It came out last week that Saidyokub Kakhramonov was released from the UFC. The move came as a major surprise given Kakhramonov looked like he was one of the top prospects on their way up the bantamweight ladder.
It could be pointed out he’s coming off a loss, but that loss was also to an opponent currently within the official UFC rankings. Something smells fishy.
Kakhramonov himself stated he believed he was done dirty. In a since deleted tweet, he broke the news to the rest of the world:
“Before you see my name on the ufc Roster watch lol UFC releasing me after 1 lost smh. I never had fair shake in the ufc 3 fights almost in 2 years. Every time I walked into cage it felt like my debut. Sh*t 3 fights in 2 years? Feels like they brought me in to lose.”
On the surface, it looks like Kakhramonov is correct. However, even though the UFC tends to come across as an Evil Empire, they aren’t always in the wrong. Let’s take a look at Kakhramonov’s resume and get to the bottom of it.
Kakhramonov wasn’t the hottest prospect when he began his career. He really came to attention when he lost to Umar Nurmagomedov in a PFL feature fight in 2018. Khabib’s cousin had already built up a reputation, but Kakhramonov gave him plenty of fits. Kakhramonov suffered one more loss prior to securing his UFC contract, but it was a fight where he was winning until he wasn’t. Pipe Vargas caught Kakhramonov leaning in for a takedown as Vargas launched himself for a flying knee. Kakhramonov was out cold.
One notable win Kakhramonov picked up was over Askar Askar. Askar was technically signed by the UFC before Kakhramonov was, despite his loss to Kakhramonov. Askar wasn’t medically cleared for the fight he was signed for, leading to the UFC to release him. Not only did Kakhramonov take away Askar’s undefeated status, he did so in just 39 seconds. It wasn’t Kakhramonov’s last win prior to his UFC signing, but it was that performance that stirred up the most excitement around him.
There was enough excitement that he was only a slight underdog despite taking the short notice contest against Trevin Jones. Jones scored a hell of an upset in his own UFC debut just a year before, blasting the hyped Timur Valiev. That win was overturned due to a positive marijuana test for Jones, but he secured a second highlight reel finish over a solid prospect in Mario Bautista. In other words, Jones had his fair share of hype himself. Kakhramonov was pushed against the cage for long stretches by Jones, but pieced up Jones whenever he was given space. As the fight progressed, it was Jones who was slowing, not Kakhramonov. Jones was desperate to control Kakhramonov against the cage, exposing his neck and allowing Kakhramonov to latch onto a brutal guillotine to pick up a hard earned win.
His sophomore UFC effort was even more impressive. His opponent, Ronnie Lawrence, had secured 14 takedowns in his two previous UFC contests. Lawrence also outlanded his opponents 123 to 54, further indicative of his dominance. Many thought Lawrence had the look of a future contender. Well, instead of an exciting clash between up-and-comers, Kakhramonov dominated Lawrence. He scored 10 takedowns to the one for Lawrence, maintaining control of Lawrence for over 12 minutes of the 15-minute fight.
At that point, there was no doubt Kakhramonov was a force to be reckoned with. He had impressed enough that he was pit against an opponent within the official UFC rankings in Said Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov entered the contest with a 5-1 record and a reputation as a dangerous finisher. When the bell rang, Kakhramonov jump all over Nurmagomedov and never let up. For a fight that lasted just under nine minutes, there was less than a minute’s worth of time that Kakhramonov wasn’t in control of positional dominance. The unfortunate part for Kakhramonov is the fight ended when Nurmagomedov caught Kakhramonov in a guillotine that forced the Uzbekistan native to tap. Just like the Vargas fight, Kakhramonov was winning until he wasn’t.
Here we are, less than two months after that contest, and Kakhramonov finds himself on the outside looking in the UFC. He has made it clear he believes the UFC screwed him over. Before immediately concluding that’s correct – and I acknowledge that’s looking like the truth – there’s a bit more digging to do before officially declaring him right.
As earlier mentioned, Kakhramonov’s first UFC victory came over Jones. Jones has lost two fights since falling to Kakhramonov, bringing his losing streak to three. He still has a roster spot and is currently scheduled to fight Cody Garbrandt. That’s certainly lending credence to Kakhramonov’s sentiment.
Kakhramonov’s second victory came over Lawrence. Lawrence hasn’t fought since that contest, but like Kakhamonov, he also sports a 2-1 UFC record. He maintains a roster spot. One of the men Lawrence beat, Mana Martinez, also sports a 2-1 UFC record. He maintains a roster spot.
Perhaps age might have something to do with it. It would make sense if the UFC deems there is limited upside to Kakhramonov if he were at an advanced age. However, that doesn’t fit either. Kakhramonov is 27. By comparison, Jones is 32, Lawrence is 30, and Martinez is 26. Given his age and experience, it’s hard to believe we’ve seen the best version of Kakhramonov yet.
Comparing Kakhramonov to the recent releases only strengthens the narrative that he was given the short end of the stick. 41-year-old Shamil Abdurakhimov was on a four-fight losing streak. Kyle Daukaus was released on a two-fight losing streak, owning just two wins in his seven official fights. There were a slew of others who were released the week before Abdurakhimov and Daukaus, some more justifiable than others to be released. None of them had a better case to remain on the roster than Kakhramonov. The only others in that mass of cuts that had winning records were Alejandro Perez and Michael Trizano. Both Perez and Trizano were TUF winners. Perez had lost three of his last four while Trizano had dropped three of his last five. Plus, Trizano missed weight in his most recent contest. There isn’t an analyst out there that would say they had higher ceilings than Kakhramonov either.
I’ll admit there are a few more things that could be dug into. How Said Nurmagomedov had a 2-1 record after three UFC fights. I could compare some of the guys Nurmagomedov beat to Kakhramonov and how they hung around. I could look at the records of some of the fighters still on the roster. There’s always the Sam Alvey comparison too.
The bottom line is Kakhramonov has every reason to be upset. Kakhramonov indicated he had been in contact with the UFC brass about who he’d like to fight next before they abruptly cut him loose. Kakhramonov has deleted all the tweets associated with his release, his reasoning being he didn’t want to populate his thread with negativity. As someone who agrees there’s too much negativity out there, I can’t disagree with him. Regardless, picking up the bread crumbs that have been left behind, it sounds like there is someone behind the scenes of the UFC who has a problem with Kakhramonov. I can’t even begin to speculate who or why, so I won’t do so. But aside from someone having a vendetta against him, there is no logical reason why he’d be cut loose.
It’s very possible the UFC is handing either Bellator or the PFL a future champion. It’s hard to believe neither organization wouldn’t have interest in Kakhramonov. If I were to guess, Bellator has the leg up given they don’t have the season format. Kakhramonov has expressed an interest in fighting more often. It might be too late for him to do so if he goes with the PFL. Regardless, cutting loose Kakhramonov is further proof the UFC is more a business than it is a sport. If it were a sport, the UFC would be seeking to keep the best fighters, regardless of potential animosity or perceived lack of aesthetic pleasure. In addition to that, there’s no doubt: the UFC did Kakhramonov dirty.