Know Thy Enemy: Rob Wilkinson vs. Siyar Bahadurzada

Australia’s latest UFC signing Rob ‘Razor’ Wilkinson heads to Amsterdam this weekend to test his mettle in the biggest fighting promotion in the world. Wilkinson, 25, boasts an 11-0 record and will be looking to add another impressive victory to his record as he takes on the always dangerous and scrappy Siyar Bahadurzada (22-6-1) at UFC Fight Night 115.

The Aussie middleweight faces a true combat sports veteran in Bahadurzada who has more than double the combat experience of the Australian. Fighting out of the world class Jackson-Wink gym in the US Bahadurzada will test the depth of Wilkinson’s talent with his gritty fighting style.

Bahardurzada, who has been fighting in the UFC since 2012, is an undoubtedly gritty fighter; a bit wild around the edges, prone to making some basic and avoidable mistakes, but unquestionably resilient and unrelenting in his desire to compete. This was highlighted in his two latest defeats to Dong Hyun Kim and John Howard. Kim and Howard were able to out-grapple Bahadurzada and exploit his deficiencies on the ground, both landing heavy ground and pound throughout their respective fights. Despite being soundly beaten Bahadurzada didn’t appear for a moment to give away either fight, appearing to stay calm in difficult situations.

Of course the ability to stay calm in difficult situations will only help you if you are able to eventually escape from those situations. This is where technique comes in, and where Bahadurzada is perhaps the weakest. Throughout both the Kim and Howard fights Bahadurzada was unable to get out of bad grappling positions once he was taken down. Instead of trying to hip escape and work back to his feet the Afghan born fighter will try to hold his opponents on top of him, almost waiting for the referee to stand the fight back up.

In saying this Bahadurzada did improve between these fights and his most recent victory. While still making a few basic mistakes he was able to out-grapple Brandon Thatch over three rounds, eventually securing a head and arm choke.

On the feet is where Bahadurzada is most dangerous. Most often he will come forward with a probing non-committal jab, testing his range, before unloading a bunch of wide swinging hooks. These hooks aren’t going to look pretty, however if they land they tend to put people to sleep. He can land them moving backwards on the counter, or pressing forwards aggressively. Bahadurzada is also pretty savvy in the clinch, utilising his impressive gritty style. He will try to combine knees to the body and sneaky uppercuts to the head that land with surprising power.

Bahadurzada wins fights when he makes them into brawls. His fighting style favours a dirty scrappy fight and if he can drag his opponent into one and land one of his heavy hooks he mostly leaves victorious.

For Wilkinson the easiest path to victory will be exploiting Bahadurzada’s technical deficiencies on the ground. If he can secure an early takedown and move to a dominant position he will go a long way to securing his first victory in the UFC.

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Jake Crane is a Melbourne based contributor for Fight News Australia.