Dagestani featherweight star Zabit Magomedsharipov heads into this weekend’s main event at UFC Moscow knowing that if he can get a big win on home soil, a shot at UFC championship gold could be just around the corner.
With featherweight champion Max Holloway and top contender Alexander Volkanovski set to do battle at UFC 245 next month, the UFC are looking for the next challenger for the title for 2020, and Magomedsharipov takes on teak-tough contender Calvin Kattar in Moscow with the winner likely to be installed as the next man in line.
Kattar is tough, powerful and technically sound, but Magomedsharipov is unlike any other fighter in the UFC’s featherweight division.
He’s tall, rangy, has deceptively good boxing and an eye for the spectacular. He’s no slouch on the ground, either.
He has the ability to finish most featherweights in the UFC, but Kattar is as tough as they come, and I fancy the American to hang tough and make it through the full five-round duration. But, Zabit’s remarkable skillset should be enough to ensure a win on the scorecards.
Bet of the bout: Zabit Magomedsharipov to win by points – 11/10
Drago to halt Hardy’s momentum
Despite being arguably the most hated heavyweight in the UFC, Greg Hardy continues to improve from fight to fight, and has his sights set on the big guns at the top of the division. Unfortunately, his willingness to step up at two weeks’ notice to face Alexander Volkov may prove a bit too much, too soon.
Hardy is undoubtedly big, strong, athletic and powerful, but he hasn’t yet shown the ability to truly hurt a top-drawer heavyweight in the UFC. Against someone like Volkov, who has mixed it at the top level of the sport for years, he’s likely to come unstuck a little too early in his development as a fighter.
Hardy is with the right team and has the physical gifts to be a major threat to the division’s best if he keeps up his rate of progression. But, facing Volkov this weekend will show him to be too green to take on the world’s best. Expect Volkov to use his ramrod jab and slick boxing to keep Hardy on the outside as he peppers him with strikes en route to a three-round decision.
There’s a chance the finish could be there for “Drago” if Hardy’s gas tank starts to run dry in the later rounds, but the most likely outcome is a decision win.
Bet of the bout: Alexander Volkov to win by points – 11/4
Hot Chocolate to burn Russian prospect Imadaev on the cards
British welterweight Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts has been around the block a few times, and he’s rubbed shoulders with some real killers inside the cage as he’s plied his trade in one of the toughest weight classes in the UFC, the 170-pound welterweight division.
That experience could be the deciding factor when he takes on rising Russian star Zelim Imadaev in Moscow this weekend.
Imadaev is one of the rising stars who the Russians have high hopes for in the UFC, and with a record of 8-1, he certainly arrives in the octagon this weekend as a legitimate threat. But, those eight wins all came outside the UFC, and his octagon debut saw him fall to his first defeat as he was beaten on the scorecards by the gritty Max Griffin at UFC 236 back in April.
Griffin is a tough customer, but Roberts is a superior octagon technician, and has the striking smarts to piece up Imadaev from range. He’s also experienced enough to nullify the Russian’s ground game on the mat.
It could be a close contest, but with the more proven, more experienced Roberts listed as a sizable underdog, a decision win for the Brit looks like an excellent value bet.
Bet of the bout: Danny Roberts to win by points – 4/1
Ankalaev to move one step closer to the big guns at 205
Russian light heavyweight Magomed Ankalaev is famous in the UFC for being the man who submitted to Scotland’s Paul Craig in the latest submission in UFC history, tapping out with one second remaining of their bout at UFC London in March 2018.
But that was Ankalaev’s only career defeat, and he’s looked like a potential future contender at 205 pounds in his other matchups, as the well-rounded Russian extended his record to 11-1.
Ankalaev’s latest test sees him face two-division EFC champion Dalcha Lungiambula in a battle that could propel one of them forward to bigger things in the light heavyweight division, and we like Ankalaev’s overall MMA game to prove decisive here.
Ankalaev is equally at home on ground or on the feet, and that ability to mix things up and take powerful South African Lungiambula to the ground could be crucial, and I see Ankalaev grinding his man to defeat on the scorecards.
Magomed Ankalaev to win by points – 13/5
* All odds correct at time of posting.