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ACA 92 Preview: Light heavyweight title tilt highlights a stacked card from Poland

ACA 92 Preview: Light heavyweight title tilt highlights a stacked card from Poland

ACA Champion Yagshimuradov

This Saturday, February 16, reborn Russian MMA powerhouse ACA (formerly known as ACB) will roar into Warsaw, Poland for a packed ACA 92 event featuring some of the best fighters on the Russian & international scenes.  With 16 fights on the card, and UFC level fighters at every turn, expect a stellar event that’s well worth the $3 iPPV fee.

Read on for notes on the headlining ACA Light Heavyweight Championship fight between ACB champ Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov and Karol Celinski, along with several of the most intriguing clashes on the ACA 92 undercard.

Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov vs. Karol Celinski

Since starting his career a pedestrian 10-5-1, Turkmenistan’s Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (16-5-1, #35 World 205) has gone on a massive six-fight finishing streak highlighted by upsets of UFC vet Joachim Christensen and then-undefeated ACB champ Batraz Agnaev. Yagshimuradov, 29, is small for light heavyweight but makes up for it with a diverse arsenal including one punch knockout power, explosive wrestling, spinning kicks, and flying knees. If he can touch Celinski’s chin, which seems likely, then expect the Polish crowd to go home disappointed after the ACA 92 main event.

Here’s what happened when Yagshimuradov’s fist found Christensen’s face at ACB 75:

Olsztyn, Poland’s Karol Celinski (16-6-1, #33 World 205) will enter the ACA 92 main event as a wide underdog despite a four-fight win streak featuring notable triumphs over Luke Barnatt and recent PFL finalist Vinny Magalhaes. Celinski, 38, owns solid grappling skills but Muay Thai is his real bread-and-butter. In contrast to Yagshimuradov’s explosive finishing tendencies, Celinski tends to stay at range and pick away while avoiding damage. That’s not to say that he can’t get a finish, but most of Celinski’s biggest wins have come on the judges’ scorecards. At 6’3″, Celinski will have a few inches of reach to work with, and he’ll need to make the most of it to claim the ACA belt in this 25-minute main event.

Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Zelimkhan Umiev

Undersized Polish heavyweight Daniel Omielanczuk (20-9-1, #48 World 265) is a well-known commodity at this point. The nine-fight UFC vet owns above-average skills in all areas, world-class toughness, and limited power for the heavyweight ranks. After falling to Iranian wrestling ace Amir Aliakbari at ACB 89, Omielanczuk, 36, will face another massive challenge in 6’5″ former title contender Zelimkhan Umiev (11-2, #63 World 265). Umiev, 37, has flown under the radar for most western fans despite owning the sort of early finishing prowess you’d hope for from an athletic giant.

The hulking Chechnyan will aim to bounce back from a stunning upset loss to upcoming ACA title challenger Evgeny Goncharev in his last bout. Umiev got wild on the feet in that one after Goncharev did a nice job tiring him against the cage; don’t be surprised if Omelianczuk follows a similar gameplan given how scary Umiev is in the opening minutes. It sure didn’t take Umiev long to drop and tap solid Bellator vet Virgil Zwicker back at WFCA 38:

Piotr Strus vs. Ibragim Chuzhigaev

Polish sanda practitioner Piotr Strus (13-4-2, #49 World 185) has always had the talent and work ethic to succeed at the top level, but for a time it seemed like luck just wasn’t on his side. Strus had several years of his career hampered by contract issues following back-to-back draws under the KSW banner late in 2014. Since debuting with ACB in 2017, the 6’2″ middleweight has renewed his campaign with a solid run including a TKO of top Russian Mikhail Tsarev and a split decision over longtime Bellator mainstay Fernando Gonzalez.

Despite owning skills everywhere, Strus fell short of claiming the ACB belt when he was outwrestled and outworked by the champ Albert Duraev at ACB 89. He’ll find himself tasked with another formidable Russian foe when he takes on Grozny’s Ibragim Chuzhigaev (12-5, #64 World 185). Chuzigaev, 27, has built his resume on the backs of notable foreigners like Lee Chadwick & UFC vets Mike Rhodes and David Mitchell. With nine wins in his last ten fights and the only loss coming to elite Russian talent Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy, Chuzhigaev should be peaking physically as he approaches a potential title shot. An impressive road win against the popular Polish star Strus could be just the bump Ibragim needs to book a spot against Duraev shortly.

Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov vs. Brian Foster

In one of the most intriguing ACA 92 undercard matchups, former ACB lightweight champ Abdul-Aziz Abdulvakhabov (15-2, #46 World) will lock horns with well-known big show vet Brian Foster (28-10, #38 World). Abdulvakhabov, 30, spent 2014-2017 obliterating all comers in the ACB lightweight division, including impressive TKO wins over Eduard Vartanyan and Ali Bagov (twice). Unfortunately, 2018 was a different story for Abdulavkhabov, as popular ACB favorite Bagov enacted revenge and walked away with a decision win – and the ACB belt – on his third try.

The extremely polished and dangerous Abdulvakhabov was initially set to bounce back again Marcin Held at ACA 92, but the Polish leglock master pulled out with an injury. Enter another well-known foe in Foster. After five fights in UFC, Foster spent the last three years slugging it out under the WSOF/PFL banner. The Oklahoma native was most recently spotted KO’ing Ramsey Nijem at PFL 2 with a wicked flying knee; his recent past also includes losses to luminaries Jon Fitch & Justin Gaethje.

While Foster is no stranger to elite competition, he’s going to have his hands full trying to defend against the former ACB champ’s grappling skills while also trying to keep his head firmly attached to his shoulders. Check out Robin Black’s analysis of Abdulvakhabov’s sweet spinning KO versus Bagov way back at ACB 9:

Luke Barnatt vs. Jorge Gonzales

Since fizzling out of the UFC in 2015 on the heels of a three-fight losing streak, UK’s Luke Barnatt (14-6, #48 World 205) has solidified his position as a world-class big man by battling all comers at 185 and 205. Now fighting at light heavyweight, the 6’5″ kickboxer has mixed impressive TKO wins over Max Nunes, Mattia Schiavolin, and Maxim Futin with a KO loss to Polish great Mamed Khalidov and decision losses to Scott Askham and main eventer Celinski. Barnatt is never going to be a great grappler or a speedy striker, but he understands how to use his frame to his advantage and make the most of his opportunities.

After several main event and co-main opportunities, Barnatt will step down a level here to face mostly-unknown Jorge Gonzales (14-3, #109 World 205). The 6-foot Mexican light heavyweight stunned Alexey Stoyan with a first round RNC at WFCA 50 in his first fight on Russian soil. Now Gonzales, 32, will try to use his straightforward power game to down the lanky Brit and continue his surprising ascent up the world rankings.


Love world MMA? We do too!

We cover ACA 92 and every other major fight happening this weekend in the MMA Geek Guide for February 13-19.

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