Where else could we start? Nurmagomedov is the most dominant force in the UFC right now and the undefeated, undisputed lightweight champion of the world.
‘The Eagle’ should be at the pinnacle of his career following his win over Conor McGregor, but his cage-jumping exploits after the fight overshadowed what was a brilliant performance and put him in MMA’s sin bin until later this year.
A September return in Abu Dhabi looks likely, with newly-crowned interim champ Dustin Poirier set to face the 29-0 Dagestan native.
It’s a near miracle that the tall, rangy Magomedsharipov can make the 145-pound featherweight limit, but he can – and he has rapidly climbed the ranks to become one of the most entertaining contenders in a talent-stacked division.
Magomedsharipov arrived in the UFC as a former ACB featherweight champ and extended his impressive record to 17-1, with his recent decision victory over big-punching contender Jeremy Stephens positioning him as a legitimate threat to Max Holloway’s title. But before he faces the champion, he’ll probably need to go through at least one more big-name contender.
The prospect of seeing Magomedsharipov against the likes of Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Brian Ortega, Yair Rodriguez, Chan Sung Jung or Frankie Edgar will have the UFC matchmakers rubbing their hands together with anticipation. Whoever he faces next, it’s going to be a huge test, and a big, big fight for the 145lb division.
The Siberian ball of energy that is Petr Yan has arrived in the UFC bantamweight division like a breath of fresh air.
The former ACB champion will stand and trade with anyone in the world at 135lbs and has the hands to give anyone in the division major problems.
His entertaining, come-forward fighting style has made him an instant hit in the UFC and his win over the elusive John Dodson in Prague earlier this year showed he has the smarts, and the footwork, to pin down even the slipperiest of customers.
He’s set to face established contender Jimmie Rivera on June 8 at UFC 238. If he wins that, expect to see ‘No Mercy’ in a title eliminator later this year.
Standing at six-foot-seven and with his short blonde hair, it’s easy to see why Volkov is known as ‘Drago’.
And the Russian heavyweight contender was on a fast-track to a world title shot before he ran into a last gasp right hand from Derrick Lewis that would have starched any fighter on the roster.
Prior to that loss in a fight he had dominated, Volkov was riding a six-fight win streak, including a knockout win over former world champ Fabricio Werdum.
Volkov was due to return this weekend in the main event in St Petersburg, but withdrew for undisclosed reasons. Hopefully, he’ll return later this summer as he looks to reposition himself as the UFC heavyweight division’s most dangerous contenders.
Perhaps rather harshly, Ankalaev might be best known for being the victim of the latest submission finish in UFC history when he tapped to Scotland’s Paul Craig in the last second of their bout in London last year.
It was Ankalaev’s first – and only – defeat, and came at the end of a fight he completely dominated.
However, despite that loss, Ankalaev remains one of the most dangerous under-the-radar rising contenders in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division.
The Russian might not be a big name in the UFC yet, but he has the skill set to take himself into the Top 10 and become a legitimate threat to the division’s best. He’s another world-class fighter to come off the Dagestan conveyor belt, and he’s definitely one to watch in the months and years ahead.
We simply had to include Nastyukhin after his name topped MMA websites around the world following his stunning first-round knockout win over Eddie Alvarez.
Nastyukhin ruined Alvarez’s ONE Championship debut at ONE: A New Era in Tokyo last month, eliminating the former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion from the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix tournament at the quarter-final stage.
But while his win over Alvarez was a shock to some, it wasn’t as big a surprise to those of us who have been covering ONE for the last few years.
Nastyukhin has 13 career wins to his name, with 11 of those coming by way of stoppage. That’s impressive enough, but when you realise all 11 of those finishes came in the first round, you start to get the picture.
Nastyukhin is a powerful, dangerous man, one of the most devastating one-round finishers in ONE Championship, and proof that Russian fighters are doing the business in big MMA organisations across the world.
The Russian Bellator welterweight contender has only lost to two men in his mixed martial arts career – Brazilian former welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and undefeated former Bellator champ – and current UFC contender – Ben Askren.
Koreshkov’s heavy-handed game helped power him to the Bellator welterweight title back in 2015, and he remains a serious threat to the Bellator’s best at 170lbs.
His old rival Lima eliminated him from the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix tournament last year, but he’s bounced back with victory in the Bellator cage since then, and he’ll be looking to re-establish himself as a title threat once again as the year develops.
With 12 knockouts from his 22 career wins, you can be sure he’ll be loading up those heavy hands once again as he bids to force his way back to the belt.