5 Defining Moments: Muslim Salikhov

Muslim Salikhov’s hopes of becoming a viable contender may have passed, but he remains a proven entertainer and a valuable piece of the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster.

The 40-year-old Russian will seek his first win in nearly 20 months when he takes aim at Santiago Ponzinibbio in the UFC on ESPN 59 co-headliner on July 13 at Ball Arena in Denver. Salikhov enters the Octagon on the heels of back-to-back losses for the first time in his 24-fight career. He owns a 6-4 record across his 10 appearances in the UFC, his successful run with the organization highlighted by victories over Francisco Trinaldo, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, Laureano Staropoli and Ricky Rainey.

As Salikhov moves ever closer to his looming showdown with Ponzinibbio at 170 pounds, a look at five of the many moments that have come to define him:

1. On the Hook

Salikhov bolstered his profile and resume with a sensational knockout of former Jungle Fight champion and UFC veteran Ivan Jorge in the first round of their Kunlin Fight “Cage Series 6” co-main event on Oct. 21, 2016 at the Yiwu Meihu Sports Centre in Yiwu, China. Jorge checked out 64 seconds into Round 1, having been victimized by a spinning hook kick. Salikhov greeted the Brazilian with a spinning back kick to the body that drifted below the belt and resulted in a brief pause to the action. Upon the restart, they circled one another in the center of the cage. Salikhov backed “Batman” to the fence, flipped his hips and caught him ducking. Foot struck face, and Jorge hit the deck in a dazed and confused state. The stoppage was immediate and showed Salikhov could more than hold his own against proven, high-caliber opposition.

2. No Warm Welcome

Tristar Gym representative Alex Garcia spoiled the Russian’s hyped promotional debut, as he submitted the M-1 Global veteran with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 122 welterweight showcase on Nov. 25, 2017. Salikhov conceded defeat 3:22 into Round 2, suffering his first setback in almost five years. Garcia absorbed the Dagestani kickboxer’s trademark spinning attacks and paired takedowns with smothering top control. Salikhov was ineffective off his back. Midway through the second round, Garcia executed a takedown and used a quick burst of ground-and-pound to advance to the back. The choke was in place before Salikhov could react, and the tapout followed soon after. The loss snapped his career-best 10-fight winning streak.

3. Cashing In

Salikhov returned from a 19-month layoff and made up for lost time when he punched out Tristar Gym’s Nordine Taleb in the first round of their UFC 242 welterweight prelim on Sept. 7, 2019 at Du Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The end came 4:26 into Round 1. Operating in the shadows of the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Dustin Poirier main event, Salikhov withstood an inadvertent low blow and softened the Canadian with thudding kicks to the leg and body. He backed Taleb to the fence in the final minute of the first round and uncorked a sweeping right hook that sent the Firas Zahabi protégé crashing to the canvas, his head bouncing violently off the mat. No follow-up shots were required. It was Salikhov’s 12th first-round finish as a pro and brought him a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus.

4. Spin Doctor

American Top Team’s Salikhov took out Andre Fialho with a spinning wheel kick and follow-up punches in the third round of their UFC Fight Night 215 welterweight attraction on Nov. 19, 2022 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The curtain fell 1:03 into Round 3. Fialho was effective in spurts and damaged the sanda stylist’s left eye with an overhand right in the first round. However, momentum shifted dramatically in the middle stanza, where Salikhov landed a spinning back kick to the body and a spinning backfist upstairs before setting the Kill Cliff Fight Club export on unsteady legs with a Superman punch. He forced the dazed Fialho to retreat to the canvas, where he met him with a series of hammerfists. The respite between rounds did not provide enough time for recovery. Salikhov resumed his assault at the start of Round 3, doubled over Fialho with a spinning back kick to the body, connected with a jarring wheel kick upstairs and followed up with punches to prompt a standing stoppage.

5. Broken Road

Ex-Ring of Combat champion Randy Brown felled Salikhov with punches in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 235 welterweight feature on Feb. 3, 2024 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Brown slammed the door on the “King of Kung Fu” 3:17 into Round 1. Salikov closed the distance with crushing leg kicks but could not give them enough time to marinate. Brown doubled up with jabs and then followed them with a brutal right cross. Salikhov absorbed the concussive impact, hit the deck, turtled in a defensive shell and ate a standing-to-ground right hand before referee Kerry Hatley arrived on the scene. The knockout was Brown’s first since he stopped Bryan Barberena with punches in June 2019.

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