Saturday, September 15, will mark the debut for the UFC in Russia. The card will be headlined by a heavyweight fight between former K-1 World Champion and Pride veteran, Mark Hunt and Russian national and 68 fight veteran, Alexey Oleynik. We will also see the return of Nikita Krylov, and several other noteworthy match ups on what is a very good card of free fights. The preliminary card will start at 10:30 AM ET and the main card will follow at 2 PM.
Mark Hunt vs. Alexey Olynik
This card has gone through several changes due to injury or suspension, but perhaps most notably is the removal of the original main event.
It was rumored that Alexey Oleynik would be facing Fabrico Werdum in what would have been an interesting matchup but Werdum was flagged by USADA and removed from the card. (On a side note it was announced today that Werdum will be suspended for two years.)
The main event is a classic striker vs. grappler matchup.
Mark Hunt has exactly zero submission wins to his name and Oleynik, who has finished 52 fights in his career, has only 6 knockouts. So, it’s clear that Hunt will want to keep this fight standing and Oleynik will almost certainly want to bring it down to the ground. Hunt will enjoy a 30-pound weight advantage, but will give up three inches of height and six inches of reach.
This is a fight between two guys ranked in the top 15, competing in a division with a champion who has made it clear that he plans to retire in 2019. If Daniel Cormier does manage to retire as heavyweight champion, then obviously something will have to be done about that, and a big win over a top 15 opponent in Russia certainly won’t look bad for either guy.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Nikita Krylov
The co-main event is a fight that actually has similar implications to the main event.
Daniel Cormier is of course the light heavyweight champion as well as the heavyweight champion, so if he manages to retire with his light heavyweight belt the same hole will exist at the top.
The fight is a very interesting matchup between Polish contender Jan Blachowicz and the recently resigned Nikita Krylov.
Blachowicz has quietly worked his way into the top 5 of the division and is currently in the midst of his most successful run in the UFC, a three-fight win streak punctuated by a fight of the night performance against Jimi Manuwa.
Krylov for his part will be returning to the UFC for the first time since December of 2016. In his time away his picked up four stoppage victories, defeated several notable opponents Newton, and won the FNG Light-heavyweight Championship.
He will return with the opportunity to make an instant impact and it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say that he could end up in the top 5 himself if he comes away with a victory. Either guy will be in a very good position going forward if they can pick up a victory over the other.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
In what will be the first of the two heavyweight fights scheduled for this card former world champion Andrei Arlovski will face Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Arlovski is 2-1 in his last three fights following a five-fight losing streak, while Abdurakhimov has been a bit spotty as well as of late. Following a 15-2 start to his career he has gone 3-2 in the UFC and is 2-1 in his last three. They are close in size and age but Arlovski has been in some wars in his career which is always something to watch out for.
Thiago Alves vs. Alexey Kunchenko
Rounding out the main card is a welterweight bout between former world title challenger Thiago Alves, and UFC newcomer Alexey Kunchenko. Looking at these two fighters it seems insane that they are even competing in the same era.
Alves made his MMA debut in 2001 and his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 2 in 2005. He’s had quite a career since then, and boasts a very entertaining highlight reel. Despite all of this he is still only 34 years old.
Kunchenko is the same age but made his debut in 2013. He has had nothing but success so far and comes into the UFC with a perfect 18-0 record with 13 knockouts. Both guys prefer fighting on the feet, so this fight has the potential to be exciting, as well as short.
Desmond Green vs. Mairbek Taisumov?
There is another sad and somewhat bizarre situation could affect another fight on this card. The status of the lightweight bout between Desmond Green and Mairbek Taisumov is unknown. Green was involved in a five-car accident that left two people dead but as of this writing his status has not been updated. Considering that the card is just a few days away it seems likely that an announcement would have already been made if he wasn’t going to be competing.
Khalid Murtazaliev vs. CB Dolloway (Middleweight/185)
Petr Yan vs. Jin Soo Son (Bantamweight/135)
Rustam Khabilov vs. Kajan Johnson (Lightweight/155)
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Desmond Green (Lightweight/155)
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Marcin Prachnio (Light heavyweight/205)
Jordan Johnson vs. Adam Yandiev (Middleweight/185)
Ramazan Emeev vs. Stefan Sekulic (Welterweight/170)
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Terrion Ware (Bantamweight/135)