The Film Room: Zabit Magomedsharipov

By Kevin Wilson Nov 6, 2019
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Zabit Magomedsharipov will return to the Octagon on Saturday to headline his first Ultimate Fighting Championship event, as he meets Calvin Kattar at UFC Fight Night 163 in Moscow. Magomedsharipov has compiled a 5-0 record since joining the UFC in 2017, but this will be his first fight in his home country in more than three years. At 28, he is already one of the most well-rounded fighters in the featherweight division, and many see him as the future of the weight class.

Magomedsharipov provides the material for this edition of The Film Room.

Kicks are the most interesting aspect of Magomedsharipov’s game, whether they come in the form of standard round kicks or taekwondo-style, two-touch spinning back kicks. His creativity can overwhelm opponents, but what makes his kicks so effective are the setups. Most fighters who routinely throw spinning kicks and bicycle kicks rarely set them up. Magomedsharipov has been an exception, as he mixes in the basics of combat with these tricky kicks to perplex his opponents. Notice how he likes to jab his way into the pocket before throwing his spin kicks, and he often likes to end his combinations with a quick bicycle kick or spin kick to the body. Simply throwing these kicks over and over again will get you nowhere, so it is encouraging to see him use them as a complement to his well-rounded striking rather than basing his style around them.

Magomedsharipov has established himself as one of the most polished fighters in the UFC today. Being well-rounded usually means you are great on the feet and on the ground, but it also involves the tactics and strategies you use. For example, pure counterstrikers generally struggle when forced to lead, and aggressive strikers struggle when forced to fight at a distance. Magomedsharipov is comfortable striking at a distance since he is one of the longest fighters in the division, but many expected him to struggle against an aggressive striker who pressured through his kicks and length. However, the fight with Kyle Bochniak proved he could deal with the pressure while using his footwork to evade attacks and create space for his kicks and counters. Magomedsharipov stands 6-foot-1 and wields a 73-inch reach. When paired with his counters and evasive footwork, it makes trapping him against the fence or keeping him in the pocket all but impossible.

Magomedsharipov has fought two aggressive opponents in a row -- Brandon Davis and Jeremy Stephens -- which means we got to see lots of his counters. His ability to stay calm in chaotic moments and pick his shots allowed him to outstrike both men. Kattar can be aggressive, but he generally likes to strike from the outside, so it seems unlikely that Magomedsharipov will have to worry about being trapped against the fence or in the pocket.

Going back to his calm demeanor, notice how he slips or blocks nearly every punch while landing clean shots of his own.

Magomedsharipov’s striking may be fun and exciting to watch, but his ability to integrate his grappling has made him one of MMA’s most heralded prospects. A number of similarly skilled fighters have graced the UFC in the past, but few have shown instincts on par with the Russian. While he has a background in freestyle wrestling, he features far more sambo, often securing body locks before dragging opponents to the mat. However, he has a variety of takedowns he can call upon, including trips and sweeps. He also likes to switch up how he gets the takedown. Sometimes, he will shoot for the hips, but he usually likes to strike with his opponents and overwhelm them into overextending so he can duck under for a counter takedown. He is also adept at catching kicks and sweeping the opponent’s post leg for a takedown. We have seen little of Kattar’s grappling other than some nice getup ability, so look for Magomedsharipov to get this to the ground early and often.

Once the fight hits the ground, Magomedsharipov prefers submissions to ground-and-pound, and he has beautiful jiu-jitsu instinct that comes with having trained with Ricardo Almeida for years. Three of his five UFC wins have come by submission, and it seems likely that he will be looking for another one against Kattar. Therein lies the beauty of Magomedsharipov’s game. He does not need to rely on any one aspect of his style for success. Sometimes, his striking is on point and he never even shoots for a takedown, and other times, he is a bit flustered from the pressure and only shoots for the hips. We are witnessing the rise of a truly special fighter. Advertisement


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