Flyweight: Tim Elliott (#7, 10-3-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs. Ali Bagautinov (11-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC)

To start off the UFC 167: St. Pierre vs. Hendricks Main Card, two flyweights that have done nothing but impress will share the stage and battle it out to solidify a top 10 spot. Tim Elliott, currently ranked #7 in the UFC’s flyweight rankings, looks to make sure his position as a contender does not change as he takes on the Dagestani fighter Ali Bagautinov, a two-time World Combat Sambo champion. This fight will be Bagautinov’s second time fighting out of Russia – his first being against Marcus Vinicius in his UFC debut.

Both fighters coming off of of wins: Elliott a unanimous decision over Louis Gaudinot, Bagautinov a third round knockout over Vinicius. Their experience is very even stepping into the cage, Elliott with 14 fights total and Bagautinov with 13, but aside from both fighters being game that is where their similarities end. Elliott will come into this fight with a significant size advantage, being 5’7″ while the Dagestani fighter is only 5’4″.

Elliott’s chin has been tested and it has passed with flying colors – he has absorbed hard shots with ease, most noticeably from heavy flyweight hitter John Dodson who not many in the division have been able to absorb shots from. It will be interesting to see the toughness of Elliott match up with the power of Bagautinov who holds just as much if not more power than Dodson. On the flip side, Bagautinov’s chin has yet to really be cracked by any power hitters.

The other main curiosity in this fight is how the grappling will play out. Bagautinov, like all Sambo practitioners, are great in the clinch and have an innate ability to utilize trips, throws, and body lock take downs. When it comes to credentials, Bagautinov far surpassed Elliott. However, the strength and size of Elliott are going to be an issue for Bagautinov. Elliott was able to absolutely maul a highly ranked Louis Gaudinot in his last fight and was able to do so with a very high pace and no signs of slowing down. Bagautinov starts off very fast and is very explosive, but in his fight with Vinicius he let off the gas pedal and turned to a very patient strategy – one that did pay off in the end against Vinicius, though this will have to change against Elliott.

@MikalMMA ‘s Prediction: Ali Bagautinov defeats Tim Elliott via split decision. (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Bagautinov is one of the most impressive fighters to come out of the Dagestan Republic, being right up there with Rustam Khabilov and Khabib Nurmagomedov – however, the combination of both Elliott’s chin, his strength, size, and his relentless pressure will make this fight very difficult for Bagautinov. Some fighters are tailor made to showcase another fighter’s skills – Elliott is the complete opposite of that for Bagautinov. Where he has more power, Elliott has a granite chin. Where he specializes in the clinch, Elliott has a strength and size advantage. While this is certainly going to be the hardest opponent of Bagautinov’s career, the same cannot be said for Elliott having already faced a top ranked Dodson. All that said, it would go against mixed martial arts ethics to vote for size over technical skill. The technical prowess of Bagautinov will allow him to score just that much more in the clinch and his speed advantage will allow him to score that much more when striking.