At age 22, with an incredible 32-fight win streak between his amateur and professional MMA career, Muhammad Mokaev is one of the most intriguing prospects in the UFC.
Jafel Filho, his opponent at Saturday night’s UFC 286 event in London, is a “fan” of Mokaev’s work, but says he brings nothing new to the cage.
Filho, a former Shooto Brazil flyweight champion who makes his UFC debut six months after knocking out Roybert Echeverria at the UFC’s Contender Series, said on this week’s Trocação Franca podcast that he has been watching Mokaev compete for years.
“I’ll admit I’ve followed him because I’m a fan of his work, kid is really good,” Filho said. “I’ve followed him on Instagram since the beginning of his career. And when the opportunity came to fight him, as soon as my manager sent me [the offer], my heart was filled with joy. [It told me,] ‘Take this fight, for the love of God. This guy is really good and tough, he’s hyped in the division.’ I admire his game. I don’t know him as a person, but as a professional, I was pretty excited to fight him.”
Mokaev is 3-0 inside the octagon with wins over Cody Durden, Charles Johnson, and Malcolm Gordon, two of which ended via submission.
But Filho feels he’s faced tougher competition in his native Brazil.
“I like fights like this,” Filho said. “I prefer to fight guys like this instead of guys with no history. Look at my record, I’m sure I’ve fought tougher guys. Look at our records and you’ll see a huge difference in opponents. Most [of his opponents are] coming off losses, most with less experience.”
“I like to fight undefeated guys,” he continued. “Like I usually say, I’m a thorn in the side of the undefeated. For them to stumble, to frustrate their undefeated careers. I love that. … He deserves the hype, he has a history. He’s talking a lot in the UFC but delivering against his opponents as well. He’s tough, he works hard, but no big deal.”
In fact, Filho feels it’s easier to face unbeaten opponents than those who have tasted defeat, because, as a personal experience, “I’ve grown more in my losses,” he said
“You can see many holes,” said Filho. “Mokaev, as tough as he is, I’ve found many holes in his game. I see myself winning this — and I don’t see it going the distance. Of all my fights, I believe only one has gone the distance. The others ended early, by knockout or submission. I like to end fights and not let it go to the judges.”