UFC Moscow will feature the breakthrough of a new featherweight contender as upstart Zabit Magomedsharipov takes on the surging Calvin Kattar.
Combat sports is no stranger to declaring the next prodigy, announcing the arrival of a baby faced assassin with nothing but time to dominate the competition for years to come. There are plenty of examples of that in MMA today, but there is another rise that has been seen in 2019. New contenders, further removed from adolescence but in a brief period already knocking on the door of the established elite. Israel Adesanya is one such case. Dominick Reyes is another.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 7, 2019
Zabit Magomedsharipov arrived on the scene with a mystique that extended beyond the lack of many English interviews with him. Before he made his Octagon debut, former UFC champion Frankie Edgar and coach Mark Henry both told tales of “Zabeast” as the unknown fighter with championship potential. In September of 2017, at the age of 26, Magomedsharipov began his UFC campaign at a meteoric pace. On the feet, he was executing highlight reel maneuvers with an ease that is on par with the likes of Israel Adesanya and Michael Page. Opponents who aimed to take him down found out that Magomedsharipov was as dedicated a grappler as he was a striker with several submission victories including a Submission of the Year candidate with a Suloev Stretch against Brandon Davis.
In 2019, a jump to the next level was in order. In March, he had a workmanlike victory over perennial contender Jeremy Stephens. At the rate he has gone, 2020 appears to be the year he could challenge for gold if he can secure fights with the right opponents. In his first UFC main event, he draws a dangerous Calvin Kattar who enters Moscow with the intention of using Magomedsharipov to jump into the featherweight conversation.
A quick peruse of his record shows that Calvin Kattar has reached his first UFC main event the long way. He is 20-3 with a 4-1 record in the UFC. He built up his record in the Eastern United States in a career that lasted more than a decade prior to making his UFC debut. In 2013, he also had a three year hiatus where he stepped away from competition to work on being a promoter himself, as part owner of Combat Zone in New Hampshire. Between 2010 and 2016, he put together an eight fight win-streak that eventually got him a spot on the UFC roster.
"When it comes to the hands…" 😨
— UFC (@ufc) November 7, 2019
Kattar is currently on a two-fight win streak with back-to-back first round stoppages. The latter being his breakthrough performance, as he defeated former title challenger Ricardo Lamas. An added wrinkle to Saturday’s fight is that the bout was previously scheduled for several weeks ago in Boston, close to Kattar’s home. An injury to Magomedsharipov led to the fight being rescheduled, with Kattar now set to go overseas to fight “ZaBeast” in his native Russia.
Stylistically, the fight comes down to Kattar’s ability to close the distance and put the pressure on Magomedsharipov. “Zabeast” does his best work when he can set up his diverse arsenal from mid-range or look to get the fight to the ground. Kattar should look to chop away at the taller Magomedsharipov with straight punches and powerful leg kicks to hamper the mobility of the hometown favorite.
The winner of the fight sets up a critical match-up in the featherweight division in 2020. Yair Rodriguez stands out as the most likely opponent with a chance to get into the title picture with a victory. In particular, there has been interest in a fight between Rodriguez and Magomedsharipov over the past several years as the fight would feature two of the most unorthodox strikers in the game today.