Nick Maximov (8-1; 2-1 in the UFC) is set to fight Jacob Malkoun (6-2; 2-2 in the UFC) on UFC Fight Night 212.
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Both Maximov and Malkoun have had up and down moments thus far in their respective careers, with each having the background necessary to have a transcendent climb up the middleweight division. For Maximov, his collegiate wrestling prowess coupled with being a close training partner and friend to the Diaz Brothers rationalizes the hype around his name when entering the UFC off DWCS and is why so many believe he can turn the corner to becoming a serious middleweight contender. Similarly, Malkoun, being a former ADCC Asia trials winner and Pan Pacific gold medalist coupled with being a close training partner/cornerman to Robert Whittaker, signifies the potential he has as a fighter.
Both having the potential coupled with each having a close relationship o future HOF’ers makes this an exciting matchup to keep your eye on!
Nick Maximov is a slight -140 favorite over Jacob Malkoun, who comes back at a +110 pricetag.
Nick Maximov was a decorated high school wrestler in California, where, at that time, met the Diaz Brothers. Following high school, he had success wrestling at a community college and even spent brief moments wrestling for Pac-12, Oregon State. Throughout these formative years, Maximov merged his wrestling acumen with the adoption of the Diaz ideology in the cage – he, being a 185’er, agreed to fight at heavyweight for DWCS, which only a Diaz byproduct would agree to – to make for a very dangerous grappler once turned professional.
Since his win over a heavyweight on DWCS, Maximov has looked to rinse and repeat his method of fighting to earn himself victories in the octagon. Specifically, he seeks to wrestle early and often, with the overarching intention being a pace that attacks the cardio of his opponent more so than inflicting damage or looking for a finish. Over his first two fights, which were close decision wins, he attempted a combined 31 takedowns, landing at a clip just shy of 50%. The sere amount of takedowns rationalizes the intended direction of the fight Maximov looks to employ while also illustrating a clear need for improvement given an elite wrestler should be able to secure a takedown and keep it there contrary to having to repeatedly shoot, even with a successful takedown landed.
Beyond needing improvement to secure a takedown once it hits the mat, Maximov needs to focus on evolving his striking if he seeks to climb a deepening middleweight division. To see this, one need not look any further than his last fight, as Maximov, facing an equal grappler, could not simply shoot takedowns, instead, had to use his hands to set up grappling. And, once forced to strike early, Maximov got knocked down early, and then, still dazed, got submitted. If he cannot improve his striking, particularly when fighting an equal grappler, Maximov may find it difficult to identify a path to victory given the only known advantage will be his cardio.
While the movements are different, the direction of how to win fights is the same for Jacob Malkoun as it is for Nick Maximov. For Malkoun, he too desires to put on a pressure-style grappling to wear down his opponent, to then, grapple his way to a victory. But, where Maximov looks to shoot takedowns the same way a traditional freestyle wrestler would – single leg, double leg, high-crotch, etc. – Malkoun looks to clinch against the cage and methodically work his way to under hooks, and then, leverage himself to a takedown.
The style of clinch-wrestling his way to a victory is employed by many veteran-type fighters who lack athleticism but have technique and fight intelligence on their side. The benefit is that the style is often effective when facing young athletes who are unproven given these types of fighters are often careless and/or lack cardio. While Maximov is young, the cardio concern is not prevalent, so Malkoun may need to use striking more than he traditionally has done in the past. If the case, he, similarly to Maximov, will need to show significant improvement as he has a tendency to have difficulty with controlling range to find success. But, if he is able to fight in range best suited for him – in the pocket – he does have the better arsenal of attacks, particularly with working the body and landing tight combinations to the head.
I will preface the prediction with this: both fighters have ample room to grow, thus leaving room for either to win depending on the extent of improvement. While the potential for significant improvement is there, I do believe the historic propensity of fighting is sizable enough to pick a winner.
If kept standing, Malkoun will have a sharper technique and should look far more comfortable than Maximov who will have the athleticism advantage. But, with this fight, grappling is inevitable. Because of this, the question that looms is as follows: can Maximov control Malkoun if hit the mat? If yes, Maximov should win the bout given I expect him to be able to land takedowns from a traditional wrestling shot. If not, Malkoun can flip a position and has more than enough skills to grind out a victory.
While the question is difficult, I believe the answer is no given Maximov has had trouble controlling less talented grapplers than Malkoun in the past. Because of this, coupled with forecasting Malkoun being the betting striker, justifies my backing of Malkoun. Ultimately, his veteran status, fight intelligence, and the well-rounded potential of Malkoun creates confidence in backing him contrary to backing Maximov who will need sizable improvement which he has not shown since entering the UFC in 2021.
Pick: Jacob Malkoun to win (+110 underdog at BetUS)