Among the handful of action-packed bouts for Caged Steel Bulgaria is a matchup between two hungry lightweight up-and-comers.

Rusi Hadzihev vs Oskaras Buinickas Caged Steel Bulgaria

Lithuania’s Oscar Buinickas may not have enough fights on his professional résumé, but his amateur stint prepared him for the big leagues. Fighting out of Berlin MMA, the 30-year-old athlete represents two nations with all eyes on him. 

But his opponent, Rusi Hadzhiev, is far from a walk in the park. The 20-year-old Bulgarian fighter will have the hometown crowd on his side, which could be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it. 

Both men hold a professional record of 1-0. Yet, despite the relative inexperience, you could see a strong potential for further success. Based on their recent performances, let’s look at what they bring to the table on fight night. 

Mirroring Styles

Many memorable battles happen from contrasting matchups. The classic striker vs. grappler pairing dating back to the sport’s early years continues to draw attention. 

But in a clash between fighters with mirroring styles like Caged Steel Bulgaria’s Buinickas vs. Hadzhiev, you get a push-pull dynamic, a fierce chess match of fists and kicks, if you may. 

Buinickas loves to fight from kicking range and utilize his long limbs and reach. As you’ll see in his debut in 2022 against Saeed Ganji, he would throw straight punches with a fully stretched arm to maximize that length.

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Long jabs: a highly underutilised weapon.

Hadzhiev likewise prefers to control the gap between his opponent and operate from a further range, but it opens up the high kick in his case. Here he is in action during his debut against Apostolos Stampoulis in 2023. 

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Measure, measure, kick!

Both fighters also employ slick, well-timed entries to their takedowns that would make any wrestling coach smile from ear to ear. Hadzhiev executed this by faking a straight right that had Stampoulis biting hard. 

As the Greek fighter covered up, Hadzhiev shot in, pivoted, and scooped. A highlight reel moment, to say the least. 

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The classic feint-a-right-shoot-for-a-double sequence executed to perfection.

Buinickas, meanwhile, relies more on perfect timing. While backing up toward the cage wall, he flipped the switch at the last minute and took the shot. Misdirection at its finest. 

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Perfectly timed. Chef’s kiss.

Both Caged Steel Bulgaria competitors are still in the infancy of their professional fighting careers. However, they already possess a trait you’ll often see among seasoned veterans: poise under pressure.

Composure and Collectedness

Calmness in the fog of war is a characteristic that often takes a backseat to grit and skill when discussing a fighter’s best assets. But keeping equanimity during those grueling moments puts any athlete at a hefty advantage. 

The two fighters showed their composure in different ways, and in Buinickas’ case, it was handling the threats of submission. Ganji threw multiple guillotine attempts throughout the fight. 

After a while, many debuting pros would tap out to such scenarios, but they never fazed Buinickas. Instead, he didn’t panic and directed his attention to proper and intelligent defensive measures. 

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Guillotine defense 101: Fight off the support hand. In this case, it was Ghanji’s left hand.

As for Hadzhiev, his pressure-handling abilities showed up during the final sequences of the fight. He didn’t fall into the trap of throwing ground-and-pound shots with reckless abandon that would cause a vexing lactic acid build-up in the arms and put him at risk for a reversal. 

Instead, he perfectly positioned his weight on Stampoulis and picked his shots to get the eventual TKO finish. 

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Elbow shots going through the guard. Nasty but beautiful work.

Seeing two rising athletes show a high level of discipline and maturity in the heat of battle is truly a sight to behold.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Don’t Miss Caged Steel Bulgaria!

Buinickas vs. Hadzhiev is only one of the many reasons not to miss Caged Steel Bulgaria. For the first time in history, the organisation will hold an event outside the U.K. and in Bulgaria’s fight capital, no less. 

Apart from the mixed martial arts action, you’ll also enjoy gnarly caged boxing fights in four-ounce gloves, grappling, and kickboxing matches. You get the same energy from a Caged Steel fight card but with a different flavor that only Bulgarian prizefighting brings. 

Caged Steel Bulgaria happens on May 18th at the Hristo Botev Hall in Sofia.

Score yourself some tickets through this link!

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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