After his originally scheduled Ultimate Fighting Championship debut was cancelled due to a positive test for COVID-19, Mark Striegl jumped at the chance at a quick turnaround against Said Nurmagomedov at UFC Fight Night 180 this Saturday at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. However, unlike Timur Valiev—the man with whom Striegl was paired at UFC on ESPN 15 in August—Nurmagomedov has Octagon experience under his belt.
A flashy three-fight UFC veteran with something to prove, Nurmagomedov has not competed since he dropped a unanimous decision to Raoni Barcelos at UFC Fight Night 165 in December. The setback was his first in more than five years and snapped a seven-fight winning streak. Nurmagomedov, who has outlanded all three of his UFC opponents, now looks to reclaim some of his lost sheen.
The Russian’s kick are perhaps his most dangerous weapons. In a UFC Fight Night 144 stoppage of Ricardo Ramos, Nurmagomedov unleashed a devastating spinning back kick before finishing the Brazilian with a flurry of punches along the fence. However, that kind of creativity and unpredictability does not seem to faze Striegl in the least.
“He does some flashy kicks, so I just need to be aware of those things,” he said. “Right now, I’m focused on what I bring to the table and about imposing my will and bringing out my skills in the fight.”
Striegl is no stranger to facing UFC veterans. In October 2014, he submitted current flyweight contender Kai Kara France with a rear-naked choke at a Malaysian Invasion MMA event; and in his most recent appearance under the Universal Reality Combat Championship banner, Striegl had begun to dismantle Shunichi Shimizu before their battle was stopped because of an accidental low blow. While France and Shimizu were difficult opponents, “Mugen” claims his success in those encounters does not provide him with much additional confidence ahead of his first UFC assignment. He views every fight differently.
The 32-year-old Striegl has fought only four times in the last four calendar years, but in 2019, he represented the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games, where he struck gold in sambo. Indeed, the bantamweight brings a strong set of grappling skills to the cage, along with a talent for taking people to the ground. Fourteen of his 18 career victories have come by submission.
When asked what advantages he believes he holds over Nurmagomedov, Striegl pointed to his physicality and well-rounded game. Nurmagomedov entered the UFC as a flyweight, but he ultimately moved to 135 pounds—a weight at which he has proven to be more comfortable.
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