Prior to each occasion, Below the Radar will solid the highlight on an up-and-coming expertise who exhibits the potential for progress of their division and is not getting sufficient consideration as they head into battle.
Identify: Michal Oleksiejczuk
File: 13-2-Zero-1 general; 1-Zero-Zero-1 UFC
Division: Gentle heavyweight
Group: GKS Gornik Leczna MMA
Popping out of UFC 236 final weekend, one of many principal takeaways for me after seeing Khalil Rountree Jr. dominate Eryk Anders and remind everybody that he is somebody to maintain tabs on within the mild heavyweight division was that the fixed complaining about how shallow and low-quality the 205-pound weight class is in the intervening time must cease.
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Everybody pretends like there aren’t any rising skills climbing the ranks within the division as a result of they do not measure as much as the greatness of Jon Jones or would stand as appreciable underdogs towards Alexander Gustafsson, as if measuring the standard of a division comes down completely to how everybody would do towards arguably the best fighter of all time and a perennial contender who has solely ever misplaced to elite expertise.
All the pieces is measured in absolutes – you are both the most effective or a bum – and anybody who resides within the huge expanses between these two extremes has to do one thing dramatic in an effort to garner even a modicum of consideration.
Which is gloomy, as a result of that is how rising skills get missed and find yourself sneaking up on all of the individuals who consistently shout about desirous to know extra about fighters, however refuse to do the work to familiarize themselves with anybody who is not already a giant identify or carrying a ton of buzz.
Michal Oleksiejczuk is a kind of low-key up-and-comers that individuals ought to be taking note of however aren’t as a result of he competes at mild heavyweight and so they’ve heard for years how horrible the division is as an entire.
Final outing, the 24-year-old fighter from Barki, Poland, wanted simply 94 seconds to dispatch Gian Villante.
Strip away the division and take into consideration that from a distinct perspective for a second: a 24-year-old making his sophomore look within the Octagon crushed a 28-fight veteran in a single minute and 34 seconds, ending him with a nasty physique shot.
People have gotten much more enthusiastic about far much less with regards to buzzy prospects that everybody likes or charismatic Brazilians who break-dance after their victories, however when Oleksiejczyuk does it, nobody appears to bat a watch and it makes zero sense to me.
Now, the younger mild heavyweight “Lord” did not do himself any favors by getting popped for a banned substance following his UFC debut – a short-notice, unanimous resolution win over Rountree at UFC 219 – however there are quite a few different athletes who’ve been flagged and suspended who returned to being prospects everybody ought to observe as soon as they did their penance. Oleksiejczuk ought to be afforded the identical alternative.
Villante is not any world-beater, however he is a tricky out who has been within the UFC for 5 years, amassing a 7-7 file previous to their matchup in February. By these 14 Octagon appearances, nobody had crushed the Lengthy Island native that rapidly or decisively – not Shogun Rua, not Ilir Latifi, not Corey Anderson, not Ovince Saint Preux.
Oleksiejczuk did, and that is not solely price noting, but in addition the type of factor that ought to make you wish to see what he does for an encore this weekend when he takes on Gadzhimurad Antigulov in Saint Petersburg.
Previous to his final struggle, Antigulov was a kind of “let’s have a look at what we have got right here” guys within the mild heavyweight division – a powerful grappler who earned first-round finishes in his first two UFC appearances. Then he began quick and flamed out laborious towards Ion Cutelaba, who’s one other man price taking note of within the mild heavyweight division, and now he is seeking to rebound within the second bout of the Saturday morning struggle card from Yubileyney Sports activities Palace.
Do not assume that is simply me cheerleading for a man who helps make certainly one of my longstanding arguments appear somewhat extra legitimate, both.
Sure, I have been driving for the sunshine heavyweight ranks to get some extra respect for some time, however there are additionally performance-based explanation why I believe Oleksiejczuk is somebody struggle followers ought to be taking note of this weekend and going ahead.
In his fights with Rountree and Villante, the Polish newcomer confirmed easy hanging expertise and stable footwork, working his manner inside to land his assaults and retreat with out catching a lot hearth in return. Although he was extra of a “stick and transfer” fighter towards Rountree, who brandishes massive energy, he pressed ahead and attacked Villante with out pause and buckled him with an exquisite physique shot.
Sound fundamentals and precision hanging aren’t as eye-catching as wild spinning assaults and haymakers that make hay, however having these fundamentals in place at this younger age, this early into his profession bodes effectively for Oleksiejczuk and may acquit him properly as he continues to make his manner up the divisional ladder.
Antigulov goes to wish to shut the gap and switch this right into a grappling match, which implies we should always get an opportunity to see what sort of takedown protection and scrambling expertise the 24-year-old has this weekend.
If he can preserve it standing and dictate the phrases of the struggle, then Oleksiejczuk has actual likelihood to run his unbeaten streak to an excellent dozen, which, as I’ve mentioned steadily, is the type of factor that does not simply occur by chance, irrespective of whom you are preventing or the place.
Gentle heavyweight is not a barren wasteland.
There are rising skills within the 205-pound ranks you need to be paying shut consideration to and Oleksiejczuk is certainly one of them.