Some see Zabit Magomedsharipov as the future of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s featherweight division, and his performances inside the Octagon have done nothing but enhance those beliefs.
The once-beaten Magomedsharipov will put his 14-fight winning streak on the line against Yair Rodriguez in the UFC Fight Night 178 main event on Aug. 29, as he attempts to continue his march toward a shot at the undisputed featherweight crown. Since joining the UFC roster a little less than three years ago, the well-rounded 29-year-old has compiled a 6-0 record against increasingly difficult opposition. A potent and diverse set of skills has led to 13 finishes—seven by submission, six by knockout or technical knockout—in his 18 career victories.
As Magomedsharipov sharpens his blades in advance of his forthcoming confrontation with Rodriguez, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:
1. Gold Rush
Off-the-charts potential trumpeted Magomedsharipov’s arrival in the 2014-15 Absolute Championship Berkut Featherweight Grand Prix, as he entered the tournament with a 6-1 record and made the most of his opportunity. He submitted Orudzh Zamanov with a guillotine choke in the quarterfinals, forced Artak Nazaryan to retire in the semifinals and tapped Abdul-Rakhman Temirov with a guillotine choke in the final. Magomedsharipov’s run through the grand prix catapulted him into a showdown with Sheikh-Magomed Arapkhanov for the vacant ACB featherweight championship on March 9, 2016 in Grozny, Russia. With less than a minute to go in the first round, Magomedsharipov sent a pair of sweeping left hooks crashing into Arapkhanov’s jaw. He hit the deck unconscious 4:19 into Round 1, and a king was crowned. After one successful title defense, Magomedsharipov vacated his throne and signed with the UFC.
2. Proving Ground
Magomedsharipov stepped up his ascent through the featherweight division, as he submitted Sheymon Moraes with an anaconda choke in the third round of their featured UFC Fight Night 122 prelim on Nov. 25, 2017 at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. Moraes bowed out 4:30 into Round 3. Despite the Brazilian’s best efforts, it was not competitive. Magomedsharipov overwhelmed the World Series of Fighting veteran with takedowns, positional control and ground-and-pound. Moraes spent much of the match in survival mode, buried beneath the former Absolute Championship Berkut titleholder. In the third round, Magomedsharipov landed a takedown, climbed to full mount and found the anaconda choke in a scramble, gator rolling into a dominant position before eliciting the tapout.
3. Creative Violence
Hype surrounding Magomedsharipov continued to build at UFC 228, where he disposed of Brandon Davis with a Suloev Stretch kneebar in the second round of their featherweight showcase on Sept. 8, 2018 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. A short-notice substitution for the injured Rodriguez, Davis conceded defeat 3:46 into Round 2. After a tepid first five minutes, Magomedsharipov hit his stride. The Ricardo Almeida protégé executed a beautiful trip takedown, advanced to the back and isolated Davis’ leg for the finish.
4. A Contender Emerges
In his first real crack at a proven commodity, Magomedsharipov rose to the occasion at UFC 235 and laid claim to a unanimous decision over Jeremy Stephens in their featured undercard pairing on March 2, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for the Dagestan native. Magomedsharipov dictated terms of the engagement with accurate strikes, stance switches and sharp footwork, as he uncorked straight left hands behind kicks to the body and legs. A second-round takedown and a prolonged period of dominance on the ground extended his lead and afforded him the wiggle room he needed to withstand a late surge from Stephens.
5. Marquee Attraction
A Nov. 9, 2019 visit to Russia only confirmed what everyone suspected: Magomedsharipov has become a serious problem for the rest of the featherweight division. The former Absolute Championship Berkut titleholder posted his 14th straight victory and continued to present himself as a growing threat at 145 pounds, as he took a unanimous decision from Calvin Kattar in the UFC Fight Night 163 headliner at CSKA Arena in Moscow. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Magomedsharipov, who pushed his perfect record inside the Octagon to 6-0. Magomedsharipov zipped out to a strong start—he outstruck Kattar by wide margins in the first and second rounds—and then held serve in Round 3, where he offset some of his counterpart’s gains with a timely takedown and positional control. He attacked the legs, body and head with varying degrees of success across the 15-minute encounter, doing more than enough to curry favor with the judges.