September 13, 2018

UFC 228: The UFC Needs To Fast Track Zabit Magomedsharipov

By Adam Martin

Four fights into his UFC career and it's obvious Zabit Magomedsharipov is a legitimate title contender. Just 27 years of age, the Russian is already 16-1 as a pro and is riding a 12-fight win streak at the moment, with four wins in the UFC over Brandon Davis, Kyle Bochniak, Sheymon Moraes, and Mike Santiago. 13 of his career wins have come by stoppage, including three slick submission victories in his UFC career so far. His latest, a kneebar over Davis at UFC 228, may have been his most impressive performance in the Octagon to date.

Here's the thing though. While Magomedsharipov has looked absolutely amazing so far in the UFC, his four wins have come over unranked fighters. Even though guys like Davis and Bochniak are considered some of the toughest fighters in the featherweight division, they aren't close to Top 15. It's not Magomedsharipov's fault that Yair Rodriguez has pulled out of scheduled fights with him numerous times now, but until the Dominance MMA client beats a ranked fighter, it's hard to move him too much up the ladder, even though everyone who watches the sport knows he's an elite talent at 145 lbs.

Although he's relatively new to the UFC, Magomedsharipov is no spring chicken at 27. He's still technically a prospect, but he's closing in on contender status. He just needs to beat someone ranked higher than him and take his spot. A lot of fighters have turned down the opportunity to fight him, but at some point the UFC is going to force someone to accept the fight. The matchmakers tried hard to get Rodriguez, who is ranked directly above Magomedsharipov in the UFC's promotional rankings, to fight him, but the fight has fizzled out multiple times, and at this point it's best if the UFC moved on and made a fresh matchup for Magomedsharipov's next fight.

Just taking a quick look at the rankings, the most logical possibilities for Magomedsharipov would be fights against the veterans Darren Elkins and Ricardo Lamas. Both guys are coming off of losses, but both guys are also ranked above Magomedsharipov and have names in the division. A win over either guy would give Magomedsharipov and his agent Ali Abdel Aziz the ammunition they need to convince the UFC to match him with someone in the top 10, maybe even the top 5. The win over Davis isn't going to get Magomedsharipov a fight against an elite opponent like Chad Mendes or Jose Aldo, but his four wins in the UFC should earn him a fight against Elkins or Lamas.

From all accounts, Magomedsharipov is a very special fighter who is going to continue to get better and better, and he could eventually be the featherweight champion. But to get there he's going to have to fight some ranked opponents and really earn his spot as a title contender. Beating unranked guys in impressive fashion is one thing, but it's another to beat a top-ranked fighter in impressive fashion, and it's time the UFC gave the Russian someone with some clout in the division. It's getting to the point where the UFC needs to throw Magomedsharipov into the deep end of the featherweight talent pool to see how he fares. Whether or not someone ranked above him will actually accept the fight is another story, but the UFC needs to do everything it can to make the fight happen.

UFC 228
Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Brandon Davis: Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Brandon Davis via submission (kneebar) at 3:46 of Round 2.

UFC 228: Woodley vs. Till takes place September 8, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas.

Click HERE for more UFC 228 Post-Fight Analysis

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