In a previous piece, we looked at MMA Berlin’s Oskar Buinickas, one of Caged Steel Bulgaria’s competitors in the historic card. You can check it out here if you haven’t read it yet. 

Now, we’re shifting our focus to the man fighting out of the red corner, Burgas, Bulgaria’s Rusi Hadzhiev. Like Buinickas, Hadzhiev holds a 1-0 professional record. But as you’ll see in this piece, his previous performance made it seem like he’d been competing for many years. 

Rusi Hadzhiev Caged Steel 35 Bulgaria 18th May

Unfortunately for fans (and luckily for his opponents), Hadzhiev’s pro debut against Apostolos Stampoulis in April 2023 is the only reference material we have available online. And that fight will be our sole focus for this deep dive. 

Excellent Fight IQ Exemplified

We also wrote a previous piece (attach link) about this Caged Steel Bulgaria pairing between Buinickas and Hadzhiev, noting similarities in their methods. While their styles mirror certain aspects, both men also have unique traits. 

In the case of Hadzhiev, he employs more tactics that showcase his fight IQ. He recognizes patterns and reacts to them on the fly. 

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Competitors with excellent fight IQ can make the proper decisions at the perfect time. They don’t throw caution to the wind; each attack serves a purpose. 

In this case, you won’t see Hadzhiev blindly blitzing, hoping that one out of 37 shots land. He would calculate each barrage and use his energy efficiently. 

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You’re doing it right if you have your opponent on his backpedal.

That keen sense of discernment doesn’t only happen on the feet. Here, Hadzhiev adjusts the guillotine to keep the dominant position instead of forcing the issue and muscling for the finish from his back.

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Anyone who deeply appreciates the sport likewise values properly executed techniques. That’s something you will see a lot from Hadzhiev. 

Sharpened Technical Abilities

Rusi Hadzhiev had a deeper bag of tricks against Stampoulis, and it was prevalent in all three rounds until he finished the fight via TKO. Some of them are worthy of highlight reel captures, like this spinning elbow he drilled beforehand. 

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Conversely, some of those tricks are more nuanced in the form of excellent pattern reads. Stampoulis tended to dip his head slightly toward his left, which Hadzhiev took advantage of by throwing right head kicks. 

Over and over and over. 

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Hadzhiev’s takedowns are also a beauty to behold. He executes them smoothly, feinting or overwhelming the opponent with strikes before taking the shot. 

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The Guedjev BJJ fighter won by TKO via menacing ground-and-pound shots. Not a bad showing for someone stepping into the professional arena for the very first time. 

A Punishing Finisher

Stampoulis’ hardiness kept him going amidst all the damage he absorbed through the last two and a half rounds. But he finally reached his crumbling point at the 2:26 minute mark of round three. 

Hadzhiev established his position with a knee-on-belly and began letting punches rain down. Stampoulis covered up, but the elbows nonetheless went through the guard. Rusi would switch from elbows to punches to the left ear until the referee had seen enough. 

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Are we seeing a similar result? Buinickas would vehemently oppose, but we will just have to tune in.

For now, we get to enjoy Hadzhiev’s work in its entirety in the video below.

Find Out on Caged Steel Bulgaria Night! 

Will Hadzhiev carry on with his win streak? Or will Buinickas spoil the party and emerge as the fighter with the 2-0 slate? The only way to find out is to be present at the Hristo Botev Hall in Sofia on May 18th. 

Expect a captivating night of fights, from four-ounce caged boxing bouts to grappling and K-1 matches. Like any Caged Steel event, this debut fight card on Bulgarian soil is one you should not miss. 

Do you have your tickets yet? If not, get yourself some from this link!

We value your thoughts, so feel free to share them in the comments below!

About the author: Miguel Ordoñez is an MMA writer, lifelong fight fan, and martial arts practitioner with an amateur MMA record of 2-0. He is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach and a passionate drummer with aspirations of being the next John Bonham and Keith Moon combined. 

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