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Zabit Magomedsharipov remains an unsolvable riddle in the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight division, as he thrilled the Moscow crowd and made his case for a title shot.
Magomedsharipov (18-1) confounded a game Calvin Kattar for three rounds, showing flashes of the exotic spinning strikes that form the bread and butter of his standup game and leaning only occasionally on his ground game. The first two rounds were competitive but clearly favored Magomedsharipov, who soundly out-landed Kattar in both. In the third, Kattar came on, chasing the Dagestani around the cage and landing hard punches. Any momentum Kattar was gaining was snuffed out in an instant, however, as Magomedsharipov intercepted a flying knee attempt with a nicely timed takedown, where he was able to ride out the round safely.
The unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) is Magomedsharipov’s sixth straight in the UFC and 14th overall, a remarkable accomplishment in the hyper-competitive 145-pound division, and he expressed his desire for a crack at the winner of the Max Holloway-Alexander Volkanovski title fight next month. With the loss, Kattar goes to 20-4 (4-2 UFC).
Volkov Outclasses Hardy
Alexander Volkov (31-7) showed Greg Hardy what the next level looks like, carving the controversial former NFL All-Pro up across three increasingly lopsided rounds to get back in the win column after his shocking loss to Derrick Lewis a year ago.
In a razor-sharp performance, “Drago” showed respect for Hardy’s athleticism and power, but no fear, using his length to stand his ground and land stiff, straight jabs and kicks at will. While the first round was close, the second and third were less so, and Volkov began to mix in more body and head kicks as Hardy’s offensive output grew slower and more tentative. Hardy, who stepped in on less than a month’s notice, appeared to suffer some sort of injury to his left hand or arm in the first round, but it is arguable whether he would have overcome the stark difference in striking acumen with two healthy limbs.
After three rounds, the judges saw the fight unanimously for Volkov, 30-27. The win gets the towering Russian back to winning ways, as the Lewis fight had snapped a six-fight winning streak. Hardy falls to 5-2 with one no contest, and will head back to the drawing board having suffered his first conventional loss in MMA.
Danny Roberts Short-Circuits Imadaev
Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts (17-5) survived a tough first round to rally in the second and, in the closing seconds, knock out Zelim Imadaev (8-2) with a brutal left hook.
The first round was a wild affair, with both welterweights exchanging with abandon at times, and Imadaev appearing to get somewhat the better of it. The second round was closer, as Roberts used the clinch to stifle some of Imadaev’s offensive output while landing short strikes of his own. In the closing minute of the round, both men threw punches on a clinch break, but it was Roberts who landed cleanly with a left hook to the jaw that dropped Imadaev face-first onto the canvas. Referee Rich Mitchell dove in to protect the dazed Russian, as Roberts ran to scale the Octagon fence in jubilation.
The knockout beings Roberts’ UFC record to 6-4. Imadaev, continuing a trend evident on this card, has found a stern welcome in the UFC, losing his second straight after ascending to the organization with an undefeated record in Russia.
Herman Batters, Bloodies Ibragimov
Ed Herman showed that even at 39, he’s no easy out, as he mauled Khadis Ibragimov across three rounds on his way to a surprisingly easy unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
From the opening moments of the fight, “Short Fuse” dictated the pace and setting to favor his chances of victory, forcing clinches against the fence where he smashed Ibragimov with knees and manhandled him with superior strength. The Russian prospect began bleeding from the nose quite early, and it only got worse as the beating went on. As the fight wore on, Herman’s slow but steady output seemed to take a toll as well, as Ibragimov’s hyperactive early pace gave way to exhaustion. Ibragimov’s best moments, relatively speaking, came in the final round, when he took Herman down and went to work from inside the veteran’s guard. Even there, however, Herman forced Ibragimov onto the defensive, threatening with kimuras and a triangle setup and eventually escaping to the feet, where the fight would end.
The one-sided outing gives Herman (25-14, 1 NC) a second straight win, putting a three-fight losing streak further in the rear view, while Ibragimov is now 0-2 in the UFC after going undefeated in the Russian regional scene.
Leg Kicks Propel Martin to Victory over Emeev
Anthony Rocco Martin (17-5) employed punishing low kicks and aggressive grappling to take down Ramazan Emeev (18-4) in a closely contested welterweight affair.
Martin’s early investment in calf kicks paid obvious dividends, as Emeev’s left leg was grotesquely swollen by the end of the second round. Emeev, meanwhile, bent and bloodied Martin’s nose with his persistent, sharp jab. Some of the most exciting exchanges took place on the ground, Martin stumbled Emeev in the first round with a low kick, followed him to the canvas and applied a kimura that had Emeev desperately — and ultimately successfully — trying to extricate himself, even as Martin transitioned to an armbar attempt.
After three contentious rounds, the judges awarded Martin the unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28), leaving his UFC ledger at 9-5 and righting the ship after his close loss to Demian Maia earlier this year. For Emeev, the loss halts a seven-fight win streak dating all the way back to 2015.
Gamzatov Edges Abreu, Stays Unbeaten
In the light heavyweight main card opener, Shamil Gamzatov prevailed over Klidson Abreu across three razor-close rounds to emerge with a split decision, make a successful UFC debut and preserve his perfect professional record.
The fight featured hard, high-volume kicking offense from both men and, aside from a 45-second span after Abreu landed a takedown late in the second round, was contested entirely on the feet. Both men appeared wary of each other’s power, which showed in the exchanges of single shots in space. The result was two very close, difficult to score rounds, with Gamzatov seeming to take over somewhat in the third.
The judges’ decision in favor of the Dagestani prospect (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) propels the former Professional Fighters League contender to 14-0, while “White Bear” goes to 15-4 (2-1 UFC).