Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Calvin Kattar this November 9, 2019 at the CSKA Arena in Moscow, Russia.
One sentence summary
David: Omega (sh)Red
Phil: The hardcore’s favourite fighter takes on Rogan’s most beloved prospect
Record: Zabit Magomedsharipov 17-1 Calvin Kattar 20-3
Odds: Zabit Magomedsharipov -265 Calvin Kattar +225
History / Introduction to the fighters
David: He looks like an 80’s action henchman, but he fights like an 80’s action hero. We’ve still got a lot to learn about the sinewy Dagestani. He has an exciting style (more like an exciting set of fight options, to be more accurate), but he hasn’t been tested too hard. Which is fine. It’s the kind of thing you WANT to see from the UFC matchmakers: more of a political touch rather than the Charles Oliveira school of baptize your prospects by fire the UFC is often guilty of. He finally got a high profile fight in Jeremy Stephens. He passed the test even though Stephens fought a pretty lackluster match. Nonetheless, he succeeded, and this is a good follow up fight even if Kattar doesn’t have name value for the layfan.
Phil: Zabit has one key thing going for him, and that is that he is designed in a lab to give Joe Rogan paroxyms of joy when he fights. He throws wild spinning shit (so technical), he’s from Dagestan (their life is crazy man) and he doesn’t have the heavy muscles that cause people to instantly gas out (those muscles need blood!). Makes it all the more of a shame that he’s not going to have him in the booth on Saturday.
David: Kattar has been quietly climbing the ranks before, and since losing to Renato Moicano. He’s got a catchy nickname, and highlight reel finishes. So maybe he hasn’t been so quiet. Nonetheless, he’s not a big name. But he’s got big game (sorry). And now here we are. Featherweight is in a weird spot because Max Holloway is one of those adventurous types. Plus beating Lamas, while good, doesn’t exactly light the fires. If he beats Zabit, UFC matchmakers will absolutely be kicking the tires (also sorry).
Phil: Kattar seemed like he might have been somewhat ironically titled when he first came to the UFC- a somewhat decision friendly, albeit crafty boxer and top position player. The Boston Finisher has lived up to the moniker a bit more of late, and while he’s not exactly a charisma explosion (Disney princess-esque bird befriending powers aside) the UFC is always gonna have some love for people who win by punching other people in the face super hard.
What’s at stake?
David: This fight is like good ‘ole homecooking. Nobody has insulted the other’s culture. Nobody has claimed they want to rip the skin of another’s face (thanks for the memory, Frank). It’s a quality fight against two quality fighters; just all the honest ingredients of quality pugilism.
Phil: Featherweight contention track is currently Volkanovski, then likely somewhere between these dudes and Yair. Title shot is unlikely but an eliminator seems possible.
Where do they want it?
David: I mentioned above that Magomedsharipov is more a creature of dynamic options rather than active dynamism. His more eccentric attacks are used either sparingly, or to put an exclamation on an attack. Take away the Bruce Lee cameos, and there’s a pretty basic kickboxing package of leg kicks, jabs, and proximate pressure. In addition, he’s not immune to targeting takedowns for transition scrambling. He actually has more submission than knockout wins. But his striking is still more or less the foundation he’s working with. He throws good feeler strikes, and has really good exchange movement. He’s not a fighter who is simply moving just to move. A lot of guys do this. They strike, they run to a different corner, rinse, repeat, and this is their TED talk on fight movement. Magomedsharipov doesn’t simply walk quickly from one spot to the next. He’s constantly using his legs, and shoulders to keep his fist on the fight pulse. This means he can’t be easily pressured on the reset, since attacking him isn’t a matter of simply running to the spot he just landed on. Still, he’s not perfect. No matter how many anatomical observations Rogan makes that make it seem so. But we’ll get to those in just a second.
Phil: As my co-host Connor Ruebusch pointed out, Zabit has one significant advantage over most of the tall outfitters in the UFC; he actually has pretty decent footwork. He can pivot and move on the outside, and has a crafty jab and hook game. Most of the rest of his striking game is wacky kicks, making his striking an odd mix of skill and variety for variety’s sake. As you mentioned he’s also an excellent wrestler, and unlike other tall fighters (cough Jon Jones cough) will actively enforce his takedowns, working clinch trips and bodylicks and typically transitioning to the back mount.
David: Kattar is something of a throwback in certain ways. His style is more of a philosophy than a series of actionable items. He moves forward, and cracks the whip. But as the cliche goes, the devil is in the details. Striking in MMA is, as we’ve long known, different than the pure mechanics of boxing, or kickboxing. The biggest difference is being able to switch between offense and defense against different threats: not just a classic one-two, or a leg kick, but a single leg takedown, a double leg, whizzers, okuri ashi harai’s, ippons, kesa basamas, and who knows what else. Because of that, spatial awareness and timing are just as critical to efficiency as are sharpened mechanics. That’s where Kattar truly shines. His fight doppler is just plain elite. The key to good timing is being able to switch from entries to exits. From getting in versus getting out. Kattar is just a wizard in this regard. He attacks at, underneath, and around opponents, while constantly measuring each release point. He does this without ever really sacrificing much in the way of pressure.
Phil: Kattar reminds me somewhat of Robbie Lawler: not necessarily in temperament or even style, but simply in the way that his approach seems to radiate a belief in the universal utility of boxing skills. He is as ride-or-die behind those fundamentals as I’ve seen. What makes to work is that those fundamentals are very very good. An exceptionally clever arrhythmic jab, and a strong right hand. Unlike almost all MMA strikers he’s shown an ability to step into shots while carrying his feet with him and not losing his balance, and while this can lead to his lead leg getting attacked, his own footwork is good and effectively linked to his offense well enough that its a struggle to set up clean shots or raw leg kicks without risk.
Insight from past fights
David: The Magomedsharipov fight with Bochniak is one of the rare instances of Joe Rogan being able to reverse the narrative he adopted previously. It went from “Magomedsharipov is just on another level! He can do anything he wants within a five-mile radius” to “Bochniak is a dog! Magomedsharipov better watch out, son!” And it was more or less justified. The problem that may or may be surfacing in Zabit’s game is that despite his freaky, violent, build, he’s not a super athlete. Once Bochniak went into Don Cherry mode, Magomedsharipov didn’t show any adjustments or calculated method of defending his wide angle attacks. Granted, you could argue that cardio was to blame, but it definitely raises questions about his tactical ability to quickly, and urgently step out of danger.
Phil: Both men had weird fights which exposed some potential weaknesses: Zabit’s terrible third round against Bochniak and that dismantling of Kattar by Moicano. Of the two the more concerning has to be Kattar’s showing: Zabit may not be the low kicker that Moicano is, but the basic idea of ‘be long, stick and move, and attack when Kattar plants’ seems relevant.
David: Unless somebody throws a dolly at Zabit’s bus: nada.
Phil: Worth remembering for those that are worried about Zabit’s tank: despite being the main event, it’s still a three-rounder.
David: I don’t consider this a showcase fight. Kattar’s movement and fight IQ will be more than enough to get Zabit fighting on his backfoot. He also has the power to simply switch the lights out. But I feel like it’s Zabit’s singular, eccentric attacks, that will keep Kattar from finding an otherwise natural rhythm. It’ll be fun, technical, and occasionally ugly, but I think Zabit has (thanks in large part to his leg and body, kicking attack) just enough. Zabit Magomedsharipov by Decision.
Phil: Tough fight to call. Depth vs variety is always a tricky call, and I’m very unsure that Zabit can’t just aim for the points where Kattar sits on his punches, with both kicks and takedowns. However, he’s also looked somewhat limited against bangers who are less skilled and fundamentally more plodding than Kattar, who I think can recover from a rough first round. Calvin Kattar by unanimous decision