Ikram Aliskerov – UFC’s Dangerous Middleweight on the Rise
Once considered one of the more shallow divisions in the UFC, the Middleweight division has seen a dramatic rise of new talent and top contenders emerge in recent years. The next man to break into the rankings at 185 lbs and make a name for himself is a Dagestani fighter who has been touted for greatness, Ikram Aliskerov.
A background in Combat Sambo, where he was a multiple-time world champion, has prepared Aliskerov for life as an MMA fighter, and his Sambo base has given him an excellent foundation, ensuring that he has an extremely well-rounded skill set. With him being touted for big things in the last year or so, Aliskerov has yet to face off against a ranked opponent within the UFC but will get his chance to do so next February at UFC 298 when he takes on #15 ranked Anthony Hernandez. Let’s examine the skills of Aliskerov and see if it is all hype or if he truly has the skills to make a name for himself in MMA.
Ikram Aliskerov is a Bad Man at Middleweight
As expected from a Dagestani fighter, Aliskerov possesses a solid grappling game. Extremely physically strong, Aliskerov can use his strength in tandem with excellent technique, as seen throughout his fights in BRAVE CF and various other promotions before signing with the UFC. With all of his fights in the organization so far ending early in the first round, we have yet to see Aliskerov utilize his grappling against an established fighter in the organization. Yet, based on his past performances in these other organizations, we can infer he will likely be dominant against most of his opponents. While we have yet to see him grapple in the UFC, we have seen him up against extremely high-quality opposition. Aliskerov took on Khamzat Chimaev in 2019 when the pair were both early in their career. While he would go on to lose the fight via KO in the first round, the previous few minutes were all grappling with Chimaev attempting to take down Aliskerov. Chimaev could not take down his opponent for the only time in his career, with Aliskerov displaying world-class takedown defense.
As well as takedowns and wrestling sweeps, Aliskerov has shown that he is capable of offensive groundwork and submissions. A third of his wins have come via submission, and he is one of the few fighters to have multiple wins via Kimura, a submission popular in BJJ yet tricky to pull off in MMA. Again, while we have yet to see him go for a Kimura in the UFC, expect it to occur eventually as it seems to be a repeated occurrence in the fights of Aliskerov with him finishing Mario Sousa, Miro Jurkovic and Denis Tiuliunin with the submission and narrowly missing a finish against Nah-Shon Burrell for what would have been an unprecedented four consecutive fights finished via Kimura.
Aliskerov is a seriously talented grappler.
Aliskerov is an example of how quickly evolution occurs within MMA, alongside his fellow countrymen such as Islam Makhachev. For years, wrestlers hailing from Dagestan or the Caucasus region were thought to have only elite-level grappling, yet they would be undone on their feet. Khabib Nurmagomedov is the best example of this, with many fans speculating that someone could defeat him only if they managed to keep the fight standing. Of course, no one could. Yet the new breed of Dagestani fighter is competent as a striker and often is now excelling in standing combat. Aliskerov is no exception to this. While his one singular knockout loss to Khamzat Chimaev may cause some to discredit him immediately, it would be foolish to do so. A quick look at his highlight reel alone would show that Aliskerov is seriously a threat on the feet, and his two fights in the UFC so far have showcased this excellently.Possessing excellent boxing fundamentals, Aliskerov routinely utilizes the jab throughout his fighters to establish distance and set up a heavy backhand, which he can throw from either orthodox or southpaw stances. The effectiveness of this simple maneuver can be seen in the fight with Phil Hawes. Hawes, a well-known brawler, puts 100% into all his shots, looking to remove his opponent’s head with every strike. During their fight, Aliskerov managed to stop Hawes by routinely firing off the jab and continuously finding his target. His power can be seen in the 1-2 combination that would ultimately put Hawes to sleep with pinpoint accuracy and placement, ensuring a clean knockout victory.The fight against Warlley Alves highlighted a much flashier side to Aliskerov’s striking, which has also been displayed throughout his career. Similar to how he favors the Kimura, the use of the knee can be seen throughout Aliskerov’s career and is a shot he uses for various purposes. The flying knee allows him to quickly close distances and land a strike that will take his opponent off guard; this is exactly what he landed against Warlley Alves, leading to him picking up his second first-round finish KO in the UFC. He also uses a knee more defensively against an incoming opponent. Not flying, Aliskerov’s timing is excellent as he has caught multiple opponents attempting to pressurize him or take him down. This can be seen in his fights against Jeremy Smith and Diego Gonzales. Alongside the knee, Aliskerov is more than comfortable throwing high kicks and mixing up his strikes.Often, the striking of Aliskerov allows him to close distance very effectively and puts him in an excellent position to grab a hold of his opponent where he can take them into his more natural territory, which is, of course, grappling.
Ikram Aliskerov can be a Serious Problem for the Middleweight Division
Aliskerov is undoubtedly worthy of at least some of the hype generated around him. While some criticized the attempt to match him up with Paulo Costa, who was ranked #5 at the time, all it shows is that the UFC themselves believe that Aliskerov is someone with a severe amount of potential and that he is ready for fighters who have a number next to their name. Finally, this will happen at UFC 298 as Aliskerov was matched up against the previously mentioned Costa and Nassourdine Imavov, which would ultimately fall through as well. The organization has big plans for Aliskerov, and should he provide another dominant performance this coming February, do not be surprised to see him linked with some huge fights by the end of the year.
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