‘He didn’t surprise me’ – Uali Kurzhev recaps loss to Kade Ruotolo, previews match with Tommy Langaker

Ahead of his match with Tommy Langaker, Sambo world champion Uali Kurzhev says he wasn’t surprised by Kade Ruotolo.

Uali Kurzhev is ready for his second chance to show the power of Sambo in pure submission grappling.

On Friday, February 24, the four-time Sambo world champion will take on elite BJJ black belt Tommy Langaker in a 10-minute submission-only match at ONE Fight Night 7: Lineker vs. Andrade II.

In October 2022, Kurzhev made his ONE Championship debut when he faced Kade Ruotolo for the inaugural ONE lightweight submission grappling world title. The matchup was billed as a clash between styles – Sambo versus BJJ.

At the time, Kurzhev was essentially brand new to no-gi submission grappling, and seemed relatively unaware of Ruotolo’s many accomplishments in the world of grappling. Notably, the match came just one month after Ruotolo won gold at the 2022 ADCC World Championships, submitting each of his four opponents.

When Kurzhev and Ruotolo met at ONE on Prime Video 3, the BJJ black belt dominated the action on his way to a heel hook victory in just under five minutes.

According to Kurzhev, he wasn’t caught off guard by Ruotolo’s approach. In an interview with ONE Championship, the Russian said:

“Actually, [Ruotolo] didn’t surprise me at all. I fought on his turf – the bout was under grappling rules, and he’s the ADCC champion.  I came into the fight with one month of training. The only thing he could have done was a heel hook, so well done. He’s without a doubt a very strong athlete, but he didn’t surprise me with anything.”

Surprised or not, Kurzhev did change up his training after suffering defeat and believes he’d perform better in a rematch with Ruotolo:

“After our fight with Kade I concentrated more on grappling and jiu-jitsu. I started to work on that every day, and I mixed these trainings with Sambo. My technique is better now, and if we meet up with Kade again one day, at least the result of the bout will be a bit more favorable to me.”

Uali Kurzhev looks ahead to Tommy Langaker match

Against Tommy Langaker, Uali Kurzhev hopes his additional exposure to jiu-jitsu will pay dividends.

Although both Langaker and Ruotolo are BJJ black belts, Kurzhev sees differences between them – mainly that Langaker is more experienced competing in the gi at the highest level.

Indeed, Langaker is one of Europe’s most accomplished grapplers. In the gi, he is an IBJJF European champion and a Worlds silver medalist. Last year, he ventured into no-gi competition and found immediate success, winning the ADCC European Trials before defeating Renato Canuto in his ONE Championship debut.

Kurzhev says that Langaker’s time in the gi makes him a unique opponent:

“As for my new rival, I can’t say much, it is just different this time. He is a professional jiu-jitsu artist, not just a grappler. So, there will be a different approach to this fight from my side.”

The Sambo player also recognizes this is another style-versus-style matchup, but rather than Russia against the U.S., this will be a battle of European schools:

“I think the main task for me as a Sambo wrestler in this situation is to almost retrain myself in certain areas and make adjustments to jiu-jitsu style. I think that would be the perfect model for training. 

“The intrigue is Sambo vs. grappling and jiu-jitsu, or maybe even a rivalry between European schools. Last time with my previous opponent the intrigue was an American school versus a European school, or even a Russian school.”

How to watch: ONE Fight Night 7: Lineker vs. Andrade II takes place on Friday, February 24 at 8:00 PM ET and will air live on Prime Video (free with Amazon Prime subscription).

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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