UFC Star Sidelined by Brutal Submission, Left in Crutches

Muhammad Mokaev vs Jafel Filho at UFC 286

Getty Muhammad Mokaev vs Jafel Filho at UFC 286

Championship aspirations are commonplace in the UFC, but not many have the chance to compete to be the youngest champion the UFC has ever seen. Muhammad Mokaev has one such chance.

Mokaev, 22, has expressed his desire to become the youngest — the current record holder is Jon Jones, who won the light heavyweight title at 23 — by earning the title before his 23rd birthday on July 30. His hopes may have been dashed, however, by a brutal submission attempt that left him in crutches at UFC 286.

Muhammad Mokaev’s Championship Dreams Could Be on the Rocks

At UFC 286 on March 18, Mokaev fought Jafel Filho, a crafty Brazilian-jiu-jitsu black belt who tested Mokaev’s limits for the first time in the UFC. Part-way through the third and final round, Filho locked in one of the tightest kneebars in UFC history and began cranking on Mokaev’s knee joint as much as he could.

Unwilling to submit, Mokaev endured the torturous technique, weathering the storm and going on to win the fight by rear-naked choke. After the victory, Mokaev limped to his feet, needing to be assisted outside the octagon.

Mokaev was later seen walking on crutches backstage:

Plagued With Injuries: Can Mokaev Still Become the Youngest Champ?

Jones took the light heavyweight title from Mauricio Hua on March 19, 2011, when Jones was 23 years, 7 months, and 2 weeks of age. In order to beat this record, Mokaev must fight for the title by early February 2024. This entirely depends on Mokaev’s status after the Filho fight.

Mokaev has also previously suffered from complications with his shoulder joint that stem from his extensive amateur background and years of training. Having this much mileage on a 22-year-old body doesn’t bode well for his championship goals.

Mokaev may have shown unwavering toughness and resilience by resisting the kneebar, but he may have inadvertently shot his chances at becoming the youngest UFC champion. Joint locks in MMA can cause a plethora of lifelong injuries. Leg and knee attacks, in particular, with their long-lasting damage, are known to even retire fighters. We can expect Mokaev to take a recovery period of at least four months before fighting again.

Mokaev shared an image of his swollen knee the day after the fight,  reassuring his followers, “I will do MRI tomorrow morning, I hope it’s all good but I can’t walk at the moment but I’m still very happy with my performance.”

Mokaev followed up with a tweet for his critics, “Seen some tweets saying, you didn’t tap but you might risk to end your career! I rather end my career without being a quitter.. I’m in crazy pain right now but if I would tap it would heart my heart even more.”

While Mokaev showed incredible toughness and resilience by enduring the brutal submission attempt, his championship dreams may have been derailed by the knee injury he sustained at UFC 286. With his hopes of becoming the youngest UFC champion by beating Jones’ record now uncertain, Mokaev faces a challenging road to recovery.

Despite his injuries, Mokaev remains optimistic and committed to his goal, and fans will be eagerly awaiting updates on his progress as he works toward a potential title shot in the future.