Paul Craig just picked up another trademark performance this past weekend at UFC Fight Island III, where he submitted former ACB Light-Heavyweight Champion Gadzhimurad Antigulov with a triangle choke at 2:06 of round one. He showed us once again, he’s not the guy to go to the ground with. The dexterity in his legs, along with his skill level, he’s a very dangerous match up for anyone he hits the mat with. He’s a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but off his back, he’s like a 3rd-degree black belt, he can submit just about anyone off his back.
Craig had a very successful amateur career, going 8-0 with all eight wins coming via first round submission, before making his professional debut. He then went 8-0 in his first two years as a professional, finishing all eight of those wins as well, seven via submission, one via TKO, and seven in the first round, before joining the UFC roster. He also won the FightStar Light-Heavyweight Championship and BAMMA Light-Heavyweight Championship before coming over.
Once in the UFC, Craig defeated the 12-0 Henrique da Silva via submission (armbar) at 1:59 of round two. This showed us just how wicked his guard is, and we couldn’t wait to see more of him. He lost his next two fights to 205 lb prodigies Tyson Pedro (TKO) and Khalil Rountree Jr. (KO), both toward the end of round one.
He then faced 10-0 Magmoed Ankalaev, another light-heavyweight prodigy, and while he lost pretty much this entire fight, he wrapped up a triangle choke with just ten seconds left in the final round and got the tap at 4:59 of round three. It remains one of the best comebacks in MMA history, and Ankalaev hasn’t lost again to this day, as he’s gone 4-0 since with three knockouts.
Next, ‘Bearjew’ fought yet another up-and-coming light-heavyweight prodigy, as he went at it with the 8-0, 22-year-old Jimmy Crute in a great all around battle. This was a very back-and-forth fight with both talents having many moments. It was a scramble-fest the entire fight, up until round three, where Crute mauled Craig the entire time, up until he got the submission (kimura) finish at 4:51 of round three. It was incredibly surprising to see Craig be submitted, given how good his ground game is of course, but Crute’s a black belt himself. Craig defended numerous arm-triangle chokes and kimuras throughout the fight, but couldn’t escape Crute’s last attempt.
Craig then fought another undefeated, highly touted prospect in the 7-0 Kennedy Nzechukwu, who he defeated via submission (triangle choke) at 4:40 of round three. It’s really something to see someone do something so consistently, yet his opponents still can’t stop it. Craig was then knocked out by the 8-0 Alonzo Menefield, bringing his UFC record to 3-4. One thing’s for certain, the UFC has been giving Craig some very tough fights, he’s been fighting all the up-and-coming prospects it seems, up until his last two where he fought longtime veterans.
It’s crazy, of Craig’s first seven UFC fights, only one of those opponents had a loss, six were undefeated; his first seven opponents had a combined record of 55-2. We got to see a bit of his striking on display in his next outing, as he hurt Vinicius Moreira with a series of knees followed by numerous punches, before sinking in the rear naked choke to get the tap at 3:19 of round one. The fight probably could’ve been stopped with the strikes alone, but nonetheless, ‘Bearjew’ adds another finish to his record.
Next, we got to see Craig fight his first legend, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, who also picked up a win this past Saturday. It was a very back-and-forth fight that ended in a draw. It’s incredibly rare to see draws in MMA, considering there are always an odd number of rounds, whether it be three or five, and always three judges. It could’ve gone either way, it was so close, so a draw does kind of justify that fight.
Then this past weekend where he submitted Antigulov, Craig’s such a dangerous talent off his back. 15 of Antigulov’s 20 wins were via submission as well, and Craig wrapped that triangle up so quickly and precisely. He improved his record to 13-4-1 with this victory, and is looking to keep his three-fight unbeaten streak intact.
With the way he fights, you’d almost think he’d lose more often. He gasses himself out in almost every fight he’s in, any fight that makes it past round one that is. This is because he’s constantly shooting on takedowns, and whether he’s successful with them or not, it generally works out for him, because if he doesn’t get his opponent on their back, he’ll just pull them into his guard. Also, whether he’s successful with them or not, if he can’t pull them into his guard, that doesn’t discourage him, he’ll keep trying no matter how the fight’s going, no matter how tired he is, he doesn’t stop.
He’s such an entertaining fighter to watch, because you know you’re going to see some high level stuff out of him should the fight hit the mat, and he’s always coming forward without hesitation. That’s proven to be his demise a few times, but it’s great to see. Next to Joanne Calderwood, Craig is Scotland’s most successful UFC talent. We have guys like Stevie Ray and Danny Henry too, but Craig is just on another level when it comes to his tenacity and fighting on the ground.
What’s next for Paul ‘Bearjew’ Craig?