1.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

We’ve seen Sidakov become much more of an outside shot threat in 2019, but it has certainly opened him up to potential counters.

In the finals Sidakov battled with Turkey’s Yakup Gor. Gor won a silver medal at the 2014 World Championships, bronze in 2015, but fell in the bronze medal match in 2017.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Against Gor, Sidakov found success with his trusty slide by, but got into a bit of trouble finishing from the quad pod against the dangerous Turk. Sidakov prevailed 5-4, but was nearly pinned.

Next was the 2019 European Games, a step above the European Championships in terms of prestige.

Fans were treated to a World finals rematch in the quarterfinals, as Sidakov met Kentchadze for the third time. Many of the same dynamics were present, but Sidakov secured a much more conclusive 5-3 victory.

In the semifinal, Sidakov met Azamat Nurkyau for the second time in 2019. After being handled at the Yarygin, Nurykau played a much more defensive, counter-based style. It nearly paid off.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Shooting from the outside, Sidakov was exposed by the chest wrap of Nurykau. The counter threat shut down much of Sidakov’s offense, the defending World champion took several attacks, but only those from which he saw a clean finish, avoiding dangerous scrambling situations.

Nurykau’s passivity forced Sidakov to shoot underneath him in the final 30 seconds. Once again Nurykau looked to counter with his chest wrap. The final sequence went under reveal, and ultimately the flurry was awarded to Sidakov, ultimately his headstand finish saved him from exposure.

In the finals, Sidakov had his first meeting with Olympic bronze medalist Soener Demirtas.

Showing another new tool, Sidakov locked up a cradle off his own single leg and pinned Demirtas for the Euro Games title.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

What’s Next?

Always talented, the crafty and physical Zaurbek Sidakov finally broke through to the elite in 2017.

While he is the worthy favorite of a 2019 World Championship in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan in September, even making the team is not a foregone conclusion.

Coming for his spot is none other than Magomed Kurbanaliev, now at 74 kg.

At Russian Nationals, Kurbanaliev took out a number of domestic terrors on his way to the finals, most notably Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov, a two-time World champion in 2015 and 2018 at 70 kg.

In the finals Kurbanaliev faced off with Khetik Tsabolov, the favorite to win and challenge Sidakov.

However, it was Kurbanaliev, using veteran savvy and creating frequent breathers, who walked away with the national title.

Sidakov was excused from Russian Nationals due to his performance at the European Games.

The wrestle-off will take place at the Ziolkowski tournament in Poland on the weekend of August 2nd.