The Severe Spotlight: Muhammad Mokaev

UFC London on March 19th 2022 etched itself into the hearts and memories of UK MMA folklore.

There is often talk of golden eras with every generational oscillation of fighters. This is something that we should pay both close, and no attention too. It is important to recognise what has gone before, to ensure that we can appreciate what is here at this moment. The present-day crop of athletes, that stepped into the O2 arena last night, fantastically represented themselves and UK MMA.

Dana White in the post-event press conference spoke of the card feeling like that of a huge PPV, and he was not wrong. The card was momentous in terms of results; Molly McCann’s highlight reel finish, Paddy Pimblett continuing the streak of the pair going undefeated when standing shoulder to shoulder on a card.

From prospect to title contender in a night, Tom Aspinall shot his name into lofty heights by running over Alexander Volkov. Paul Craig’s unconventional style brought him another submission finish, Makwan Amirkhani wrenched a fairy-tale from the heart of Mike Grundy. Ilia Topuria and Jai Herbert gave us some of the most insane 6 minutes of action you can ask for. Arnold Allen destroyed Dan Hooker and brought his UFC win streak to 9 in one of the most clinical and impressive displays in recent memory. Jack Shore once again reminded everyone of his level with a win over underrated Timur Valiev.

The subject of this week’s article however, was the curtain jerker. Dagestani born, Wigan raised, multiple time IMMAF World Champion and 21 year-old phenom. Muhammad “The Punisher” Mokaev.

Prior to his UFC bow, Muhammad has gotten used to carrying the gargantuan weight of expectation on his shoulders. He has been touted as the world’s biggest prospect for many years. From his early wrestling prowess, to making his amateur MMA debut at 13 and going undefeated in 25 bouts, amassing 3 IMMAF titles. He has spoken eloquently about this being something he has been forced to accept, and to take into his stride.

His dance partner on Saturday night; Cody Durden caught Muhammad’s attention after comments post-fight about his opponent; Aoriqileng. After some back and forth on social media, the UFC sensed a fight and brought it to the O2.

In 58 seconds, we saw a glimpse of the arsenal that Mokaev brings to the Octagon. The bout began with a couple of blasting body kicks, an interesting set of feints and even a taunt as he slid out of range from a Durden return kick. For the most part, the grappling is most notable in the game of Mokaev.

The threat of just that setup the knee that began the rapid spiral of decline to the finish. Mokaev fakes a jab to the body, shifting his feet and lowering his level. Durden bites: and Muhammad wastes no time making movements on the read. He resets, takes one step back and with a similar body movement to the initial feint, guns his engines and travels the gauze runway with a flying knee destined for America.

Durden drops as the knee lands flush on his chin, to his credit, he comes up immediately on a single leg with his head on the outside, Mokaev happily wraps up his neck for a guillotine. Durden in reaction attempts to dump Mokaev using a high crotch single – this is where the magic happens. Muhammad brings his left leg up and over the shoulder of Durden, this caused two things to happen: primarily it reduces the ability for Durden to fight the hips of Mokaev, secondarily as Durden drops Muhammad to the mat, Muhammad already has the hip height advantage. This is important; as a concept if someone has their hips higher than the other, they will generally end up in the top position.

With that top position the choke torqued at the neck of Durden whilst closing the arteries. The last gasp defence of Durden was to attempt to pull Muhammad back into a half guard, the hips once again rode that butterfly hook, ensuring the pressure stayed strong. In that movement Mokaev steps over the mount as the tap comes in.

UFC London witnessed the UFC debut of a man that seems destined to reach the absolute peak of the flyweight division.

Fly never die.