We had some great opening preliminary fights tonight at UFC 251, one of which happened in the welterweight division between Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Muslim Salikhov. Many people were excited as soon as this fight got signed, it’s a great match up between two dangerous strikers. Dos Santos has a good ground game as well, but he’s mainly a striker, and Salikhov is 185-13-1 in professional kickboxing. There was no way this wasn’t going to be a great fight.
Round one showed a feeling out process early on with both fighters trading leg kicks and punches, most punches of which missed. The most significant moments of the round were a small blitz from dos Santos, where he landed a punch to Salikhov’s chin. Salikhov then landed a spinning-back-kick, and seconds later landed a nice left hook, though it didn’t stun dos Santos. Dos Santos lands a beautiful overhand right at the end of round one and rocks Salilkhov, but Salikhov was able to shoot on a takedown to save himself from more damage.
Round two was more of the same, Salikhov was landing left hooks while dos Santos landed another hard overhand right early on, with the rest of the round being pretty even. The third round also looked pretty similar, though Salikhov started landing overhands of his own toward the end of it.
As expected, the fight played out entirely on the feet. Overall, Salikhov was trying to walk dos Santos down and pick him apart, and he got picked apart some himself, but it worked out for him tonight. Dos Santos’ footwork did him wonders in this fight, it almost helped him win a striking battle against a five-time Wushu Sanda World Champion, someone that’s had 199 kickboxing fights and won 185 of them. It was a relatively even fight with both fighters throwing a ton of leg kicks, punches, and a variety of spinning kicks, but Salikhov landed the harder shots and ultimately walked away with the split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28) victory.