UFC 294: Aliskerov v Alves
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Combat Sambo ace, Ikram Aliskerov, will go to battle opposite former Middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, this weekend (Sat., June 22, 2024) at UFC Saudi Arabia inside Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Aliskerov is in an odd position of both being under the radar (literally) and hyped as a future champion. He’s won just a couple fights via knockout inside the Octagon over average competition, which is good, but doesn’t immediately jump off the page. What does stand out are his circumstances: highly accomplished, nearly-undefeated Combat Sambo standouts from Dagestan tend to fare pretty well inside the Octagon.

This weekend will reveal a lot about Aliskerov. He’s struggled to get high-profile opponents booked against him only to end up in a sudden match up against one of the most decorated Middleweights of the last decade. It’s a massive jump in competition, and we’ll find out together if Aliskerov is ready.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

UFC 294: Aliskerov v Alves


Aliskerov is the rare Combat Sambo representative who spends as much — if not more — time on his feet than on the canvas. Wrestling is always a great tool to have in one’s back pocket, but Aliskerov prefers to keep the bout standing provided he’s winning there.

A great deal of Aliskerov’s offense comes from the lead side, namely his jab and left teep kick. Between the two, his jab is the much more polished weapon. Aliskerov does a nice job of flowing into his jab, moving in-and-out as well as laterally before popping his opponent in motion. That fluidity helps him land, as does having a 78-inch reach. Often, Aliskerov is drifting to his own left while throwing the jab, which can help line up the right hand to the jawline.

The classic problem with jabbing in mixed martial arts (MMA) is that against a fighter of the same stance, the right low kick is longer than the jab and can punish the strike. That’s especially true for a fighter who drifts left like Aliskerov, meaning he’s circling into the low kick. Pretty much all of Aliskerov’s Orthodox opponents have attempted to time his movement/jab with the right low kick, and it tends to work pretty well.

Aliskerov’s teep is his solution. It’s a bit awkward, but that stabbing kick can interrupt his opponent’s right low kick and off-balance them. In addition, by establishing the teep, he can raise his lead leg in a marching check movement, allowing him to step into a jab instead. By getting his knee up more often, he’s discouraging the low kick.

On the whole, Aliskerov does a nice job of getting his right hand to the target. The plant right hand is his go-to punch on the counter, but he’ll mix straights, right hooks, and overhands to follow his jab depending on how his opponent looks to block. He tends to time head movement well, which is how he knocked out Phil Hawes (GIF).

Aliskerov also tries to time head movement with high kicks. That’s the great thing about establishing a nice jab: Aliskerov is able to pick up on movement patterns and try to time them with more powerful strikes.

Finally, Aliskerov really loves the flying knee. Again, he’s trying to get a bead on his opponent’s head movement and punish it. Beyond that, Aliskerov tends to look for the jump knee when his opponent is cornered on the fence. This is a classic Khabib Nurmagomedov tactic (among other fighters), as the jump knee has to be respected and raises the guard, allowing for an easy takedown entry.

Dana White’s Contender Series - Aliskerov v Sousa


A world and European champion in Combat Sambo, Aliskerov’s wrestling has proven rock solid.

Offensively, Aliskerov does his best work with reactive double leg takedowns. Once again, it comes back to the jab. After sticking his opponent, Aliskerov drifts left or pulls back. If his foe tries to charge forward with a big swing in return, Aliskerov is in great position to lower his level and drive them to the floor. The timing on a reactive double and plant right hand are very similar, and the Russian is good at both.

Aliskerov’s upper body clinch work is quite good as well. He fights hard to gain inside position with the knee. Rather than take his opponent directly over the knee as is commonly done, Aliskerov aims to lift his opponent first then use his inside thigh position to take his opponent over their center of gravity.

We haven’t seen Aliskerov’s wrestling defense tested that often, but he deserves major credit for denying Khamzat Chimaev’s first round wrestling barrage — nobody else has ever done that. Early in their fight, Aliskerov did great work in framing on Chimaev with his arms, using long posts to keep the Chechen down by his ankle and off his hips.

After Chimaev stunned him with a jab, however, Aliskerov was forced to fight on Chimaev’s deep body lock. In those exchanges, Aliskerov demonstrated himself an expert at using the overhook. He attempted a whizzer kick throw at one point to off-balance Chimaev, but more impressive was his ability to stay upright despite Chimaev’s dominance in the inside hip position and physical strength. Twice Chimaev tried to drag him down, and twice Aliskerov was able to lean on the overhook and push back into Chimaev, preventing his back from hitting the floor.

Dana White’s Contender Series - Aliskerov v Sousa

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Three of Aliskerov’s five submission wins come via kimura, and they’re his most recent three. He hunts for the hold often, using it both to improve his position and finish fights.

The great thing about the kimura is that it’s as much a position as it is a submission. From topside half-guard, Aliskerov will start isolating the arm to shut down the far side underhook. When his opponent starts focusing on avoiding the kimura — a good idea! — Aliskerov will continue to control the wrist but look to pass guard instead.

From side control, Aliskerov is in better position to fully commit to the kimura. If he can pin his foe’s wrist to the floor, he’s got a good chance of finishing by stepping over the head. An underrated detail about the kimura that Aliskerov clearly applies well is the “reverse throttle,” meaning he rolls both of his wrists forward while applying the hold. This pressure makes it easy to tuck the arm behind the back, as well as putting more pressure on the rotator cuff in general.

UFC 294: Makhachev v Volkanovski 2


Aliskerov is a serious physical talent with plenty of experience and a rounded game. It will be extremely interesting to see how he deals with the movement of Whittaker, who has the jabbing and kicking to outwork Aliskerov at his own game … if the Russian doesn’t crack him in the process.

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Saudi Arabia fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (on ABC/ESPN+) at 3 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Saudi Arabia: “Whittaker vs. Aliskerov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Author: Staff

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