The Fresh Face of UFC London
A Deep dive on the sole Debutant of UFC London: Volkov vs. Aspinall
As the title suggests, there’s only one fighter making their debut on the highly anticipated UFC London card this weekend. Luckily, it’s a prospect many in the know have had their eye on for years at this point… So let’s not waste anymore time, aye?
Muhammad Mokaev - 5-0
2 KO/2 SUB/2 DEC
Manchester, England via Dagestan
If you follow mixed martial arts as anything more than a casual spectator, Muhammad Mokaev is a likely name you’re already familiar with - if not, chances are it’s a name you’ll not soon forget after making his UFC debut this weekend, at the O2 arena in London.
Having moved to the UK in 2012 with his father under refugee status, Mokaev had difficulty adjusting to English life. Unable to speak the language, and unaware of cultural norms in England, he found himself in and out of trouble at school, having a difficult time fitting in. This changed when the teen found direction at the Wigan Wrestling Club in 2013.
By the end of 2014, Mokaev had won the British Junior Wrestling Championships (55kg), a feat he accomplished a second time the following year.
Since then, the 21 year old has been steadily making waves in the amateur MMA scene. In the five years Mokaev spent honing his craft as an amateur, the Dagestan born fighter amassed a total of 23 wins in 23 fights, alongside becoming a four time IMMAF bantamweight tournament champion - one of the most prestigious titles an amateur can earn in the sport.
Since turning pro in late 2020, Mokaev has kept that undefeated record intact over his five (six if you count the can crusher exhibition against Hayden Sherriff) bouts thus far. Interestingly, the wrestler’s finishing rate currently sits at 66% as a pro - far above the 34% he ended his amateur run on.
Though not yet heralded as a ‘finisher’ by the masses, Mokaev displays an overall dominance inside the cage - all seventeen of the young prospect’s decision wins were unanimous in the eyes of the judges
On the ground, the Dagestani is suffocating - so much so that fans have taken to calling him ‘Khabib 2’, much to his chagrin. His takedowns, transitions and sweeps flow seamlessly in the cage, with he himself incredibly difficult to get a of should his opponent risk taking that route. Once the fight hits the ground, it’s common to see Mokaev hold control until rounds end, should he not secure a submission or rain ground and pound, stopping the fight before that point.
Despite Mokaev’s wrestling based foundations, the prospect is ever increasingly comfortable on the feet. A patient striker, Mokaev pressures his opponents with feints (be it takedowns or strikes), forcing reactions and capitalising on them. He’ll often blitz his way into close range with (sometimes wild) combinations, and threaten or engage a clinch - from here he has a multitude of options for takedowns and trips, though sometimes he’ll simply disengage with a roundhouse to the skull that has caught many opponents off guard.
From distance, Mokaev is comfortable with his kicks as well. No Edson Barboza by any means, but somewhat dangerous in his own right. He’s shown a penchant for targeting a leg early at times, restricting his opponents movement from the get go; depending on the game plan, he’s also happy to sling them up high, hoping to catch his foe out of position.
Cody Druden, Mokaev’s partner in this upcoming bout, is the most experienced opponent he’s faced to date - dangerous on the feet and capable on the ground, he’ll pose a threat no matter where the fight goes - However Mokaev has dictated the pace and position of all fights up to this point. If he can manage to do so again to open the prelims on Saturday night, the sky may be the limit for this young man.