Tim Elliott (10-3-1, 2-1 UFC) vs. Ali Bagautinov (11-2, 1-0 UFC)
With the UFC brass still trying to build the flyweight division it makes sense that the main card of UFC 167 kicks off with the little guys (no disrespect guys).
Tim Elliott is looking to take the next step in his MMA career and his spot on this card has given him a great platform to do so. A former high school wrestling standout, Elliott continued wrestling into college but his level of success was nothing special so he made the logical next step, MMA. Elliott came up fighting the small shows in Oklahoma and Nebraska and after notching his biggest win against aged legend Jens Pulver he was making his UFC debut 6 months later. Tim drew FLW wrecking ball John Dodson for his debut and even though he lost by unanimous decision he managed to keep up with Dodson’s insane pace in the striking portion of the fight, which is extremely impressive. In his next 2 fights Tim showed what he was made of in dispatching the tough Jared Papazian and veteran 125er Louis Gaudinot. Tim thoroughly out grappled and out wrestled both of these tough dudes and showed that this portion of his game is to be respected. Grappling exchanges aside, Tim absolutely worked Gaudinot with his striking on the feet and from top position. Overall Tim has a respectable skill set; he fights from the southpaw position on the feet he uses his lead hand nicely to gauge distance and to set up a nice straight left hand he throws right down the middle at opponent’s heads. I also like the way he throws a knee when locked up in the clinch in the over/under position and when he finds his opponents off balance or out of position it has been especially effective (see the Pulver fight). Tim possesses only an average level of athleticism and conditioning but like most wrestlers he knows how to dig deep and maintain some technique when tired. I’m sure he will improve this over time but for now he may struggle with the more explosive, athletic, flyweights.
Unfortunately for Tim Elliott, Ali Bagautinov is just that, explosive, athletic, and strong. Word is officially out that the Dagestan region of Russia is an absolute gold mine of talented fighters and the UFC has taken notice with signings of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rustam Khabilov, Omari Akhmedov, and Ali, with even more to come. Much like his aforementioned countrymen, Bagautinov has what is possibly the best martial arts background for an aspiring MMA fighter. He is well schooled in all of Russian martial arts staples, Sambo (world champ), Greco roman and freestyle wrestling, modern pankration, and boxing. All of this is visible in his style and evident on his record with 5 wins by KO, 4 by submission, and 2 by decision. Ali has an explosive shot, good at getting in deep on a double leg and finishing strong, very strong; he has a flair for dramatic throws and tosses. Being such a good wrestler means he is almost always on top and he can certainly submit guys from there with arm bars and arm chokes. His explosiveness is at least as visible on the feet and he throws a mix of straight rights and looping left hooks with bad intentions. Being so explosive by nature means Ali’s cardio is a possible weakness although so far it has yet to fail him. Fighting better guys in the UFC will confirm or debunk this theory.
As physically impressive as Bagautinov has been so far, it’s unlikely he’s going to be outdone on that front. A more likely challenge is going to come from a fighter with exceptional technique and a knack for good game plans. As much as I respect Tim Elliott’s attitude and skill I just don’t see him being that guy at this point in his career. I expect Elliott to hang in there for a round or 2 but in the end it will be Ali Bagautinov winning by stoppage.