We’re a few sleeps away from the landmark Caged Steel Bulgaria event. For the first time in organisation history, a fight card will take place outside of the UK and in the fight capital of the Balkan region of Sofia, no less. 

The card is stacked with match ups that look to be memorable barn burners. At the top of the bill is a pairing between two no-nonsense fighters, their respective nations rallying behind them. 

Fighting out of the blue corner is Tsalka, Georgia’s Ruslan Bolkvadze. With a record of 8-3, he will aim to keep his five-fight win streak going and climb the ladder further. 

But standing in his way at the red corner is Rusi Minev. Fighting out of Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, he is looking to bounce back from his recent loss and improve his 3-1 record.

Let’s look at how they fare against each other in each aspect of mixed martial arts.

On the Feet

Minev and Bolkvadze have differing approaches to striking. Bolkvadze prefers to use bigger strikes to egg his opponent on to do the same. Because these strikes leave space, he can engage in a tie-up. 

He used that strategy in his most recent fight against Ion Petrov.

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Ruslan Bolkavadze is also willing to fight fire with fire if necessary. Here he is seven fights ago, against Nika Bregvadze in 2021. He won by unanimous decision.

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Minev approached his striking differently. As you will see here, he uses his feints and throws outside leg kicks to provoke a reaction from his opponent and soften him up at the same time.

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Each style has its upsides and downsides, and these two can make each one work for them. But you will notice that neither of them will keep it standing. At some point in the fight, there will be a clinch and a takedown attempt. 

And as you will see in the following section, their methods for taking the fight to the mat differ greatly.

The Tie-Ups and Takedowns

MMA has evolved so much in the last three decades that there is no one way of doing things. For one, many athletes have recently learned to use the cage wall to their advantage. 

This particular strategy is a leading proponent in Bolkvadze’s game. He will pin you into the fence while driving his head upward to your chin.

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The lack of action and movement may seem dull and monotonous to the untrained or someone watching from up in the stands.

But if you’re Ion Petrov, in this case, you’re getting the energy zapped out of you. It’s a slow burn but remarkably effective.
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Ion Petrov needed some extra fence support after three rounds of cage wrestling.

Minev employs the opposite strategy, as you’ll see in his second pro-fight against Gergely Szentpáli in 2023.

He prefers open mat wrestling, which opens him to submission opportunities from the front headlock position. And if that doesn’t work, he will demoralise you by bringing you back to the mat.

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Keeping the opponent down is crucial after completing the takedown. Minev does this effectively using techniques taught during month one of jiu-jitsu class, but with hammer fists that can crush an orbital bone when they land. The grappling game sharpens when strikes are involved. 

In his final amateur fight in 2021 against Abraham Are, he even included some horizontal knee strikes to the body for good measure.

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Since both fighters are keen on engaging through tie-ups and takedowns, he who has a solid submission game is an advantage. 

The Submission Game

Bolkvadze’s first and only submission win happened in his third professional fight in 2019. Unfortunately, we could not locate the footage. But here’s what we know about Minev’s finishing game on the ground. 

He did this during his first professional fight against Alberto Antic in 2021. Not too shabby for a debut performance.

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It doesn’t hurt to have a wild card guillotine choke in your back pocket for when the need arises. It’s a handy nice-to-have. 

Minev vs. Bolkvadze Will Headline Caged Steel Bulgaria

Matchmakers did a phenomenal job pairing these two fighters to headline Caged Steel Bulgaria. Their contrasting styles make for an exciting bout that could only take one wrong left turn to end. Highlight-reel moments are highly likely. 

The madness happens on May 18th at the Hristo Botev Hall. We’ve got MMA bouts in the amateurs and pros and caged boxing matches in four-ounce gloves. Do you have your tickets yet? Here’s how you can score some.

We’re less than a month away. You wouldn’t want to miss this one. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts 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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