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UFC Shanghai, The Morning After: you will want to learn to spell Zabit Magomedsharipov

What you may have missed from... yesterday morning, I guess

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Moraes vs Magomedsharipov David McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports

With a slim build, unkempt beard and hair, and unshaved chest, Zabit Magomedsharipov looks like he would be cast to play a background actor in the 1950s movie “The Ten Commandments”. He exudes an air of composure that borders on lackadaisical; his high stance belies his ability to slide out of the way of incoming punches or kicks, or throw a spinning kick or backfist out of nowhere. That composure stands out the most; the 26-year-old Magomedsharipov seemingly always responds to his opponent’s effort, striking or grappling, with the most efficient effort possible. His win today was his tenth win in a row, and his eighth straight finish. It was domination from start to anaconda-choke finish.

At 6”1’, he has a range advantage over his opponents; but as Dan Hardy said, it is mostly how he looks like he is playing chess one move ahead of his opponent at all times that amazes. His coach, Mark Henry, recently said he would destroy Conor McGregor easily; even before he was in the UFC, though, he was drawing unprecedented praise as “the first natural MMA fighter I’ve ever seen.” From Damon Martin:

“He’s not a top 10 guy, he’s a top five guy,” Henry told FOX Sports. “He could be champ today. I’ve seen a natural in baseball, football, boxing, but never MMA. Just too many disciplines. He’s the first natural MMA fighter I’ve ever seen. He can do it all.

“He has all the other intangibles, too. Heart, toughness, gas, chin, mean streak, work ethic, sparring partner, size.”

He spars with Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes (no relation to Sheymon); Edgar had this to say at the same time:

“Zabit might be one of the best guys I have ever trained with,” Edgar said. “He can do it all with zero holes in his game. When he gets to the UFC there is no doubt he will be a champion.”

Zabit’s calm demeanor is born of long experience. One of the infamous Dagestani MMA fighters, the most famous of whom is Khabib Nurmagomedov, Zabit joined a wushu club in Russia at 13 years old; he has been wrestling since the age of ten. I looked him up on Fight Pass after this bout, and happened to watch his last loss, in 2013. Techno music blared from the loudspeakers between rounds as ring girls with mile-wide thigh gaps smiled straight into the camera. It was a classic prospect loss. Zabit was winning handily until he got a kick caught in the second round and was taken down; in the third round, he tried a reversal and got caught in an armbar. Even in defeat, it was obvious Zabit was the more talented fighter.

There is just no phase of the fight he isn’t comfortable in. He blends his wrestling and grappling with vicious ground strikes seamlessly; he can throw spinning kicks for days; his boxing fundamentals are sound, and his clinch is a trap filled with knees, elbows, and high-amplitude throws. His win over Sheymon Moraes earned him his second performance bonus in two UFC fights. He called out Yair Rodriguez, which is a perfect fight for a whole lot of spinning nonsense; at this stage, though, I would watch him against any fighter in the top ten. He’s that good.

His name isn’t as hard to pronounce as it is long. It’s just two fairly common Russian names, Magomed and sharipov, stuck together. That’s how I remember it, at least. Every featherweight will need to; Zabit Magomedsharipov is the future.

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