5 reasons why Saygid Izagakhmaev might be the next big thing in ONE Championship

ONE Championship newcomer Saygid Izagakhmaev might be the next big thing at ONE lightweight. (Image courtesy of ONE Championship)
ONE Championship newcomer Saygid Izagakhmaev might be the next big thing at ONE lightweight. (Image courtesy of ONE Championship)

ONE Championship newcomer Saygid Izagakhmaev is gaining some hype ahead of his debut in ONE: Heavy Hitters this January 14. The hype surrounding the Dagestani is largely motivated by his affiliation with former UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

In most of his recent fights, Izagakhmaev has had 'The Eagle' in his corner, guiding him to victory. Starting their martial arts journeys in the same gym in Dagestan, it's no surprise that the two see each other as brothers.

Now that Izagakhmaev is set to enter the world stage at ONE: Heavy Hitters, we'll see the legendary Nurmagomedov inside the embattled ONE circle for the first time. Standing as Izagakhmaev's cornermen for all his fights inside the circle, Nurmagomedov's team's influence will surely be felt by ONE Championship's roster.

With that said, Izagakhmaev's entrance to ONE's lightweight ranks might shake up the division in a major way. Today we list down 5 reasons why the Dagestani newcomer might become the next big thing in ONE's lightweight division.

#5. ONE Championship has not seen a wrestler of Izagakhmaev's caliber

It has been said that the Caucasus regions of Russia have perhaps the best wrestling programs in the world. The famous mountain range has been a hotbed of wrestling for many years and has produced many world champions. Perhaps it's the high elevation or the culture with which people live that makes such hardened warriors.

With Dagestan being situated smack in the rough, northern Caucasus region of Russia, it's no surprise that its athletes are mostly wrestling prodigies. Izagakhmaev, just like Nurmagomedov, was basically born with wrestling shoes on in one of the hardest terrains known to man.

The Dagestani style of grappling, as exemplified famously by Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev, is perhaps the greatest iteration of wrestling for MMA. Dealing with their unstoppable chain wrestling is like stopping waves and waves of a tsunami.

When the fight hits the canvas, the Dagestani grapplers' top game has the weight of the entire Caucasus mountains pressing down on their opponents. It's quite impossible to shake them off once they get their momentum going.

Come ONE Championship: Heavy Hitters, we might see Izagakhmaev utilize the same MMA wrestling as his mentor Nurmagomedov. That's a scary thought for the rest of the division.

#4. Izagakhmaev matches well against ONE Championship lightweight champion Ok Rae Yoon

Current ONE Championship world lightweight champion and 2021 Male Fighter of the Year Ok Rae Yoon is riding in the clouds right now. His historic 2021 campaign saw him debut in ONE and then win the belt before the year ended.

His slick movement and excellent management of distance allowed him to systematically dismantle his opponents using his world-class kickboxing. In his razor-close match against former champion Christian Lee, Ok managed to avoid much of the grappling exchanges. Most of it was due to the fact that Lee wasn't leaning too heavily on grappling as he wanted to trade leather.

Studying the few times that Lee took Ok down or had him in compromising grappling positions, we can see possible holes Saygid Izagakmaev can exploit. The Degastani's style of wrestling is different. Once he gets a hold of his opponent, the only goal is to absolutely smash.

He won't look to engage in a clinch or a takedown only to break away once the opponent defends. Izagakhmaev, like Nurmagomedov, never stops his wrestling attack once he starts. From a low single to a double leg to a back clinch to a suplex, Izagakhmaev will keep attacking until he's put his opponent in a position to be smashed.

If styles make fights, then the ONE debutant has the style to give the champion major problems.

#3. Izagakhmaev was mentored by Khabib's father, the late great Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov

Many great fighters from the Russian Federation, particularly the Republic of Dagestan, owe a lot to the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. The Master of Sports in freestyle wrestling and former army veteran has paved the way for troubled youth to find better lives as martial artists.

Seeing the political instability in the Republic of Dagestan, Abdulmanap saw that an armed conflict would inevitably arise. Because of this, he took responsibility for guiding the youth so it could help them navigate the tumultuous path that lay ahead. Apart from teaching rigorous methods of combat, Abdulmanap also instilled the principles of discipline, honor and respect upon his students.

Since then, he's trained hundreds of fighters that would become world champions. There's, of course, his most famous student, his second son Khabib, who would win the UFC belt and retire undefeated. Other famous fighters who benefited from the tutelage of Abdulmanap are Islam Makhachev, Abubakar Nurmagomedov, and Movlid Khaybulaev, just to name a few.

ONE Championship's Saygid Izagakhmaev is just the latest in a long list of warriors who have found success under the guidance of Abdulmanap. In ONE Championship, we'll see the young Izagakhmaev honor his late mentor by showcasing all he's learned from him inside the cage.

Here's a touching video of fighters paying their respects to the late combat coach:


#2. ONE Championship's lightweight division has a lot of great match-ups for him

ONE Championship's lightweight division right now is rife with stylistic match-ups that could allow Saygid Izagakhmaev to shine.

Aside from his January 14 opponent James Nakashima, who is already a tough test for a debut match, there are a lot of fighters on the roster that's perfect for Izagakhmaev. We're not saying that he'd beat them undoubtedly, but these fighters' styles could allow the Dagestani to showcase his own style a lot.

If he wants to use his wrestling to ragdoll strikers, he can face the likes of Eduard Folayang, Timofey Nastyukhin and Dagi Arslanaliev. If he wants to establish grappling supremacy against known grapplers on the ground, he's got Shinya Aoki, Christian Lee, and the aforementioned Nakashima.

Regardless of who he faces in the circle, Izagakhmaev is facing a murderer's row of fighters who could either give him problems or opportunities to shine. It's up to him how he manages his journey towards the top.

#1. Izagakhmaev is mentored and coached by Khabib Nurmagomedov

This is perhaps the biggest indicator that Saygid Izagakhmaev's success is imminent in ONE Championship: the guidance of the great Nurmagomedov.

The ONE lightweight exemplifies the same wrestling game as 'The Eagle' and it's interesting to see him translate it inside the Circle. The former UFC lightweight champion, however, says that Izagakhmaev may have some attributes that he himself may not. In a recent interview with ONE Championship, Nurmagomedov said this about Izagakhmaev:

"Saygid’s fighting style is very dangerous because he’s tall and he has a long reach with his legs and arms. He has very good elbow, good clinch and, of course, he’s very good on the ground; ground game and grappling, like all guys from our school."

If this is any indication, we'll see a taller version of Khabib in ONE and that's a frightening sight for the rest of the lightweight division. With the help of fellow Dagestani fighter Islam Makhachev and MMA pioneer Javier Mendez of American Kickboxing Academy, Nurmagomedov's coaching career has been successful thus far.

Come January 14, we'll get to see whether or not his dominance outside the cage continues in ONE Championship through Izagakhmaev.

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