Shamil Gaziev Receives Opportunity to Prove He is a Legitimate Heavyweight Contender

February 28, 2024
2 months

Shamil Gaziev is in a position that many veterans who come out of the Dana White Contender’s Series find themselves in. Gaziev picked up a contract and debuted on the UFC main roster with an impressive knockout victory. Now, Gaziev will need to show that he is ready to take on a ranked fighter.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik, ranked 12th in the heavyweight division, will provide an interesting test for Gaziev. Rozenstruik has been up and down since he came into the UFC. He is an incredibly hard puncher and can take people out who are willing to stand and trade with him.

However, MMAfighting latest updates also show that Rozenstruik is a limited grappler and can be controlled by anyone who can get him down to the mat. During Rozenstruik’s last fight, he was taken down repeatedly by Jailton Almeida. Rozenstruik didn’t get close to working back to his fight before being submitted by a rear-naked choke.

Rozenstruik is 7-5 during his fights in the UFC. He is almost a knockout or bust kind of fighter. There is a question of whether or not Gaziev should be favored in this one. Gaziev has looked impressive so far and is undefeated, but the Bahraini fighter hasn’t fought top-level competition yet.

This may be the start of Rozenstruik’s decline, but this is a good chance to buy low on a veteran fighter.

Bets to consider: Rozenstruik ML, Rozenstruik by KO

Pedro Looks to Test Young Fighter

Vitor Petrino is another undefeated Contender Series alum who is looking to continue building his reputation at light heavyweight. Petrino has picked up three straight wins since joining the main roster, including the last two by finish. During Petrino’s last fight, he knocked out Modestas Bukauskas.

Petrino’s opponent, Tyson Pedro, has also fought Bukauskas. Bukauskas actually ended up scoring a decision win over Pedro. A large criticism of Pedro during his career is that he doesn’t have the cardio to have success when the fight goes beyond the first round.

Pedro is 0-2 when fights go to a decision.

Bets to consider: Under 1.5, Petrino by KO

Perez Searching to Regain Old Form

Alex Perez may feel like he has taken several losses over the past two years. Ironically, none of those came in the octagon. The former flyweight title challenger has had to pull out of three fights due to injury or medical issues.

Perez will now have to take on undefeated flyweight prospect Muhammad Mokaev on his return to the octagon. Mokaev has leaned heavily on his grappling credentials in the UFC. Mokaev has won four of his five fights with the promotion by submission and is 11-0 in his career.

While Perez was impressive enough in his career to earn a title shot against Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 255, Perez’s grappling has been exposed repeatedly throughout his UFC career. Perez has lost five fights by submission. While Perez has seven submission wins as well, Mokaev will be too much for him to handle.

Bets to consider: Mokaev by submission, Mokaev inside the distance

Pickett Trying to Save UFC Career

Jamie Pickett hasn’t had an easy time getting his feet underneath him. Pickett has dropped four straight fights in the UFC, mostly fighting against up-and-coming prospects, and has now been paired with another veteran, Eryk Anders. 

Anders is coming off a fight-of-the-night performance, but he lost that bout to Marc-André Barriault. Anders is in a similar position to Pickett. While people love Anders’ athleticism, he played college football for Alabama, he has never been able to put everything together.

This is a fight between two men who need to turn things around in their careers. 

Bets to consider: Over 2.5 rounds, Anders by decision

Umar Nurmagomedov Tries to Protect Perfect Record

Umar Nurmagomedov was slated to get a serious test from interim title challenger Cory Sandhagen. However, that fight that was scheduled for last August was canceled when Nurmagomedov pulled out with a shoulder injury. Now, the 16-0 Nurmagomedov will be fighting a relatively unknown fighter instead.

Nurmagomedov is slated to fight Bekzat Almakhan, who is 17-1 in his career. Almakhan has yet to fight in the UFC. Almakhan has shown an impressive ability for finishing fights. He has won 12 of his 14 victories by knockout.

Nurmagomedov is a well-rounded fighter. While Almakhan always has a puncher’s chance to win, the best MMA sites seem to think Nurmagomedov should pick up a win against the newcomer.

Bets to consider: Nurmgoamedov inside the distance

“Danger” Schnell Ready for Surging Erceg

Matt Schnell has taken more than a year off since his knockout loss to Matheus Nicolau in December 2022. He badly needed a rest after going through the ringer in two brutal fighters. Schnell was nearly knocked out by Su Mudaerji in the second round in July 2022. However, Schnell rallied and finished a brutal, bloody fight with a technical submission victory.

Schnell coming back five months later to fight Nicolau may have been a mistake in retrospect, according to the best MMA sites. This weekend, Schnell will have to fight Steve Erceg, who has proven himself to be a durable fighter. Erceg is 11-1 in his career and has never been finished.

Schnell is a fighter who likes seeing the fight end before it sees the scorecards. Erceg hasn’t shown an ability to finish UFC-level competition yet, but Schnell is a different type of fighter than he’s faced before. This should be a fun contest, and it may end without getting the judges involved.

Bets to consider: Under 1.5 rounds

Here are a few quick picks and a look at the other fighters who are on the card.

  • Bantamweight, Aiemann Zahabi (+455) vs Javid Basharat (-700)
  • Middleweight, Christian Duncan (-300) vs. Claudio Ribeiro (+225)
  • Lightweight, Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady (-170) vs Loik Radzhabov (+130)

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By Dean McHugh.