UFC Fight Night 162: Maia vs. Askren - Predictions and Picks
#2 Muslim Salikhov vs. Laureano Staropoli
Okay, so by ranking and experience this has to be up there with the very worst semi-main events in UFC history. Obviously both men have a certain amount of talent and potential – Staropoli is 2-0 in the UFC thus far, Salikhov 2-1 – but with five UFC fights between them and no wins over truly top-level opponents, they just don’t belong in this kind of position in my opinion.
With that said, this should be a hugely entertaining fight. Staropoli showed a wild striking game in his May victory over veteran Thiago Alves, and reminded me in a lot of ways of a larger Yair Rodriguez – throwing wild combinations at Alves but always with pretty solid fundamentals and some impressive defensive skills, too.
Salikhov meanwhile is coming off a pair of knockouts in brutal fashion, and prior to his UFC career, he took out the likes of Melvin Guillard and Ivan Jorge with spinning kicks and hook kicks, all low-percentage moves. ‘The King of Kung Fu’ has tremendous timing in everything that he throws, and while his UFC career hasn’t been perfect, he’s clearly a very dangerous man.
So who takes this one? A lot of it could depend on the range in which the fight takes place. Staropoli is two inches taller than Salikhov and will have a reach advantage, and that was something he used to great effect against Alves, as he was able to keep the veteran at the end of his strikes while largely avoiding shots from ‘The Pitbull’.
It must be noted, though, that Alves is shorter than Salikhov and doesn’t throw as many long strikes as the Dagestani, preferring a more traditional Muay Thai attack.
Could either man take the fight to the ground? Potentially, but I think it’s somewhat doubtful; Salikhov has a couple of submissions on his record and appears to have a decent grappling game, but then he also looked vulnerable on the mat in his UFC loss to Alex Garcia and of course, you don’t get a nickname like ‘The King of Kung Fu’ by choking people out. Staropoli meanwhile is a huge question mark on the ground.
This one then is super-hard to pick as we just don’t know enough about the strengths and weaknesses of either man against higher level opposition to really have a clear-cut favourite.
I think I’m favouring Salikhov slightly purely because he seems to be a better finisher and appears to have more power in his strikes. Throw in the fact that Staropoli’s style is one that saps energy, and I suspect he’s more likely to leave himself open to eating something nasty.
The Pick: Salikhov via third round TKOModified 21 Dec 2019, 00:48 IST