Veteran coach Mark Henry has nearly run out of superlatives when describing the skillset of Dagestan prospect, Zabit Magomedsharipov.
The 26-year-old stole most of the headlines at UFC Rotterdam this past September for his scintillating debut against short notice replacement, Mike Santiago.
The debutant wowed the crowd with an attempted “Showtime kick” before finishing the fight with a second round rear-naked choke, despite suffering with a staph infection for the final two weeks of his camp.
His next assignment comes in the shape of former WSOF title contender, Sheymon Moraes, at UFC Shanghai – a man who Henry has previously prepared Marlon Moraes for. Although some were calling for a big test for the former ACB champ on the back of his first outing with UFC, Henry believes Moraes represents a good jump up in competition.
“It’s definitely a step-up,” Henry told MMAFighting.com.
“We’ve prepared for Sheymon before when he fought Marlon. We’re lucky in that both of the opponents Zabit has had we have prepared for before. This is another stiff test, so we’ve got to give him our full attention.”
Artem Lobov and Magomedsharipov exchanged words on Twitter recently, with “The Russian Hammer” verbally agreeing to fight the newcomer. Although Henry has previously endorsed the proposed matchup, the temperature has cooled with regard to his fighter facing off with the SBG proponent following his loss to Andre Fili.
“After the last loss I don’t think that’s the route to go anymore,” he explained.
“The thing was, Artem had said something about Khabib and all of these guys are really close, you know?
“It was very out of Zabit’s nature to say the things he was saying about Artem, he’s such a good kid. When I heard him talk about Artem my eyes kind of popped open.
“We had talked about Artem a lot because of his style too. I think it’s a great fight for Zabit. He’s got a nasty side to him. When he gets hit that’s usually when you see it. That’s why Artem was on our minds, but right now all we’re thinking about is Sheymon.”
On a number of occasions, Henry made a point of highlighting that Magomedsharipov’s sole focus is Moraes, but he didn’t shy away from discussing the fighter’s championship potential.
Frankie Edgar is the last fighter that Henry remembers as having similar championship stock to the Dagestan native.
According to Henry, Magomedsharipov is ready for big tests and thinks he would pass with flying colors if he were given a chance to clash with Conor McGregor, Max Holloway or Jose Aldo.
“I see a lot of things in Zabit that I see in Frankie,” Henry said.
“Of course, the skillset is there, but it’s other things like toughness and heart that you can’t train that he just has naturally. Frankie was a champion and I see the exact same championship qualities in Zabit.
“I can remember I saw Sean (Shelby) and he was feeling out what kind of opponents we were thinking about. I told him Zabit and Frankie are good friends and I explained to him that when he is matching Zabit he should close he eyes and pretend that he’s matching Frankie, because he is ready for those kind of fights.
“I think he destroys McGregor. I think he could beat Max too, but he would look phenomenal against McGregor. He has that range too, so I think he could look good against Aldo as well.”
While he lived up to his lofty praise in his debut, Henry recognizes that “the bubble can burst” at any given time with fighter’s making their first steps on the UFC ladder. For that reason, preparing his fighter for Moraes is all that’s on his mind.
“Right now, Saturday is all we’re concerned with. We’re not thinking about titles, we’re not thinking about the next guy, we’re thinking about Sheymon Moraes,” said Henry.
“We’ve fought him before, he’s an amazing competitor. Honestly, all I’m thinking about is leaving for China and getting our workouts right. I want to have a good workout the day before and a good workout just before the fight. We’ve got a great game plan that I wouldn’t mind going over a few times too.
“I’m just happy to see this guy continue to develop as a fighter and continue to get his feet wet within the UFC. He’s getting a lot of love in Russia and when you’re young that can be hard to handle, but he’s handling it well.
“We have to beat Moraes before anything else. He’s a dangerous guy and he could easily have his hand raised.
“The bubble could burst at any time here. I’m very confident that this guy has a huge future but in the fight game you’ve got to take it one step at a time.”