The colossal heavyweight tilt on Friday, 24 September, pits two elite wrestlers with proven finishing prowess against one another, and the winner will immediately become a top contender in the growing division.
With so much firepower set to collide in the Circle, things could be over in an instant. But both men will also be prepared for a grueling battle of wills.
Here are the biggest keys to victory for both sides of this exciting matchup.
#1 Aliakbari’s Concussive Punches
Though he’s a Greco-Roman Wrestling World Champion, the Iranian loves to swing his mighty paws at opponents.
He’s not the cleanest of strikers, but what he lacks in finesse, he makes up for in brute force.
The 33-year-old possesses immense power in his right hand, and his rivals never know when he’s going to unleash it. He tends to be measured and noncommittal on the outside before lunging in with an explosive blitz.
When the Tehran native has closed the distance, his wrestling background means he is comfortable staying there, and he’ll club with uppercuts and hooks up close.
It only takes one clean connection to change the complexion of a contest, and Aliakbari has the stopping power to end fights in an instant.
#2 Malykhin Taking Advantage Of His Foe’s Aggression
Aliakbari’s forward pressure could offer some key opportunities for Malykhin. If the Russian can stay composed, he’ll have his best chance to land clean strikes and takedowns.
“Spartak” usually goes on the front foot, and while that’s certainly an option, he might wait for Aliakbari to surge forward wildly and drop his hands – leaving his chin exposed.
Moreover, shooting straight in could go wrong and land “Spartak” in an unfavorable position on the ground. But when Aliakbari commits to a forward offensive, it will present the Golden Team man with a prime opportunity to slide under the strikes and utilize his effective double-leg takedown.
Ultimately, using his opponent’s aggression against him could help Malykhin attack more effectively than if he tries to fight fire with fire.
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#3 Aliakbari’s Suffocating Upper-Body Tie-Ups
When it comes to the ground game, Aliakbari will aim to work in behind his boxing and utilize upper-body controls that make the most of his Greco-Roman Wrestling background.
Hard punches will force Malykhin to raise his guard, giving the hulking Iranian chances to dig for dominant underhooks.
Once Aliakbari gets hold of his opponents, they rarely manage to shake him off. He uses his strength to keep them locked into the clinch – and then his skills and explosiveness to trip or slam them to the canvas.
If he can keep “Spartak” tied up with body locks, it would help eliminate the threat of a shot at the legs and vastly increase his own chances of fighting from the top, which will be the most crucial battleground of the night.
When Aliakbari is on top, his furious ground-and-pound gives his opponents very little room to breathe, and the damage he can inflict is massive.
#4 Malykhin’s Chance To Work From Top Position
As mentioned, the battle for dominant ground positions will play a major role in this fight, so “Spartak” must connect with his double-leg takedown and gain top control.
Timing his shot underneath Aliakbari’s punches or pushing the Iranian to the Circle Wall and dropping for the hips are his best bets, and he has no problem hoisting heavyweights above his head and slamming them to the mat.
It’s very rare for Aliakbari to find himself underneath his rival, and that’s when Malykhin’s grappling prowess would become a huge asset.
“Spartak” often lands straight into side control, where he tries to tie up arms for ground-and-pound and looks for submissions.
With Aliakbari having little experience defending from his back, Malykhin could drop punches and elbows while hunting for potent shoulder locks.