One of the best prospects in the entire UFC, the number 11th ranked bantamweight, Umar Nurmagomedov (15-0; 3-0 in the UFC), is set to fight the always dangerous Raoni Barcelos (17-3; 5-2 in the UFC), in a potential “Fight of the Night” bout to start the 2023 calendar season.
Umar Nurmagovmedov, the cousin to the arguable GOAT, Khabib Nurmagomedov, is a youthful version of the traditional Dagestan fighter. This youth is shown with both his evolution of the traditional wrestle-forward skills along with his youthful exuberance inside the octagon. The former, of evolved skills, will be put to the ultimate test against Raoni Barcelos, as he is an extremely dangerous fighter in all facets of MMA. If Umar passes the test, he will likely earn a top 10 fighter and begin his ascent up the bantamweight division. But, if he fails, Barcelos will be put on the map with how dangerous he can be, and he too will likely earn a top-10 ranked opponent with a win. Given top 10 is at stake, both men will look to maximize their ability, making this fight a highly skilled affair and one you certainly do not want to miss!
Given Umar Nurmagomedov is one of the best prospects in the entire organization, the odds are priced quite strongly in his favor, as he has been bet up to a -650 against Raoni Barcelos.
- Umar Nurmagomedov: -1000
- Raoni Barcelos: +600
Umar Nurmagomedov has nearly every attribute needed to become a future champion. Being a Nurmagomedov, wrestling is inherently in his blood, but the exciting part for Umar is that he deviates away from the traditional Khabib-style, as he is far more “Islam Makhachev” relative to his grappling compared to Khabib. This style, for those who do not know, is a strong takedown game that focuses on submission positions over ground control. The submission position that Umar has the greatest affinity for is securing the back, and if done, he has demonstrated time after time that he has an elite rear-naked choke.
If Umar only had his inherently strong wrestling with an elite submission game, I would still say he is one of the most talented prospects on the roster. Similarly, I would say he has the potential to be a champion of the division, albeit he is quite young. But, when you add the point that Umar has electrifying kickboxing, this results in me believing that he is truly a phenom when it comes to fighting.
Umar’s kickboxing is built on speed and technique contrary to looking to land with all-out power. Electing to do so allows Umar to strike at range, land first, and evade any significant attack by his opponent. While Umar does have a well-rounded striking arsenal at his disposal, similar to recently retired Zabit Magomedsharipov, he does have an affinity for what is his by far and away from his most impressive strike – a lead leg head kick. This strike seemingly comes out of nowhere, as Umar has the ability to simply lift his lead leg without telegraphing the strike. Doing so allows him to land the kick cleanly, and if he catches his opponent off guard with it, the strike has more than enough power behind it to put his opponent to sleep.
While the lead leg head kick strike is unbelievably skilled and threatening, he needs to use alternate strikes to set up this kick given his opponent has been, and will continue to be, cognitively aware to defend against it. Similarly to his striking, Umar needs to set up his affinity for securing the submission on the ground, as, in his last fight, seemingly only went after the submission instead of using ground and pound to let the submission come to him. Both his striking and grappling in his last fight showcased room for improvement, and this improvement is relatively easy to make. If he does in fact evolve, Umar will have little trouble climbing his way up the deep bantamweight division.
In MMA, it is often said the most dangerous opponent to face is one that lacks name recognization and lacks a significant ranking. Raoni Barcelos fits both dangers, and, his physical skills are always threatening which makes him one of the most dangerous fighters to face. The largest threat, when in the octagon, is Barcelos’ immense power on the feet, as he strikes with speed, power, and an innate affinity for violence. Whether it is a clean 1-2 combo or a check left hook, Barcelos can end the night at a moment’s notice on the feet.
Often, the fight is kept standing if Barcelos desires it to stay there, as he has tremendous grappling, evident by his 93% takedown rate in the UFC. Moreover, Barcelos has strong offensive wrestling in the octagon, which presents openings on the feet to land his power shots as he can make his opponent worried about being taken to the mat, and once the opponent flinches off a takedown fake, he can land a massive power strike. This combination, of elite power on the feet with skill and comfort in grappling makes him a very dangerous fighter, and one I consider to be a ranked-caliber fighter – he does not have a number next to his name due to losing out on coinflip judging and having an unexpected blunder against Victor Henry.
While Barcelos is extremely dangerous, he does have some small holes in his fight game. Notably, he is quite heavy on his lead leg which is a tradeoff of having elite power at a moment’s notice in the fight. This heavy lead leg presents openings for his opponent to land damaging calf kicks against him, and, if his opponent stands in an opposing stance than he – which will happen in this fight-, Barcelos uses a wide stance which creates openings for landing body kicks against him. For this fight, he will need to either land his power early or use a more athletic stance in the octagon to negate the kicking game of Umar if he wants to upset the surging Dagestean prospect.
The odds tell the story that Umar should win this fight. While I fully expect him to do so, Barcelos will be no easy opponent to face, and in my betting opinion, Barcelos does have line value. This value is based on win-probability differential compared to how I see the fight going, and because I do believe Umar will win, I am confidently backing him in this fight. The way in which I see it going is Umar realizing he needs to grapple against the power threat of Barcelos, and given his grappling is truly elite, I do believe he will get the talented grappler of Barcelos down, and once there, will look to find the submission win.
Pick: Umar Nurmagomedov to win by submission (+350)