The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s latest visit to Russia only confirmed what everyone suspected: Zabit 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 on Saturday 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 -- 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.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Magomedsharipov vs. Kattar,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Brian Ortega-Chan Sung Jung winner: Magomedsharipov has nothing left to prove against the featherweight division’s middleweight tier, as he has rattled off consecutive wins over Kattar, Jeremy Stephens, Brandon Davis, Kyle Bochniak, Sheymon Moraes and Mike Santiago since he joined the UFC roster in 2017. The 28-year-old Almeida Jiu-Jitsu rep has shown few vulnerabilities, with three of his victories resulting in submissions and three others coming by unanimous decision. In summation, Magomedsharipov belongs in the conversation as one of the top 145-pound fighters in the sport. Ortega and Jung will lock horns in the UFC Fight Night 165 main event on Dec. 21 in South Korea.
Alexander Volkov vs. Alistair Overeem-Jairzinho Rozenstruik winner: Volkov rebounded from an embarrassing knockout loss to Derrick Lewis and spent the better part of three rounds schooling former NFL star Greg Hardy in the heavyweight co-headliner. The onetime Bellator MMA champion’s efforts netted him a unanimous decision, as he drew 30-27 marks on all three scorecards and handed Hardy his first legitimate setback. The 6-foot-7 Volkov, who turned 31 in October, remains an intriguing talent in a thin heavyweight division, provided his chin does not fail him again. Overeem and Rozenstruik have been booked opposite one another in the UFC on ESPN 7 main event on Dec. 7 in Washington, D.C.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba: Putting further distance between himself and a Hail Mary submission defeat to Paul Craig in his March 2018 promotional debut, the once-beaten Ankalaev laid waste to Dalcha Lungiambula with a devastating front kick to the face and follow-up punches in the third round of their light heavyweight showcase. Lungiambula bowed out 29 seconds into Round 3, having been thoroughly outclassed to that point. Ankalaev now finds himself on a three-fight winning streak and in position to make some waves at 205 pounds. The maniacally aggressive Cutelaba last appeared at UFC Fight Night 160 in September, when he disposed of Khalil Rountree with first-round elbows.
Anthony Rocco Martin vs. Geoff Neal-Mike Perry winner: Martin showed no residual effects from his frustrating loss to 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Demian Maia in June, as he righted himself with a unanimous decision over former M-1 Global champion Ramazan Emeev in a three-round welterweight feature. The American Top Team standout was awarded 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 scores from the judges, moving to 5-1 since he threw out his anchor at 170 pounds. Martin’s experience, durability and well-rounded skills figure to pose problems for many of his contemporaries moving forward, even if he never makes the leap to full-fledged contention. Neal and Perry will do battle at UFC 245 on Dec. 14 in Las Vegas.
Karl Roberson vs. Brendan Allen: Roberson served the previously unbeaten Roman Kopylov a cold dose of reality, as he chopped down the Russian prospect with leg kicks before submitting him with a rear-naked choke in the third round of their undercard pairing at 185 pounds. A former Fight Nights Global champion, Kopylov conceded defeat 4:01 into Round 3. Roberson has effectively picked up the pieces from his Jan. 19 submission loss to Glover Teixeira with back-to-back victories over Kopylov and Wellington Turman. Allen made a successful Octagon debut at UFC on ESPN 6, where he dispatched Kevin Holland with a second-round rear-naked choke on Oct. 18.