A kind face, a not-that-impressive morphology. However, this 23 years old Balkar is likely to be the face of the future of MMA. One picture (GIF, in this case) is worth a thousand words:
October the fourth, Halifax, Canada: after an amazing submission victory for Pedro Munhoz, Albert Tumenov knocks another MMA young prospect, Matt Dwyer (25 years old) in a minute, with two step/switch lead high kicks.
The 13 cm difference didn’t stop the young striker to hit his opponent’s temple with his foot, then his jaw with his shin. A knockout who pleased our writer, who was at the event (see picture on the right)…
Let’s rewind time for a bit. With the help of his parents, Albert started training karaté at the age of 6. Later, he became a student of hand-to-hand combat, trained by his father, owner of a Master of Sports degree in boxing. He made his MMA professional debut at 18 in different Eastern European organizations, including ProFC. Quickly, he showcases his boxing advanced skilss and even some kickboxing aptitudes, with a counter-puncher style that he adapted to MMA. A kind of sprawl & brawl attitude with a huge difference; the word « brawl » doesn’t suit him; as his nickname indicates, he is a clever athlete. He does not brawl, he remains technical, works the angle with a well-developped footwork and adapt his game to his opponent’s way of fighting. He only sprawls because he does not want the fight to take place on the floor. He feels comfortable on the feet, keeps his distance and boxes patiently and intelligently.
3 years later, he’s only 21 ans the young prodigy sees his record rise up to 12 wins when he puts the solid Yasubey Enomoto, former M-1 champion, to sleep before the 5th minute. This fight showed 3 important skills of the striking expert, that offered him a UFC contract 4 months later:
- An extraordinary footwork; particularly a well-known wrestling technique that he adapted to MMA that consists in penetrating the opponent’s stance. This concept of this technique allows Albert to move in the stance of his opponent which opens a lot of striking opportunities. A very useful step when the fighter you face is taller, which happens a lot to « Einstein ». It’s not that simple, he doesn’t simply step forward; he circles out, then quickly circles to the inside to find the right angle and steps in so he can throw powershot while the other athlete is a bit off-balance.
- The sprawls & counters: Albert does not step back and he does not throw punches with no reason. He stays at a boxing distance, waiting for his opponent to initiate and he works from there. If the guy facing him shoots for a takedown, he’ll just look to avoid it. He won’t try to have top control; he wants to keep it standing. His comfort zone is where he destroys opposition.
- The signature moves: Every athlete has and needs moves that are better than his other tools. As far as Albert is concerned, he is great at catching kicks and countering them with a cross, his lead high kicks are solid and, as his second nickname points out (Mr Left Hook), his lead hook. These 3 moves have already got him several wins.
Now under a UFC contract, he does not wait around, he’s thrown to the lions straight away; his first fight is against Ildemar Alcântra, in Brazil. The already experienced 30 years old Brazilian did very well on his feet, but it’s his takedowns and top control who got him the Split Decision. A tough beginning for the young Balkar who now trains at the K Dojo Warrior Tribe.
3 months later, he gets back in the Octagon, aiming to show his true potential. Anthony Lapsley is the poor athlete across the cage. The American took the time to analyze Albert’s tape as he directly tried to take him down, with no success. He then throws a body kick that Tumenov catches and counter with a cross. Signature move 1. Anthony gets back to his feet and shoots for another takedown. Sprawl. Signature move 2. Albert feels comfortable. Anthony Lapsley, on the other hand, doesn’t feel to confident and he circles on the outside, but the Russian’s ringcraft is on point and he cuts angles, forcing his opponent to stay close to the cage. Anthony has to react and initiate with something…Signature move 3. Welcome to the UFC, Albert ! Now in the winning column, the best MMA organization offers him a fight against Matt Dwyer. Read the introduction of this article. January 2015, he is invited in Stockholm to face a tough opponent in Nico Musoke who will fight in front of his own fans. The fight didn’t start well for the new up-and-comer; Nico kept a kicking distance while Albert couldn’t get in the boxing distance in the first round. The Swede threw a lot of body kicks that Einstein couldn’t catch. The K Dojo’s fighter showcased another very important skill in this last appearance: Fighting smart and adapting his gameplan as the fight goes on. Mentally strong, dominated in his comfort zone in the first round, he came back, circling around Musoke, working the angles to step in the boxing distance where he totally took the better of him. He picked him apart with outstanding footwork and boxing skills to earn a Unanimous Decision that could very well be the Fight Of The Night.
3-1 in the UFC, 23 years old, and on his way to his 5th UFC appearance this week-end as he welcomes the newcomer Andrew Todhunter (stepping in for injured Hector Urbina) – 7 fights, 7 submissions victory – in a classic striker vs grappler fight on the undercard of UFC 188, in Mexico City.