Octagon Oracles: Azamat Murzakanov

Grade: B+

Originally slated to debut in the UFC back in 2017, Azamat Murzakanov made the most of his Contender Series 2021 opportunity with a first-round knockout win and will now make his promotional debut against Tafon Nchukwi on Saturday night.

Murzakanov made his pro debut with a ten-second knockout all the way back in 2010, but didn’t fight again until 2015. Since debuting he’s added another nine wins to bring his record to a perfect 10-0 and has only gone the distance twice, with every other win coming inside the first round.

A southpaw, Murzakanov is light on his feet and can move quite quickly for a light heavyweight. He’ll bounce in and out of his opponent’s range while throwing feints to set up attempts with his thunderous left hand, which has been responsible for many of his knockout wins. He’ll occasionally through out jabs and use that left hand as part of a 1-2, but he’s also happy throwing it solo as a big overhand swing. “The Professional” likes to mix in a left uppercut as well, a punch he used to starch Mohammad Fakhreddine and win the Brave CF open weight tournament in 2019. Murzakanov did flash a few kicks in his Contender Series bout against Mattheus Scheffel, but unless he’s made some massive adjustments I wouldn’t expect that to be a large part of his game going forward.

The Russian’s striking has proven quite effective with the fairly limited variety of tools he relies on, but aside from earning big knockouts he’s at his best when using strikes to close the distance to clinch and/or pursue the takedown. Often times he’ll use his overhand left to get in close and already be wrapping his hands around the opponent whether or not the punch connects, which then allows him to transition into double leg takedown attempts. Murzakanov is stifling on top and prefers to work from side control, where he can either isolate an arm of go knee on belly in order to land his heavy ground and pound.

Now thirty-five, the most active portion of Murzakanov’s career was a six-fight run from 2015-2017. That streak included a fifty-second knockout of current UFC middleweight contender Andre Muniz, but it was another two-and-half years before he fought twice in one night at Brave CF 29 and then another two years before his Contender Series appearance. You have to wonder where Murzakanov would be now if he was more active or had made his UFC debut back in 2017; while he has some good names like Muniz and Fakhreddine as part of his undefeated record, there are a few of Murzankov’s opponents that pretty clearly didn’t belong in the cage with him.

“The Professional” was scheduled to face three different opponents for his UFC debut in 2021 but all three fell through, leaving him to wait until 2022 for this matchup with 6-1 Tafon Nchukwi. There’s no need to bring Murzakanov along slowly given his age and the fact that his game is already full-developed, as well as the fact that light heavyweight is one of the UFC’s thinner divisions as far as overall talent. If he can get past Nchikwi, I think that Murzakanov will have a good amount of success should he plan to fight more often than he has previously in his career. I do have some concerns about his size for the division and how that may affect his grappling success, but considering that he’s competed at the weight class his entire career he’ll likely be prepared to find himself at a size disadvantage in most of his UFC bouts.

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