Prospect Report: Rustam Kerimov
Rustam Kerimov is an undefeated 13-0 bantamweight fighting out of Russia. He trains at the DagFighter gym, a gym which also includes many Russian prospects and trained UFC fighter Omari Akhmedov. Kerimov is 27 years old. His most notable fights have come for Absolute Championship Berkut, now Absolute Championship Akhmat, where he has been bantamweight champ for both and won a title unification fight with Abdul-Rakhman Dudaev.
Kerimov has a well rounded game and has finished a slight majority of his fights, finishing 5 by T/KO and 2 by submission while having 6 decisions. Kerimov's fastest finish is a 20 second knockout of the very solid Tural Ragimov.
At ACB 71, Kerimov took on UFC vet Takeya Mizugaki. Kerimov appeared to have the speed advantage early. Kerimov took Mizugaki down but couldn't keep him down. They continued on the feet with not much happening. Kerimov got another takedown but couldn't keep Mizugaki down still. 3rd takedown still didn't keep Mizugaki down. Kerimov got another takedown and started brutalizing Mizugaki with hammerfists and punches. Mizugaki struggled and got up a few times but couldn't get away from Kerimov and after a knockdown Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.
At ACA 93, Kerimov took on Abdul-Rakhman Dudaev in a unification of the ACB and Akhmat bantamweight titles. Kerimov quickly got a takedown and rained hammerfists but Dudaev threatened with a kneebar. It went back to the feet where things slowed oown a little. Dudaev appeared to briefly rock Kerimov with a knee. Not much happened until Kerimov got a few more brief takedowns. Kerimov finally got a more permanent takedown while Dudaev threatened with upkicks. It went back to the feet while Dudaev got briefly tripped again. Little happened until the end of the round.
Round 2 started with both fighters looking cautious on the feet. Kerimov hit a flush spinning wheel kick and got a takedown. Kerimov got to half guard and threw some nice elbows. Dudaev used upkicks to get up again but had a newly bloody face. Kerimov took Dudaev down again. Dudaev pushed off and used upkicks to get up, again. The fight went back to the feet and slowed down. Dudaev and Kerimov both used spinning back or side kicks but didn't land flush. Kerimov threw a Superman punch off the cage. Dudaev took the back and got a brief takedown. Kerimov used a quick level change to get another takedown and ended the rounds in a possible quarter guard throwing elbows.
Round 3 began with Dudaev looking somwhat busted up below his right eye. Kerimov threw his arms up to get the crownd going and Dudaev threw a skipping head kick. Dudaev threw a jumping knee and hit an upppercut. Kerimov level changed and struggled to get a trip and then a more permanent takedown. After some strikes it went back to the feet where both sized each other up. Kerimov hit a solid uppercut. Kerimov tried an ankle pick but it didn't work and almost landeda spinning kick. Both fighters threw more spinning attacks but whiffed on them. Dudaev continud coming forward. Kerimov struggled for a takedown but ate an elbow and Dudaev immediately got up. Kerimov got a takedown into full mount and threw some strikes but Dudaev scrambled up before the 3rd ended.
The round 4 bell rang(proverbially) and Kerimov tried to ring Dudaev's bell with kicks. The pace of the fight clearly slowed with Dudaev seeming to be the less active of the two. Kerimov got another takedown and briefly took the back. Dudaev started to stand up but got taken back down, got back to his feet and was taken down YET again. Kerimov got the back again and almost had one of Dudaev's arms behind his back. Kerimov briefly got mount but Dudaev pushed him off in a show of strength. Dudaev threw strikes but missed on most of them. Dudaev ran at Kerimov but got pushed off with a sidekick. The round ended with Dudaev chasing Kerimov, then Kerimov taking Dudaev down only for Dudaev to nearly snatch up a guillotine before the bell rang.
The horn went off for the fifth and final round. It started on the feet with both fighters tentative. Kerimov threw a spinning back kick but it hit Dudaev's guard. Dudaev did a running wheel kick which I don't know if I've seen before. The ref warned Kerimov for not engaging. Dudaev almost grabbed a guillotine at the restart but slipped off. Kerimov worked from guard but Dudaev got away with upkicks, again. Kerimov landed a very solid 1-2. Kerimov got a brief takedown and then a more decisive one. Kerimov stepped over to mount and started raining down ppunches. Dudaev moved to his back, Kerimov took thhe back, but Dudaev frontflipped over to escape. Kerimov hyped the crowd and went for a single leg. Dudaev went for a guillotine but got tossed off. Dudaev went for a D'Arce but Kerimov rolled out and the bell rang.
In this fight Kerimov showed he could outwork an experienced and well-rounded fighter. He showed good skills in wrestling, striking, and submission defense. He also showed the ability to work through 5 rounds.
Kerimov is one of the strongest bantamweight prospects in the world. He is young, undefeated, and has been tested against serious Russian competition as well as a notable UFC vet. Any major promotion should be interested but the UFC seems like the best fit for him.