Saturday’s UFC Moscow event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Russia, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at CSKA Arena.
Alexander Volkov’s win over Greg Hardy on Saturday wasn’t the one we expected. Most assumed that with the experience edge that “Drago” held over the former NFL lineman, it was going to be a one-sided mauling ending in a KO or submission. That didn’t happen. Yes, Volkov’s decision victory was dominant, but it wasn’t spectacular, and that disappointed some. But if not spectacular, it was smart, and after being on the sidelines for a year, Volkov took legendary boxing trainer George Benton’s advice to one of his fighters years ago: Win tonight, look good next time. Volkov got the win. And now he’s back into the swing of things in the heavyweight division.
If Magomed Ankalaev didn’t get caught in a fight-ending submission against Paul Craig with one second to go in their March 2018 fight, there would be a lot more buzz about the Russian light heavyweight, who has since gone 3-0 with two highlight-reel knockouts since that defeat. And maybe after finishing Dalcha Lungiambula on Saturday to earn his second Performance of the Night bonus, the buzz will pick back up, because Ankalaev has certainly earned that attention.
In the UFC Moscow edition of “this guy needs a win,” Danny Roberts came up big with a second-round finish of Zelim Imadaev that snapped a two-fight losing skid. Now I don’t believe that Roberts would have gotten cut with a loss in Moscow, simply because he’s always been a fighter who brings it when the Octagon gate shuts and his losses have come when he’s taken the risks necessary to end a fight and it wound up going the other way. Yeah, winning is important, but if you’re a fighter putting it on the line every time, you’re someone who should be confident in your job security.
The last man standing from season three of The Ultimate Fighter, Ed Herman is one of the last of the old school still doing his thing at the highest level of the game, and on Saturday night, he showed that he’s got some gas left in the tank with his win over Khadis Ibragimov. In winning his second straight at the age of 39, Herman showed that in this sport, there are no substitutes for experience and knowing all the tricks of the trade. And while watching some young kid pull off otherworldly athletic moves is always impressive, there’s something about a grizzled veteran putting in work over a three-round fight that always makes me smile.
Rapidly rising to the top of the featherweight division, Zabit Magomedsharipov is also moving just as fast up the ladder of my “must see” rankings with a style that just shows off the best of what this sport offers. Creative, technical and willing to take risks, Magomedsharipov is going to be a handful for any of the featherweight elite. And yes, I’m among the crowd that wished this fight was five rounds to see if Kattar could repeat his third-round effort in a pair of championship rounds, but these two are so good that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we see them run it back in a couple years with a belt on the line.