It was a back-and-forth battle throughout but it was Ismagulov’s striking rather than his wrestling that got the job done as he used a slick jab to punish Kutateladze round after round before earning the victory. The judges scored the fight 30-27 and 29-28 for Ismagulov with the third judge going 29-28 for Kutateladze.
Still, two scorecards was all Ismagulov needed to move to 21-1 in his career.
“UFC — next big fight, I am ready. Top 15,” Ismagulov said afterwards. “In this jungle, there’s a new king. You know I can wrestle but I want to show an exciting show for the UFC.”
In the early going it was Ismagulov looking to close the distance so he could set up his takedowns with Kutateladze countering by throwing a variety of strikes including some nasty leg kicks and elbows on the inside that really started to chip away at his opponent.
Kutateladze was patient yet relentless with his combinations as he kept backing up Ismagulov, who wasn’t landing with as much power yet he was still firing back with a stiff jab down the middle that served as his best punch.
As time passed, Ismagulov was starting to frustrate Kutateladze a bit more with great movement and footwork that allowed him to throw punches and then move out of the way before he could hit with much in return. Still, Kutateladze was willing to take one to give one, which is how he kept coming after Ismagulov with big looping punches as well as some hard kicks to the body.
By the time the third round started, Ismagulov was fully committed to that lead jab that was consistently mashing Kutateladze in the face, which resulted in cuts across the nose and cheek. Despite the damage done, Kutateladze was undeterred as he continued to target the lead leg and then going back up top to the head.
The exchanges continued until the final horn but it appeared that Ismagulov’s boxing and the punishment he dished out over three rounds was the difference on the scorecards.
Ismagulov has looked like a serious prospect since arriving in the UFC but this is his biggest win to date as he now targets ranked opponents after moving to 5-0 inside the octagon.