While rising talents such as Darren Till and Kamaru Usman have aided the welterweight division in its re-emergence as one of the most compelling in the UFC, the organization continues to search for young and hungry contenders to add to the mix. The latest addition to the welterweight roster, Austrian standout Ismail Naurdiev, is preparing for his debut against Michel Prazeres this weekend in Prague. Coming off a 36-second first-round knockout, he steps in as a replacement for Ramazan Emeev, who sustained an injury earlier this month.
A dangerous finisher, Naurdiev has already amassed an impressive record of 17-2 despite being only 22 years of age. Beginning his professional career at a mere age of 16 with a decision win, all of Naurdiev’s victories have since come by way of knockout or submission, 13 in the very first round. His most recent defeat came at the hands of Ismael de Jesus, who utilized his wrestling to grind out an ugly decision win, despite nearly being knocked out in the third round. Naurdiev bounced back from the loss dramatically, stepping up on short notice to fight Georgi Valentinov, whose 12-fight win streak was brought to a vicious end with a spinning wheel kick, followed by a barrage of punches.
Unmatched on the feet thus far in his career, Naurdiev’s nickname “The Austrian Wonderboy” is a clear indicator of his style – a technical stand-up fighter, patient yet always seeking the knockout, and not afraid to employ flashy, crowd-pleasing techniques. His dangerous kicks, hands and elbows allow him to be comfortable within all ranges of striking. The Austrian is no slouch on the ground either – five submission victories give his opponents something to consider before shooting for the takedown.
Evidently not averse to stepping up on short notice, Naurdiev seems to possess the ‘fight anyone, anywhere’ mentality that UFC president Dana White has made it clear he covets in his fighters, which may work to gain him favor in his career. Up to this point, he has fought within several European based organizations, predominantly ACB, and is no stranger to fighting outside of his home country.
After a long layoff throughout 2018, Naurdiev’s willingness to jump back into activity is apparent – his debut will be his second fight this month. His first UFC opponent, fifteen years his senior, is unusually skilled for a debutant’s opposition – Michel Prazeres is 26-2, and 10-2 in the UFC, currently riding an 8-fight win streak. Missing weight three times has forced the Brazilian up to welterweight, where he remains an unranked dark horse despite his exceptional record. By far Naurdiev’s most skilled opponent yet, his style will most likely present various problems for the less experienced fighter; with a second-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and eleven submission wins of his own, Prazeres will be looking to utilize his wrestling and exceptional submission game to take Naurdiev to the mat and nullify his striking. How he copes with the adversity of a remarkably tough first UFC appearance will likely be a strong indicator of his future success in the organization.