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Rafael Alves not impressed by Damir Ismagulov’s 22-1 record: ‘Russians are only good inside Russia’

Rafael Alves inked a deal with the UFC after finishing Alejandro Flores at DWCS in 2020.
Chris Unger, Zuffa LLC

Damir Ismagulov won his last 17 MMA fights, including a UFC decision over Thiago Moises in his most recent appearance in 2019. But that doesn’t impress his UFC Vegas 27 opponent Rafael Alves.

Alves, who makes his promotional debut on May 22 after dispatching Alejandro Flores in the second round at Dana White’s Contender Series this past August, is confident that his striking will be too much for the Russian talent in Las Vegas.

“I believe it’s going to be one of the best fights of this card because we’re both strikers,” Alves said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I’m sure he will feel my hands when we start trading, and he will want to take me down. No doubt. But I’m in great shape and super focused for this fight.”

Ismagulov entered the UFC as the reigning M-1 lightweight champion back in 2018, scoring a trio of decisions in three octagon appearances. Ten of his previous 14 victories came inside the distance, but Alves believes they came against handpicked foes.

“He’s the type of guy I always say, Russians are only good inside Russia, “Alves said. “Outside of Russian, they are not. The only one that has adapted fighting in the United States was Khabib [Nurmagomedov]. But he won’t make it here because America is my home. Rest assured that American and Brazilian fans are on my side, so he won’t succeed.”

Alves believes that Russian MMA athletes usually don’t do well in North American promotions because, back in their home country, promotions “give them guys [to beat].”

“That’s the truth,” he said. “They take guys there for Russians to beat, but they always turn down tough fights. So, this Russian, I’m sure the UFC is putting him against me to test my ability against a tough guy, because he is a tough guy. He only has one loss, and now he’ll have two. No doubt.”

“If you go on Sherdog you’ll see. Go there. He’s had fights against guys with one win, guys with five defeats and one victory. What the f*** is this record? That won’t work against me. That’s why I’ve only fought tough guys in Belem, in Brazil. I have my losses, I do, but I can say I’m proud of them because it was against tough guys. I’ve never fought [unexperienced] opponents.”

The MMA Masters product enters his UFC debut on a five-fight winning streak that includes a second-round submission over Felipe Douglas to capture the Titan FC interim lightweight gold in April 2019, and expects to get it done on the feet this Saturday.

“He went the distance in his UFC fights,” Alves said. “The UFC doesn’t like that, unless you put on a big show, and that won’t happen against me. Most of my fights are quick finishes. I end it right away. I don’t like to go to the third round. That’s why the UFC will like [this fight] because I’ll knock him out.

“If I don’t knock him out in the first round, no doubt in my mind he doesn’t go past the second round. He’s the type of guy that crumbles under pressure and shoots [for takedowns]. And if he shoots against me, he’s getting submitted, no doubt.”

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