5 best Russian fighters in the UFC right now

C. Naik
Russian UFC Fighter Petr Yan (Bantamweight)
Russian UFC Fighter Petr Yan (Bantamweight)
Petr Yan [Image via @parimatch on Twitter]
Petr Yan [Image via @parimatch on Twitter]

The UFC is a global brand and houses fighters from all around the world. Back in the early days of the promotion, most of the fighters hailed from either North or South America. With the incredible growth of MMA over the past decade or so, fighters from all over the planet have graced the octagon.

Throughout the history of combat sports, Russia has consistently produced world-class talent. Be it wrestling, boxing, judo or MMA, the transcontinental nation has delivered numerous world champions. Khabib Nurmagomedov, the most influential Russian MMA athlete of all time, has paved the way for a whole generation of his countrymen, and we're seeing the effects in numerous divisions in the UFC.

Here's the Complete List of Russian UFC Fighters

Most of the top Russians in MMA come from wrestling and combat sambo backgrounds. Having trained in these disciplines all their lives, these fighters have a significant advantage over most of their peers. Nurmagomedov's dominant run through the lightweight division is a testament to this notion.

On that note, here are the five best Russian fighters actively competing in the UFC today.

#5. Askar Askarov (14-1-1 overall, 3-1-1 in the UFC)

Askar Askarov is among the elite fighters competing at 125 pounds. Currently ranked in the top five of the flyweight division, Askarov is just a couple of wins away from fighting for the belt.

He came into the UFC with a perfect professional record of 11-0 after winning and defending the ACB flyweight title in his native Russia. In his promotional debut, Askarov and Brandon Moreno fought their way to a split-draw. After that fight, he put together a three-fight win streak to break into the upper echelons of the division.

Unfortunately, his sensational run came to an end at the hands of Kai Kara-France, who outpointed Askarov en route to a unanimous decision victory in March. Still only 29 and having taken very little damage in his career so far, expect this Russian flyweight to re-enter the title mix in the near future.

Askarov is a tough matchup for any 125-pound fighter. He possesses excellent wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, having finished half of his career wins via submission.

However, for some reason, he has struggled to finish his opponents since joining the UFC. All of his fights in the world's premier MMA promotion have gone to the judges' scorecards. Askarov has been accused of playing it safe in the past and being seemingly content with decision victories. Perhaps the loss to Kara-France will prompt him to adopt a more aggressive approach going forward.

#4. Umar Nurmagomedov (14-0 overall, 2-0 in the UFC)

Umar Nurmagomedov is a future UFC bantamweight champion in the making. You may have already guessed who this supremely talented bantamweight trains with – none other than former lightweight kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov. Umar is Khabib's cousin and looks set to follow in the all-time great's footsteps.

Presently undefeated, the Dagestani phenom is an ominous presence in the bantamweight division. At the recently concluded UFC 272 pay-per-view, he picked up his second win in the octagon with a dominant first-round submission victory over Brian Kelleher.

Still unranked, Nurmagomedov will be eyeing a ranked opponent in his next outing. He currently boasts an impeccable professional record of 14-0, with six of his career wins coming by way of submission. At just 26, he has already displayed a very mature skillset and will undoubtedly break into the top tier of the 135-pound division in the coming years.

Moreover, with someone as experienced as Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner, the young Russian will be well aware of what it takes to become a world champion. The former 155-pound titleholder also has a good relationship with Dana White and could push for higher-ranked opponents for his cousin down the line.

#3. Magomed Ankalaev (17-1 overall, 8-1 in the UFC)

Magomed Ankalaev's UFC career got off to a rocky start, to say the least. The towering Russian light heavyweight joined the America-based promotion with a perfect professional record of 9-0. With his combat sambo background, Ankalaev was touted as a real threat to the 205-pound division.

In his promotional debut, he dominated Scottish light heavyweight Paul Craig for almost 15 minutes straight, only to get caught in a perfectly executed triangle choke with just one second left on the clock. Since that loss, Ankalaev has put together an eight-fight win streak to launch himself into the top five of the division.

In his most recent outing, Ankalaev cruised to a comfortable unanimous decision win over former title challenger Thiago Santos. He currently occupies the No.4 spot in the rankings and is likely one win away from a title shot. With his wrestling pedigree and legitimate one-punch knockout power, this light heavyweight contender is a force to be reckoned with.

The 205-pound title is set to be contested later this year between divisional champion Glover Teixeira and No.2-ranked Jiri Prochazka. Whoever emerges victorious, the champion will have an extremely tough task ahead of him when he eventually locks horns with Ankalaev.

#2. Petr Yan (16-3 overall, 8-2 in the UFC)

Petr Yan is considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC. The Russian titleholder is also among the most fun fighters to watch, with his all-action approach and savage mentality.

Yan has a pro MMA record of 16-3. However, there are a few factors to consider while looking at his record. His first career loss was a questionable split-decision defeat to Magomed Magomedov in 2016, where he was deducted a point due to a headbutt. Nevertheless, he avenged this result by beating Magomedov a year later.

The second defeat on Yan's record is a disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling. The bantamweight duo subsequently locked horns in a rematch where Sterling was awarded a split-decision victory at UFC 273. However, many believe the former bantamweight champion did enough to come away with a win on the night.

Yan is a nightmare stylistic matchup for anyone he goes up against. 'No Mercy' boasts an excellent takedown defense, which ensures that his bouts largely remain stand-up affairs. In the striking realm, his skills are levels above those of his peers and he systematically picks his opponents apart with his crisp boxing.

What's incredible about Yan is that he fights in an extremely mature manner. He never seems to run out of gas and seemingly increases his output as the fight wears on. Also, he hasn't even reached his peak yet. At just 29, he will be back in the title mix very soon and has the skills to reclaim his belt.

#1. Islam Makhachev (22-1 overall, 11-1 in the UFC)

Islam Makhachev is arguably the best fighter in the UFC lightweight division at the moment. Many believe that it is only a matter of time before the rising Dagestani star wins the 155-pound title. At just 30 years of age, he has more than enough time to achieve that goal. His professional record currently stands at 22-1.

Makhachev has ripped through the lightweight ranks in devastating fashion over the last 18 months. He started 2021 as an unranked fighter and went on to pick up three resounding submission victories over Drew Dober, Thiago Moises and Dan Hooker. The win over Hooker saw the Russian contender break into the top 10 of the division.

Watch a compilation of Islam Makhachev's best finishes below:


Earlier this year, he was slated to take on top contender Beneil Dariush in a high-stakes main event clash. A win for either fighter would've all but guaranteed a title shot. Unfortunately, Dariush sustained an injury a week before the fight and Makhachev took on unranked veteran Bobby Green instead.

He sailed to a dominant first-round TKO victory over Green but will likely need a win over a top-ranked contender to earn his shot at the title. Nobody appears to have the answer for Makhachev in the lightweight division. His wrestling prowess seems to overwhelm his opponents and his submission skills have turned him into a lethal finisher.

With every passing fight, he shows new wrinkles to his striking game as well, making him all the more dangerous. Considering the relative ease with which Makhachev dispatches his opponents, and the lack of damage he takes, he could rule the lightweight division for many years to come.

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Edited by Aziel Karthak
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