Mairbek Taisumov has been a name steadily creeping up the lightweight rankings since his debut. After his first loss under the UFC promotion back in 2014 to Michael Prazeres, Taisumov has gone on a rampage in the octagon, winning his last five fights by KO or TKO in just under nine minutes of total fight time. After his latest win in Rotterdam earlier this month against Felipe Silva, Taisumov made his intentions clear to the top ranked lightweight fighters and has started campaigning all over Twitter for his next potential opponent.
Even with a dominant wrestling background, Taisumov’s forte in the cage is his overwhelmingly quick hands. In the build up to the Felipe Silva knockout, his feints and footwork lured Silva in as he prepared to throw his overhand, but Taisumov’s back pedaling was just enough to provide the space he needed for his own right hand, and the result is nothing but a photo finish:
This knockout is not an outlier to the highlight reel finishes Taisumov regularly produces. After five knockouts in a row, it’s clear that Mairbek Taisumov has found the formula to win fights in an exciting fashion. In our brief conversation I asked Taisumov to shed some light on what the secret has been for five finishes in a row, and what the game plan is like heading into each fight:
Five knockouts is good, I hope to have four or five more if I can keep fighting. When I train, I always look for the finish, even though I come from wrestling background I always liked to punch and kick, I learned very early in my career to not leave fights to the judges because the judge is the only one that can make you cry.
Taisumov has done well to stick to his claim. In his 26 wins as a professional, only one of those victories has come from a decision, which coincidentally was his UFC debut. Since his days as an up-and-coming fighter in Russia, his prerogative inside the cage is to end the fight as quickly as possible, and the results have only become more spectacular as the level of competition rises.
A speedy return
After his fight Taisumov made mention of returning as quickly as possible to the octagon. Due to his current visa issues, fighting in the US is not a possibility but there were high hopes to feature on the UFC: Gdansk card next month, but Taisumov was more adamant about fighting in UFC: Shanghai on November 25. With much speculation about who exactly that top 10 opponent will be I asked Taisumov to play matchmaker and ‘make his pick’ for who he would like to fight if given the chance, but Taisumov made it clear that giving an answer was just not that simple:
I wish I could tell you who I could fight, all these guys say they want to fight but when I come to them and look for fight I get no response. They know I am [the] toughest opponent at 155, they know they will lose, this is why no one wants to fight me, I’m not going to talk about Pettis, I’m not going to talk about Barboza, if I had to pick a fighter … I like Eddie Alvarez, he is tough guy, former champion, fought Conor McGregor before, I like this fight.
As amazing as Taisumov vs Alvarez would look on paper, it’s going to take some time for Alvarez to come back around after his scheduled bout with Justin Gaethje, so all the cards are still on the table as far as lightweight contenders are concerned. Even still, Taisumov will be preparing the only way he knows how, he always maintains his shape and form in order to be ready for the occasion, and after a year-long hiatus leading up to his Rotterdam win, he made it clear that the time for rest is over. Now that the stage has been set for Taisumov’s arrival to the upper ladder of lightweight contenders, I asked him to give his prediction on Tony Ferguson vs Kevin Lee next month and Taisumov had plenty to say on the topic:
For this fight, I think Tony [Ferguson] gonna beat Kevin Lee, I don’t like Kevin Lee, he’s trying to be like a Conor McGregor wannabe and I don’t like his style, he talks too much for me. Conor McGregor talks a lot but he is making big fights and making big money so I cannot speak on Conor McGregor, but I think it’s too early for Kevin Lee to talk like this. Tony will win.
For all the headlines that Taisumov and his amazing knockouts can grab overseas, the real factor in him being a household name within the sport will rely on his ability to fight in the United States sometime soon. After his latest delay at trying to get his visa taken care of at UFC 203, there was little information out there as to when that situation would be cleared up. Taisumov lamented the fact that the visa issue has been taking longer than expected, and gave some interesting news as to how soon he could be fighting in the states if all goes well:
I’ve been trying to get this visa for sometime now, on the 17th (September) we are supposed to go to the consulate and see what is going on over there, I hope by the end of the year I can get my Visa and fight in the US for next year.
As well-traveled as Mairbek Taisumov is, training all over the world from Chechnya, Thailand, Poland and beyond, the inability to fight in one of the biggest markets of the sport has been a real hinderance to the visibility Taisumov could be achieving when you consider the finishes he’s had. As I spoke to him during his stay in Moscow, I asked Taisumov where his dream venue would be to fight at and he wasted little time in bringing the conversation back to his roots, endorsing the opportunity to fight in his native country at the nearest convenience:
Definitely Russia, it’s so big here, I know if they had a show it would be 40 or 50 thousand people easy. I think it would be a really big opportunity.
Every fighter dreams of one day fighting as a hometown hero, and the opportunity for Russian fighters and fans alike seems to be all the more plausible with names like Mairbek Taisumov and Khabib Nurmagomedov making waves all across the sport. As fight dates draw closer, it’ll be important to keep an eye out for all the possibilities as new faces emerge to take the throne at 155.
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