Sasha Palatnikov (6-2) showed the MMA world that underdogs can rise up to the occasion in his debut fight in the UFC. After agreeing to face Louis Cosce on short notice at UFC 255 in November, Palatnikov got the TKO victory. Born in Hong Kong and a former AFC middleweight champion, the 32-year-old became the first Hong Kong-born fighter to compete in the UFC.
When the welterweight spoke to Behind The Grind, he described his feelings about his debut.
“I was very happy with the result,” Palatnikov said. “A lot of years of hard work went into the preparation of getting that opportunity. Obviously, it came on short notice and after I had contracted COVID. It was not the most ideal circumstances, but we were still able to get everything squared away and get the result that I originally planned to go in there and get. I was super happy to be able to represent Hong Kong. It was very cool to finally get to the pinnacle. The goal was to get to the UFC so I can finally tick that off.”
He’s now ready to take on 2020 Dana White’s Contender Series alum, Impa Kasanganay (8-1) on April 10 at UFC Vegas 23. Palatnikov says he’s prepared for the challenge. “I’m feeling way better than I did in my debut. I feel when I come in on the 10th it’s going to be an even better display than my debut.”
Palatnikov said he believes he will have an advantage over Kasangany who will be moving down a weight class for the fight.
“He’s an extremely lean muscular guy so there’s definitely going to be some muscle that will have to come off I guess,” Palatnikov said. “Losing weight for a fight is something in the back of your mind, something you have to think about. It’s an added stressor. For me making 170 [pounds] is a cakewalk. I’m eating and drinking the whole week before the fight. Weight has never been an issue for me.
“For me to welcome him at 170, I think it’s great for me and not so great for him. Being a former 185er myself, I’ve fought big guys. I can deal with power, I’m not too worried. I think my speed is going to be a little bit quicker than his, same with my footwork. He’s an athlete, he’s strong, he’s powerful, and a super composed guy. With all my respect, I think it’s going to be a hard fight, but at the same time, there’s levels. I think I can expose some of his levels with what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
Palatnikov is looking forward to his future in the UFC and said he would like to make his mark quickly in the welterweight division. “I mean, I’m hoping after this fight I can finish off the year with a couple of more good wins. I’m hoping next to be knocking on that top 15 window. That’s been the big goal here. I would love to fight guys that are somebodies.”