“What these guys go through. I mean the torture. The physical brute force and damage that’s part of that environment. To train yourself to handle that and not make any more of it…You see these guys when they’re busted up, when it’s over with, how it’s just part of their day? They develop their mind, their fortitude. They chisel it. They take it like you take a sword and you put it into molten lead to forge it to that sword so it’ll stand up, so it won’t break in combat. That’s what they do to make themselves that person, ready to die, for that moment, they get themselves there.” – Teddy Atlas
Abdul Razak Alhassan was forged in a crucible of fire. Born in Accra, Ghana, Alhassan endured poverty and the disappearance of his father in the First Liberian Civil War at a young age. As a boy, he and his friends would wait for rain, find the smoothest concrete in the village, and go sliding on their bellies. Alhassan recalls, the boys knew the harder they played, the hungrier they would go to bed. They knew once they woke, they would be sick with colds and fevers, but it never deterred the children. The minute they heard rain the next day they were back at it. If you had asked the boys, they would have told you they were the happiest kids in the world. Hungry, poor, and maybe even a little sick, but always excited and grateful.
Once he sought martial arts as a beacon of hope for a more prosperous life, Alhassan arrived in the United States with a dream of becoming a Judo Olympian. Eventually, Alhassan’s father would pass before he could enjoy the fruits of his son’s successful labor. Due to extenuating circumstances, Alhassan then faced another stretch of adversity when he lost two years of his fighting prime, from 2018 – 2020. Upon his return to the octagon, he lost the second fight of his career to Mounir Lazzez, and in his most recent out, was knocked unconscious by Khaos Williams. His bout with Lazzez marked the second time Alhassan had gone to a decision in 13 professional fights, and his knockout loss to Williams was the first time Alhassan had been finished.
To see a man not beaten by a better opponent, but by himself is a tragedy. – Cus D’ Amato
Alhassan has faced more than your average amount of trials and tribulations along his journey to fighting Jacob Malkoun (4-1) on Saturday evening; none of which were powerful enough to crush his aspirations. Malkoun, the sparring partner and teammate of Robert Whittaker, is coming off of a first-round knockout loss to Phil Hawes. However, the Aussie is still labeled as a viable threat given the team he trains with and the potential he has shown.
Can Alhassan right the ship? Can he travel a path less taken? A path back to victory, through the hearts of the doubters, and back into the win column? At one point in time, the world-class Judoka with over 25 years of experience in the Japanese discipline – who packed cataclysmic power in both hands, beginning his UFC career 4-1 – looked like he was on a direct path to superstardom. Alhassan was your welterweight Francis Ngannou. A patientless annihilator who ended his fights with devastating consequences.
His fighting career began to fall into place when Alhassan was taking kickboxing classes to stay in shape and keep his weight down. Unbeknownst to him, Alhassan’s coach at the time began to get him fights. The competitor in “Judo Thunder” welcomed these new challenges wholeheartedly. He perceived them as a unique way to test himself. When you watch Alhassan’s unforgiving, explosive, and flat-out ferocious style of fighting, you would think he was born to do it, but in a way, he found his way in by accident.
Once in the States, the Ghanaian martial artist lived in Minnesota, where he had a stable Judo coach. In due time he realized a move to Fortworth, Texas, would provide him with more career opportunities. Now, Alhassan has an elite cast surrounding him there. He trains under head coach Steven Wright at the War Room MMA and at Fortis MMA with Sayif Saud. He has a renowned manager in Ali Abdelaziz and a star-studded group of training partners that help him prepare for battle. (Johnny Hendricks (in the past), Geoff Neal, Ryan Spann)
“I was throwing–what can I say–hydrogen bombs. Every punch was with murderous intention.” – Mike Tyson
To say someone is throwing “hydrogen bombs”, could seem like an exaggeration. A clear bend of the truth. Unless you are referring to Mike Tyson or in this case Alhassan. In 2013, the father of two began his pro career. By 2016 Alhassan amassed a record of 7-0 and secured himself a UFC contract. To find a fight locally for the African-born knockout artist was practically impossible. Alhassan accumulated an astonishingly low 6 minutes and 31 seconds of fight time within his first seven bouts. That’s because he knocked out all seven of his opponents in under 86 seconds, with only two men escaping the first-minute threshold. Alhassan proved to be a nightmare in the cage. His unworldly power and unrelenting pressure are something to marvel over.
Following his UFC debut, a 53-second destruction of Irish welterweight Charlie Ward that earned him a performance of the night bonus, Alhassan would fight Dagestan’s Omari Akhmedov, a seven-fight UFC veteran who comes equipped with elite-level wrestling. Alhassan would leave the first-round for the first time in his career against Akhmedov, dropping a back-and-forth split decision. It was the first loss in his career as well. To me these are landmarks in a fighter’s journey, it is a necessary loss, the one that builds a fighter’s character. Sometimes we need adversity to truly grow.
Following his first loss in mixed martial arts, Alhassan would take on Sabah Homasi at UFC 218. Herb Dean stepped in early and declared Alhassan the winner by first-round TKO. However, due to overwhelming controversy on whether or not Homasi was finished, the fight was re-booked a month later at UFC 220.
The result between Homasi and Alhassan 2 would be undeniable. This time we had unequivocal proof as to who the winner was. Alhassan took Homasi’s soul from him in the first round. A vicious right uppercut that came from depths of hell landed flush, a shot that would have put anyone to sleep. The decisive win earned Alhassan his second performance of the night bonus and one of the coldest photos in mixed martial arts history. That’s how you put a “stamp” on something that was once questionable. Alhassan had become a master of taking fights into his own hands, never one to leave it up to the judges.
Eight months removed from his knockout over Homasi, Alhassan returned to action to take on the always game, Niko Price. Price decided to entertain that “dangerous game” as Daniel Cormier calls it. He chose to courageously, yet maybe not wisely, trade in the pocket with Alhassan. A left hook clipped him and turned the lights off, a right hook followed at high velocity for good measure. It took Alhassan just 43 seconds to tear Price down. It marked the third-fastest victory in Judo Thunder’s polarizing career.
After a two-year hiatus, in which Alhassan overcame some truly dark times, he finally made his epic return to the octagon. His opponent was Tunisia’s Mounir Lazzez. Lazzez is a highly-touted prospect nicknamed “Sniper” due to his high level of striking capability. Alhassan has weathered many storms in his life, the question when he fights is, can his opponents weather his?
Lazzez was able to do that. He brought his finest armor on July 16th, survived the Judo black belt’s onslaught, outstruck him, and took him down four times en route to a unanimous decision victory. Mind you, these two went to war at 6:20 in the morning in Abu Dhabi. The two managed to earn a fight of the night bonus in the process. In the first round, Alhassan and Lazzez threw a combined 168 strikes in an attempt to detach each other’s brainstems. This was the second time Alhassan left the first round, the second time he had been to a decision, and it resulted in his second career loss. Prior to the bout, Alhassan missed weight for the first time in his career.
His third loss came most recently when Alhassan fought Kalinn “Khaos” Williams back in November. Like we have seen happen in the past, to even the greatest of fighters, Alhassan got caught. The man with all 10 of his wins by first-round knockout, was finally knocked out in the first round. Additionally, Alhassan missed weight for the second time in a row.
Now, at 10-3, after going through hell and back, in and out of the cage, Alhassan will look to reassert himself when he makes his debut in the UFC’s middleweight division. In the welterweight division, Alhassan is ranked seventh for the shortest average fight time (5:45) in front of Anthony Johnson, Duane Ludwig, and Joe Riggs. He also holds the UFC’s welterweight record for knockdown average per 15 minutes with 2.24, in front of teammate Geoff Neal.
With a 4-3 record in the UFC, a world-class background in Judo (Multi-time National Champion), and an astounding resume that consists of a highlight reel of raw power-generated knockouts, I believe Alhassan can get back to his winning ways. I expect to see him throwing those usual anvils on Saturday he calls fists. Alhassan is a 185 lb ball of erratic and intimidating dynamite, waiting to erupt. He has so much talent, so much pent-up aggression and fuel to use in combat, that it will always be a pleasure to see Alhassan throw down, win or lose.
At UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Gastelum Abdul Razak Alhassan will fight Jacob Malkoun on the main card. Both men look to get back into the win column. I do not see this fight going to the judge’s scorecards. And I can assure you, neither does Alhassan.
A Judoka with viable power in both hands who remains humble amid chaos, Alhassan is a rare breed. If you tune in to watch his barbarous attack on Malkoun Saturday, don’t blink, this one could end in a flash.