Sherdog Prospect Watch: Ibragim Chuzhigaev

Ibragim Chuzhigaev will attempt to seize the Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki light heavyweight championship when he locks horns with Tomasz Narkun in the KSW 66 co-headliner on Saturday at Netto Arena in Szczecin, Poland. After spending most of his career at middleweight, Chuzhigaev walks into the match on a six-fight winning streak and with only one loss in his past 12 appearances. The 30-year-old challenger boasts a 66% finish rate, with eight knockouts and two submissions to his credit. His opponents own a combined record of 275-175-3 for a winning percentage slightly above .600.

Chuzhigaev’s fighting style reflects his combat sports upbringing. After moving to Moscow, the Chechen-born standout started training under Akhmed Musayev at the age of 20. As an amateur, he took part in various combat sambo and pankration tournaments, picking up his share of medals along the way. He completed his repertoire with kung fu sanda. Overall, pankration was the discipline in which Chuzhigaev excelled the most: He won the World Pankration Championship in 2014 and secured a bronze medal the following year. Chuzhigaev’s approach often mirrors that of a point fighter, showcasing unorthodox strikes with a propensity for spinning attacks. At the same time, he has solid offensive and defensive skills on the canvas.

Chuzhigaev made his mixed martial arts debut in April 2012. The first phase of his career did not look particularly promising, as he won just two of his first five bouts. However, he showed he was a prospect worth watching after he signed with Absolute Championship Berkut—a promotion later rebranded as Absolute Championship Akhmat. Chuzhigaev announced his intentions in one of his early appearances with the organization, scoring a flashy five-second knockout at the expense of Brazilian journeyman Charles Andrade at ACB 10. Introduced by legendary Pride Fighting Championships ring announcer Lenne Hardt, he took on an opponent with substantially more experience. Nevertheless, Chuzhigaev landed a well-timed left hook that stunned Andrade and sent him to the canvas. The follow-up shots were a mere formality. It remains his fastest finish to date.

A little more than a month after his eye-popping stoppage of Andrade, Chuzhigaev endured another setback when he was outpointed by Ibragim Tibilov. He responded by rattling off five consecutive victories that included finishes of Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran David Mitchell and former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship middleweight titleholder Lee Chadwick. However, his momentum stalled when he ran into Vyacheslav Vasilevsky at ACB 57. Chuzhigaev stung his opponent with some quick strikes but failed to stop the Russian’s powerful takedowns. Ultimately, Chuzhigaev’s spinning attacks were not enough to prevent Vasilevsky from submitting him with a rear-naked choke 3:16 into the second round.

The Vasilevsky defeat fueled Chuzhigaev’s pride, as he bounced back with a first-round knockout of Bellator MMA alum Will Noland at ACB 70. He then went on to avenge a previous loss to Igor Svirid before taking a decision from onetime Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Mike Rhodes. After he eked out a split decision over Piotr Strus, Chuzhigaev was declared the No. 1 contender for the ACA middleweight championship. However, the belt was held by Fight Club Berkut stablemate Salamu Abdurakhmanov. Chuzhigaev refused to fight his training partner and instead opted to face Alex Garcia, punching out the Tristar Gym product in just 112 seconds.

Chuzhigaev’s most recent appearance came at an Eagle Fighting Championship event held in memory of the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. There, he partook in a bloody affair with Evgeni Myakinkin. Chuzhigaev spent most of his time on the feet, where he connected often with punches to the head. Knowing he was no match for Chuzhigaev in the standup exchanges, an increasingly desperate Myakinkin resorted to wrestling midway through the second round, only to see his opponent reverse his takedown attempts without much effort. Chuzhigaev continued to pour on the punishment in the third round—until Myakinkin let his guard down and took a seat with his back against the fence. The stoppage was called 2:47 into Round 3.


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