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5 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 136

UFC Brisbane Media Day
Aussie legend Mark Hunt faces Aleksei Oleinik in Saturday's main event

The UFC is heading to Russia for the first time in its history this weekend for UFC Fight Night 136, as Heavyweights Mark Hunt and Aleksei Oleinik will headline the show from Moscow.

Like most Fight Pass offerings the card isn’t exactly deep in terms of mainstream appeal and name value, but there’s certainly more than a handful of reasons to watch the show. Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t miss Fight Night 136.

#1 It’s a UFC event in Russia!

UFC 205: Nurmagomedov v Johnson
Russia has produced plenty of top fighters, including current Lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov

Just a handful of years ago, the idea of a UFC show in Russia sat somewhere between a pipe dream and an inside joke aimed at fans who had knowledge of Dana White’s failed negotiations with legendary Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko and his handlers, Russian promotion M-1 Global. And yet in 2018, we’re on the verge of the first Russian UFC show and recent reports even suggest M-1 Global are helping them along the way! How times change.

The card is shallow in terms of name value and appeals to casual fans, and like most Fight Pass shows the majority of the fighters are locally-based. But in the case of this show, that makes it even more worth watching – Russia has long been a hotbed of MMA and has produced some tremendous fighters, including current UFC Lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

On this show, lesser-known names such as Alexey Kunchenko, Ramazan Emeev and Magomed Ankalaev will all be looking to make names for themselves inside the world’s biggest promotion, and with a likely partisan Russian crowd supporting them, it’ll be worth tuning in to see them try.

#2 The main event features two genuine finishers

UFC 217: Oleinik v Blaydes
Aleksei Oleinik has finished 44 of his 56 wins by submission or TKO

A UFC main event featuring a 44-year old against a 41-year-old sounds like a terrible idea at a glance, but in this case, it could deliver one of 2018’s most exciting fights. Not only are Mark Hunt and Aleksei Oleinik still very relevant fighters in the Heavyweight division – Hunt currently sits at #8 in the UFC’s official rankings, Oleinik at #11 – but they’re both finishing machines inside the Octagon.

Hunt’s UFC record currently sits at 8-7-1, which doesn’t sound that impressive, but he’s literally fought nothing but absolute killers since he arrived in the Octagon in 2010. And of those 16 fights, just 4 have gone the distance – one of which, his 2013 draw with Antonio Silva, was an all-time classic brawl.

Oleinik meanwhile is 5-2 in UFC action with just one fight going to the judges. In fact, outside of his 2016 decision loss to Daniel Omielanczuk, you have to go all the way back to 2012 to find an Oleinik fight that went the distance. Somehow, ‘The Boa Constrictor’ has finished 44 of his 56 wins by submission and 8 of them by knockout – giving him a finishing percentage of 93%.

Essentially, whichever way the fight goes on Saturday, the likelihood of it going 25 minutes is somewhere between slim and none – and slim seems likely to leave town.

#3 Nikita Krylov is back

Exciting Light-Heavyweight Nikita Krylov is back in the UFC
Exciting Light-Heavyweight Nikita Krylov is back in the UFC

A cult hero for a portion of the online MMA fanbase – who nicknamed him ‘Nikki Thrills’ – by the time his UFC career abruptly ended in 2016, Nikita Krylov was actually looking like a genuine contender at 205lbs. His once-sloppy skillset had been sharpened to the hilt and prior to his submission loss to fellow up-and-comer Misha Cirkunov, the Ukrainian fighter had reeled off 5 straight wins, all by KO or submission.

Unfortunately for fans of ‘The Miner’, Krylov chose to leave the UFC following the Cirkunov loss and sign with Russian promotion Fight Nights Global. His explanation was that he didn’t want to travel away from his family for so long, and felt like he could gain more experience against some weaker opponents outside of the UFC. Well, he’s now done that – winning four in a row – and unsurprisingly he’s now back.

The return of Krylov could help to energise one of the UFC’s thinnest divisions, but he won’t have it easy upon his return. Opponent Jan Blachowicz has looked like one of the most improved fighters on the UFC roster of late, and he’s bringing a 3-fight win streak to Moscow. Given his last fight was an unbelievable brawl with Jimi Manuwa, and Krylov’s risk-taking style, expect fireworks regardless of the winner here.

#4 Time for another Arlovski comeback?

UFC 225: Whittaker v Romero 2
Andrei Arlovski could begin yet another comeback this weekend

Former UFC Heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski feels like the cat with nine lives in the UFC. After his losses in StrikeForce back in 2010/11 it felt like his career at the top of the MMA world was well and truly over, but somehow ‘The Pitbull’ did enough to force a UFC return, and despite low expectations, he immediately reeled off 4 wins in a row and found himself inexplicably back in title contention.

A nasty loss to Stipe Miocic put an end to those title hopes, and 4 subsequent losses seemed to put him back on the chopping block, but Arlovski has since turned his fortunes around again, beating Junior Albini and Stefan Struve. His last fight was a loss to prospect Tai Tuivasa, but it was a close one to call and the veteran certainly didn’t disgrace himself.

This Saturday sees Arlovski return again to face Russian fighter Shamil Abdurakhimov, and given Abdurakhimov’s spotty record and slow demeanour inside the cage, it’s not impossible that the former champion could pull off another win to ensure his UFC tenure continues. As one of the few veterans of the pre-TUF era still around, Arlovski is always worth watching and it should be fun to see him attempt to pick up his 7th UFC win.

#5 One of the UFC’s most underrated fighters is in action

Rustam Khabilov might be the UFC's most underrated fighter
Rustam Khabilov might be the UFC's most underrated fighter

Given that it’s been over three years now since we saw him on the main card of a UFC event, fans would be excused if they’d entirely forgotten about Russian Lightweight Rustam Khabilov. But ‘The Tiger’ – who was once considered one of the hottest up-and-comers in the division – is back in action on Saturday and he’s looking for his 6th victory in a row, which would surely land him back in title contention.

Admittedly, Khabilov’s style isn’t the most exciting to watch at times – a wrestling-based fighter who uses his powerful takedowns and ground control to win his fights, ‘The Tiger’ hasn’t finished an opponent since 2013 – but don’t forget that this is the same fighter who ragdolled Vinc Pichel to the point where he was TKO’d by a German suplex; the same fighter who once stunned Jorge Masvidal – now a Welterweight contender – with a spinning wheel kick.

His opponent on Saturday – Kajan Johnson – will almost certainly be fighting with his back to the wall given he lost his last fight by submission (to a fellow Russian in Islam Makhachev) and is heavily involved with an attempt to unionize UFC fighters, and that could make for an exciting fight. But it’s Khabilov who should be able to win, and if he can do it impressively – especially with a finish – then he could find himself in the top 15 come next week.

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Edited by Vikshith R
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