Prospect Watch: Muhammad Mokaev
Like any sport, there’s a certain joy to identifying and keeping an eye on emerging prospects - not only because of how vast their accomplishments in the future might be - but, and I think this is certainly very relevant to the ever-evolving world of MMA - these new fighters give you a sense of where the sport is going - where the next trend might emerge.
And in the most recent wave of Dagestan fighters who are bringing their mastery of a hugely difficult style to contend with - I’m as excited to watch the progress of Muhammad Mokaev as I am to watch any rising talent in the UFC right now.
It’s one things arriving to the UFC with decent hype and slowly building off of that to a point where people consider you a legitimate title-threat two or three fights in. But when it comes to this unbeaten attraction, I get the sense that people have already declared him to be the number 1 guy to watch in the sport. And, for myself, that was actually true long before he made his successful UFC debut.
Muhammad Mokaev was, of course, born in Dagestan, but later moved to England in his early teens - continuing his training before eventually finding his way onto the amateur circuit.
And though MMA’s amateur scene is flourishing when compared to how it was ten years ago - it isn’t exactly the proving ground that it is in boxing.
But recently, with the emerge of the IMMAFs as a legitimate source of competition and prospect farming - we’re starting to see fighters stepping up to pro level with considerable experience and credentials under their belt.
And for Mokaev - a quick look at his official record will tell you that while he is 7 and 0 with 1 no contest as a pro - his actual unbeaten-streak has gone on for a lot longer.
As an amateur he managed to compile an unheard of record - going 23 and 0 before moving to the professional ranks.
Hell, Mokaev was twenty fights unbeaten and a two-time IMMAF champion before he had even turned 20.
And according to the man himself, being a two time world champion at amateur level wasn’t even the end goal. Given his age and clear progression - Mokaev actually decided that going three for three with IMMAF gold was his original mission - before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and he decided to accelerate his plans.
And it was around the time of his pro debut under the BRAVE CF banner that the name first came across my desk - or table, whatever.
Anyway, though there is limited footage available on Mokaev - if you want a sense of how this uber-prospect looked, his pro MMA debut against my fellow Irishman Glen McVeigh is available on YouTube.
And though it showed a level of almost careless ferocity from Mokaev - given that the dude was just 20 years old - his technical proficiency is truly astounding.
Above all other things, it’s just a damn good fight - so if you want a starting point on Mokaev - but you’re not willing to trudge through two dozen amateur performances - this matchup will at least give you a sense of what the guy is about.
And from that fight - along with the others that I caught live from watching BRAVE events - fights have unfortunately vanished off the face of the internet - it was clear to me that this guy’s ceiling is as high as any prospect in the game right now.
There’s just a confidence to him, an aura that cannot be faked - something that continues to remind me of the early days of Jon Jones.
And look, before you jump on your keyboard to disregard using these two names in the same sentence - what I’m trying to say is that, in those early Jon Jones fights, even with the hindsight of knowing what we now know - there an unmistakeable air to him that you just don’t see that often.
It’s watching greatness as it blossoms before your very eyes - and it’s not something that comes around as much as you’d think.
And in those early fights, Mokaev just oozes confidence - in a very different way to bravado.
And it’s something that clearly comes from the path he has taken through this sport.
To be that young and to have the awareness of mind to take your time on the amateur scene - to fall back on your outstanding ground game but to also use this early stage to round out the rest of your game.
That is very encouraging to see from a guy who is still only 21 years old.
Mokaev's Unmistakable Style
Indeed Mokaev’s greatest strengths are his insane takedowns - and I genuinely mean that they are insane - his ability to suplex his opponents with incredible explosiveness and strength. And when he gets them down - he has that floaty, top control and devastating ground and pound that you would expect from a man whose roots are in the hills of Dagestan.
His submission offense is dynamic - of course, as anyone who watched his UFC debut will know.
But his striking - and specifically, the rate of progress he is making - it’s very, very encouraging.
He hits hard, he selects his shots wonderfully - and based on his ability to handle a UFC debut against a huge crowd of incredibly loud supporters, his mentality and ability to deal with pressure seems to be right on point.
The Perfect Coming Out Party
So let’s talk about that UFC debut, shall we?
He came in against Cody Durden - a decent flyweight but definitely a fitting test for the youngster - one who would give us an early sense of where Mokaev might fit in within the 125lb ranks.
A sixteen fight veteran with strong wrestling credentials - it was good to see Mokaev stepping in there for a suitable challenge on an event, in UFC London, that would really let us know how ready for this he actually is.
Well, as it turns out, we didn’t get to see too much from him - because of just how quick and easy the finish came.
People were really hyping this guy during fight-week and boy, when the time came to fight - that flying knee he landed to set up the fight-ending choke - if you wanna talk about meeting expectations - that right there was as good as it gets.
60 seconds weren’t even hit by the time the tap came - and while, of course, the bigger challenges will come - in that 58 second long fight, we saw enough to warrant giving this guy some real attention.
Over the years he has competed at both flyweight and bantamweight - and though I’m always wary of pushing prospects too quickly - I do think that a steady increase in opposition might be warranted here, if he does rise to meet his next challenge in such impressive fashion.
I’m very much onboard here. Not only does Muhammad Mokaev appear to have the mentality, the presence of mind needed to be a success - but at 21 he also brings a wealth of experience in competition against a wide range of body types, skillsets, attributes.
He’s the youngest fighter on the UFC roster - but you’d best believe that he has earned his spot under Dana White’s promotional banner.