No. 3 ranked Bellator light heavyweight Corey Anderson and Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov spoke to the media ahead of their light heavyweight grand prix quarterfinals bout at Bellator 257.
There’s no question Yagshimuradov is the dark horse of the grand prix.
Corey Anderson not feeling pressured in Bellator grand prix
With names like Anthony Johnson, Ryan Bader and Yoel Romero, many fans and pundits understandably wonder if the lack of knowledge surrounding Yagshimuradov adds an element of pressure for Anderson.
“I don’t put pressure on myself anymore,” Anderson said. “Like I said, going into the last fight against [Melvin] Manhoef, they said the same thing.”
Anderson’s last fight was his Bellator debut, a second-round TKO victory against the no. 9 ranked light heavyweight and Bellator middleweight title challenger Melvin Manhoef.
While Manhoef is well-known among the MMA community, the name Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov is obscure even to the eye of a hardcore fan.
Yagshimuradov is on an eight-fight winning streak. The 31-year-old Turkmenistani has not tasted defeat in almost five years.
Regardless of whether fans know his name, Anderson did his homework on his opponent.
“He’s light on his feet. He plays the outside really well and he wants you to overcommit and when you overcommit he’s either gonna throw a big overhand, he’s gonna shoot in for a shot,” Anderson said. “If you stay to the outside he’ll try to bounce and lure you into a big wild spinning heel kick or a low leg kick trying to throw you off balance and make you rush forward.”
Unlike many bettors and casual fans, Anderson refuses to look past Yagshimuradov.
“I’m not going in there looking past him because he is not a name we don’t know. I’m not looking in there and thinking, ‘Well I was in the UFC and I was in the top. I fought the top, so this guy, he’s not ready’,” Anderson said. “I’m goin’ out there thinking, ‘This guy’s as dangerous as anybody else.’ He has two two fists. He has two legs. He got two eyes and two ears. He can hear, see and throw whatever he wanna throw when he sees it. So I have to use my same tools.”
Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov not worried about ‘big name’ fighters
Yagshimuradov says he likes to adopt the opposite style of his opponent. If his opponent is a striker, he’ll elect to wrestle and vice versa.
Yagshimuradov, like Anderson, also does not feel any pressure to perform despite being in a grand prix laced with legends of the division.
“I don’t feel any pressure because of that. Because there’s some kind of big names in this tournament against me,” Yagshimuradov said. “But it’s only names. It’s still the same fighter even though they’re more known fighters or more promoted fighters. But in my career the competition that I’ve faced, some are even better than these guys. So I have pretty good experience and I’m not a small guy. So I can fight with any of them.”
With a victory, Anderson or Yagshimuradov will go on to face former Bellator light heavyweight champion and reigning heavyweight champion Ryan Bader in the semi-finals.