Updated: Aug 18, 2019
A new wave of talent from Russia has flooded the MMA community as fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Zabit Magomedsharipov have represented their country very well. Obviously the top exports of talent in the UFC have come from the United States and Brazil but Eastern Europe and in particular Russia are arguably third in terms of their fighters impact in the UFC. I will be ranking the top 10 fighters from Russia currently in the UFC.
10. Omari Akhmedov – Middleweight Fighter
The 31 year old Dagestan fighter is currently 6-3-1 in the UFC and 3-0-1 in his last four fights as he is slowly climbing the ladder in the Middleweight division. Following a knockout loss in 2016 to Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos he made the switch to American Top Team and he has looked fairly solid with three decision victories and a majority draw against Marvin Vettori. The Vettori fight at the end of 2017 was his switch to the Middleweight division after fighting as a Welterweight for the majority of his UFC career. He missed all of 2018 in fighting but he returned in March with a decision victory over Tim Boetsch and he is now scheduled to fight Zak Cummings at UFC 242 in September.
9. Shamil Abdurakhimov – 10th ranked Heavyweight Fighter
The 37 year old veteran fighter has been on a nice run since 2017 with three consecutive victories including knockout victories over Chase Sherman and Marcin Tybura. He is finally gaining recognition in the division with three consecutive wins and a fight set up with 4th ranked Curtis Blaydes at UFC 242 in September. This fight coming up will be the biggest test of his career and his most difficult opponent since a 2016 knockout loss to Derrick Lewis. Shamil is a very well rounded fighter with good striking and power mixed in with a strong grappling game.
8. Rustam Khabilov – Lightweight Fighter
In my opinion Rustam Khabilov is one of the most underappreciated fighters in the UFC’s lightweight division as he holds a 9-3 record in the UFC since joining the promotion in 2012. Rustam is a traditional Sambo fighter with strong grappling as he averages 3.94 takedowns per fight and he is strong defensively as he only allows 2.2 significant strikes per minute. I will admit that Khabilov still needs to improve his striking or he needs to become a more dominant grappler as he has struggled in his last two fights with controlling his opponent. His record speaks for itself with victories over Jorge Masvidal, Yancy Medeiros, Vinc Pichel and Desmond Green.
7. Alexey Oleynik – 9th ranked Heavyweight Fighter
One of the greatest submission artists of all time as Alexey Oleynik holds an impressive 45 submission victories during his 70 fight MMA career with a 57-12-1 record. The Russian icon didn’t make his UFC debut until 2014 at the age of 37 and he currently holds a 6-3 record with the promotion including submission victories over Mark Hunt, Junior Albini, Travis Browne, Viktor Pesta and Anthony Hamilton. What’s so amazing about Oleynik is that he continues to find ways to use his Jiu-Jitsu to win fights no matter what the position as he has pulled off the only two Ezekiel chokes in UFC history. He lost his last fight against friend Alistair Overeem in April as Alistair was able to keep the fight on the feet and get the job done in the first round. Alexey is scheduled to fight Walt Harris on July 20th, as the 37 year old Alabama opponent is a major threat on the feet with all twelve victories coming by knockout.
6. Mairbek Taisumov – Lightweight Fighter
This guy is a serious threat in the Lightweight division with a 7-1 record in the UFC since joining in 2014 and he is currently on a six fight winning streak with five stoppage victories. He has a very strong striking game with his Muay Thai background and he has 15 of his 26 victories coming by knockout including three consecutive performance of the night knockout victories from 2015 until 2017. His most recent fight was a striking affair with Desmond Green as he was able to earn the decision victory and stop all 8 takedown attempts. His takedown defense is up at 88% and he has been known to throw in the odd takedown with 1.66 takedowns per 15 minutes. He is next scheduled to fight Carlos Diego Ferreira at UFC 242 in September in what promises to be an epic fight.
5. Alexander Volkov – 6th ranked Heavyweight Fighter
The 30 year old Heavyweight fighter is the former Bellator Champion and has been solid with a 4-1 record since joining the promotion in late 2016. He is predominately a kickboxer with excellent stand up striking that has lead to 20 knockout victories during his 30-7 record. He has UFC knockout victories over Stefan Struve and Fabricio Werdum as he won performance bonuses on both occasions and Volkov continues to be one of the top Heavyweight fighters on the roster. His last fight in October was a rough outing as he dominated Derrick Lewis throughout the fight but lost by knockout in the final minute against the powerful striker. He still hasn’t found an opponent for his next fight but I expect Volkov will be back in the Octagon very soon.
4. Islam Makhachev – 14th ranked Lightweight Fighter
The training partner and close friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov finds himself ranked in the tough Lightweight division following a 6-1 record while with the UFC as he has won five straight fights. Islam is still only 27 years old and he has plenty of room to grow and that is scary for the division, as he has largely dominated his fights while averaging 4.33 takedowns per 15 minutes on 87% accuracy. In similar fashion to Khabib, Islam doesn’t absorb a lot of punishment as he tends to control the fight with his grappling and he even won gold at the 2016 world championship for Combat Sambo. His next fight is against a very talented grappler and Jiu-Jitsu fighter in Davi Ramos on September 7th at UFC 242.
3. Petr Yan – 4th ranked Bantamweight Fighter
The 26 year old has exploded onto the UFC scene since joining the promotion in 2018 with a 5-0 record that has been rather impressive with his solid striking. He averages 6.46 significant strikes per minute as he puts a pace on his opponents that is nearly impossible to keep up with as he challenges their striking and grappling. His last fight in June was a major test as he was against veteran Jimmie Rivera but he passed that with flying colours as he now finds himself very close to a title shot.
2. Zabit Magomedsharipov – 5th ranked Featherweight Fighter
One of the most exciting fighters to watch in the promotion as Zabit has been an absolute force since joining the promotion in 2017 from ACB. He is currently 5-0 in the UFC with three submission victories and his most recent victory coming by decision against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 235 in March. His last fight against Stephens really showcased his skill as out landed the American 70-41 in significant strikes and he threw in 3 takedowns. Zabit is terrifying because he is a 6’2” Featherweight that moves very quick and has top level grappling mixed in with unorthodox but fantastic striking. I think there is still more that Zabit has to prove to the UFC but he is one of the best raw talents in the promotion and I’m excited to see what happens next.
1.Khabib Nurmagomedov – Lightweight Champion Fighter
The Champion in the Lightweight division is the 3rd ranked pound for pound fighter in the UFC and the 30 year old is unbelievably 27-0 in MMA and 11-0 in the UFC. He is arguably the best grappler in the sport as he deals 56% of his significant strikes on the ground and he averages 5.09 takedowns per fight. The title fight with Al Iaquinta saw him land 12 takedowns and out land his opponent 268- 82 in significant strikes through five rounds. His most recent fight in October was against the popular Conor McGregor and he won that fight by 4th round submission in a fairly solid performance that showed new confidence in his stand up striking. He is scheduled to face interim champion Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in September in what promises to be an exciting affair.