This would possibly sound unusual to some, however I truthfully suppose the most effective factor that has occurred for Ankalaev during the last 18 months is that he’s needed to battle by way of just a few powerful fights.
When the Russian mild heavyweight was piling up finishes to start what’s now an eight-fight successful streak, it appeared like he would possibly get fast-tracked into the championship chase. Whereas he’s expert sufficient to have acquitted himself properly, wins over Marcin Prachnio, Dalcha Lungiambula, and Ion Cutelaba aren’t precisely the type of dynamic challenges you’re wanting from potential title challengers.
However over his final three fights, Ankalaev has tactically and methodically dragged out victories over Nikita Krylov, Volkan Oezdemir, and Thiago Santos — a Prime 15 fixture and two former title challengers — organising this weekend’s showdown with Anthony Smith at UFC 277.
He used the total 55 minutes allotted to him over the course of these contests (the Santos battle was a five-round predominant occasion) with a view to get a greater deal with on the way it feels being in there with a official contender and transfer nearer to incomes that designation himself, and now feels poised to take that subsequent step ahead into one other harmful pairing on Saturday.
Ankalaev has all of the instruments — great wrestling and grappling expertise, a various arsenal of kicks, good measurement and conditioning — and has merely wanted the time to determine easy methods to greatest deploy all of these weapons contained in the Octagon. His ascent feels just like that of Islam Makhachev in that the upside was apparent from the soar, however the timing of once they would put all of it collectively and turn into the title threats everybody envisioned was unknown.
Makhachev has gotten there during the last 12 months and alter, and can battle for the light-weight title in October. Ought to Ankalaev lengthen his successful streak to 9 by out-hustling a 3rd straight former title challenger, he’ll be one step nearer to becoming a member of his countryman in competing for UFC gold.