Division: Light Heavyweight
Record: 17-1 (9-1 UFC)
Association: Gorets Fight Team
Stage of Career: Prime
Summary: Unlike most Dagestani fighters, Ankalaev excels primarily through his superb striking, with terrific boxing and some of the best kicks in the sport. All of his punches are solid, but his hooks are especially crisp and powerful, and he constantly throws punches in bunches, with a slew of hooks feeding into each other. His kicks are as good as they come in MMA, causing tremendous damage to all parts of the body; his head kicks rank right up there with those of Mirko Filipovic, resulting in multiple knockouts. He is extremely sound and smart with sturdy defense, never putting himself in danger. While he chooses to win fights with his striking, his grappling skills are also excellent. No one has been able to gain an advantage against him there, outside of a last-second submission to Paul Craig in his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut. With Ankalaev having such dangerous striking, a consistently smart approach and no significant weaknesses, it will take an amazing performance from a top fighter to beat him.
STRIKING• Stance: Mainly southpaw, though he switches often and can fight orthodox for long stretches.
• Hand Speed: Average.
• Jab: Straight and lands with impact, but it is often telegraphed and can be countered.
• Cross: Sneaky, straight and sudden left cross with some power. He dropped Ion Cutelaba with one of them.
• Right Hook: Thrown with a very tight arc and plenty of rotation, it is accurate, quick. and powerful. It started the sequence that knocked out Cutelaba, as it countered him coming forward.
• Left Hook: Short, accurate and powerful. He finished off Cutelaba with it.
• Uppercuts: Features a stellar right uppercut, can time opponents who are moving forward and even slightly dipping their heads. Accurate, technical and powerful. He broke Klidson Abreu’s nose with it.
• Solitary Striker or Volume Puncher: Throws punches in bunches constantly.
• Favorite Combination(s): Loves throwing one hook into the other.
• Leg Kicks: Sudden and fast, on top of being powerful. He can even throw them effectively from the lead foot.
• Body Kicks: Brutal and textbook.
• Head kicks: Rank among the best in the sport, especially from the left side. Ridiculously fast, sudden and powerful. He has proven he can cut down opponents with a front kick variant, as he showed against Dalcha Lungiambula.
• Chains Kicks to Punches: Does so to great effect. He can throw a powerful kick to any part of the body at the end of a punching combination.
Ankalaev has outstanding striking skills, with a myriad of threats and powerful blows. He is calm and patient, waiting for his moment to strike. When he chooses to do so, opponents are often in serious trouble. Switching stances, he has deadly hooks with either hand, possessing perfect technique, as well as considerable accuracy and power. Ankalaev also has a deadly left cross and can catch grapplers closing the distance with a superb right uppercut, with both punches being technical, accurate and powerful. However, his kicks may be the most lethal weapons in his toolbox. Those he throws to the legs and body are exceptional, having every quality one could desire. However, the left head kick—one of the best in the sport—has claimed numerous knockout victims. As if that were not enough, he throws a sharp front kick to the head, too. Opponents have plenty to worry about when the exchange with Ankalaev on the feet.
CLINCH• Physical Strength: More than holds his own physically against grapplers and uses his strong legs to deter trip attempts.
• Technique: Shows a nice sense of balance, fighting well for underhooks.
• Knees: Quick and powerful, but he only fires them on occasion, not wanting to be taken down off of them.
• Elbows: Fast and dynamic, though they lack some accuracy and, as a result, power.
• Defense Against Knees/Elbows: He can be hit with knees to the body.
Ankalaev is potent in close quarters. He can easily defend most takedown attempts and has the ability to score far more efficiently than his opponents with his technical, fast knees and elbows.
GRAPPLING• Wrestling from a Shot: Never does it at his current level.
• Wrestling in the Clinch: Limited, but he can catch kicks. However, Abreu managed to easily defend his double-leg at close range.
• Takedown Defense: Utilizes a quick sprawl by which he angles off nicely and depends on fantastic hips to rotate with attempts from range. In the clinch, he jockeys well for underhooks and leans on strong legs, which do not budge from attempted trips.
• Ability to Return to Feet: He has shown the ability to hip escape and wall walk, though he has not found himself in that situation of late.
• Submissions: Likely has them in his arsenal, but he has never executed one. He prefers to strike from the top.
• Defense/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from the Bottom: Rarely finds himself in a disadvantageous position.
• Top Control: Blocks sweeps and opponents’ attempts to get up by staying heavy and tight on top.
• Ground-and-Pound: Gets his body into punches on occasion but favors an utterly brutal elbow that can slice open an opponent when it lands.
Ankalaev’s grappling is mostly defensive in nature. His offense is limited to catching the occasional kick and converting knockdowns from striking or well-defended takedowns into top position. While he has some degree of control and potent ground-and-pound, particularly his elbows, he is generally focused on defense against many opponents. He can turn the corner with a quick sprawl and fantastic hips, and he has shown an ability to rotate with any takedown attempt. Moreover, he has tremendous strength in his legs, which makes him virtually invulnerable to trips. With that being said, Ankalaev has not yet faced a truly elite grappler, so some questions remain unanswered.
INTANGIBLES• Athleticism/General Physical Strength: Comparable to others of his ilk.
• Cardio: He manages his energy exceedingly well, staying calm and fighting within himself. As a result, he does not slow down at all over the course of a fighter, whether it be three rounds or five.
• Chin: Dependable. He has been hurt by hard connections, but he has not yet been knocked down, let alone finished, in a striking exchange.
• Recuperative Powers: He can quickly recover from stunning blows and come back with his own offense.
• Intelligence: An exceedingly calm, patient and disciplined fighter, Ankalaev recognizes opportunities and takes full advantage of them.
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