One of the top prospects in the sport and a young muay thai phenom with dynamite in his hands are the two newest additions to the UFC roster. If we still remember the UFC when they return from their 3 week layoff, there will be a few new faces to watch out for in Rotterdam. First is a Russian Uber prospect who now makes his home in the New Jersey basement of Mark Henry. Later on in the night, we will get our first look at a Bosnian born, Austrian knock out artist, who has never gone the distance in his 9 pro fights.
Who is Zabit Magomedsharipov?
The 26 year old former ACB featherweight champion will make his long awaited debut after signing with the UFC back in May. Long considered to be the next big thing at 145 pounds, Magomedsharipov was described as “the first natural MMA fighter” by his striking coach Mark Henry. Teammates Frankie Edgar and Edson Barboza have expressed similar sentiments. The Ricardo Almeida BJJ products stated they believe “Zabit is UFC top 5 caliber right now.” The high praise from his New Jersey based fight camp is no hyperbole, as the explosive Dagestani is 12-1 with 10 stoppages and is currently riding a 8 fight win streak.
What should you expect:
At 6’2” Magomedsharipov will have a substantial size advantage over his featherweight foes. A Wushu Sanda champion, his height and reach advantage becomes even more apparent once he unleashes an arsenal of spinning punches and kicks. The flashy strikes are counterbalanced nicely by Henry’s technical boxing guidance and in depth striking game plans.
But Zabit is far from a one trick pony, growing up he attended a Russian combat sports boarding school where he became proficient in all aspects of professional fighting.
Fighting primarily in Russia, Magomedsharipov has run through a gauntlet of high level wrestlers on his way to the octagon. His heavy hips and lighting quick sprawl highlight his impenetrable take down defense. If he does end up on the ground his back doesn’t stay on the canvas for more than a few seconds. Pinpoint accurate ground and pound from inside the guard rounds out the litany of tools that make Mark Henry’s prodigal son a can’t miss prospect in the featherweight division.
What this means for his debut:
Magomedsharipov will face off against German kickboxer Nick Hein in his octagon debut. This is an ideal match up for the highly touted Russian fighter. Hein will be more than happy to engage in a striking bout and forgo any take down attempts, giving Magomedsharipov the opportunity to showcase his world class striking abilities. Magomedsharipov’s superior speed and technique will allow him to land hard throughout, however Hein’s chin was able to with stand the onslaught of large lightweight James Vick, so it should keep him afloat in this featherweight debut.
Here is Magomedsharipov’s most recent bout against Valdines Silva in September of last year:
Who is Alexsander Rakic?
25-year-old Bosnian born light heavyweight prospect Alexsander Rakic will make his UFC debut in Rotterdam — a short two hour flight from Austria the country he now calls home. Rakic trains out of the Vienna-based Gym 23, with his most notable training partner being UFC vet and Josh Barnett opponent Nandor Guelmino. He has headed to Sweden’s All Stars Gym for previous fight camps and will spend this entire fight camp in Coconut Creek, training with a multitude of stars at the American Top Team headquarters. Rakic sports an impressive 8-1 record, has never gone the distance, and has not lost since his 2011 professional debut. His biggest win to date is over former FFC champion and current ONE FC fighter Marcin Prachnio (13-2).
What should you expect:
Rakic has the prototype build for a light heavyweight — a lean 6’4” with long limbs. He began his career as a kickboxing student at 13-years-old and has slowly transitioned into a full fledged mixed martial artist.
Rakic is still a striker at heart, and if he is going to make a splash in the UFC it is going to be on the feet. He pushes a fast pace, immediately taking the center and drawing out attacks with feints and hard low kicks. He is opportunistic with his powerful counters, landing head kicks or hard hooks depending on what is presented to him.
Much of his grappling has been overpowering lesser opponents with Greco-style take downs and relentless ground and pound. The few times he has ended up on his back, he relied on his athleticism and well timed explosions to get back to his feet. For the most part he will be using anti-grappling skills to keep the fight standing where he is more comfortable.
In terms of the intangibles, Rakic has displayed an ironclad mental fortitude and unwillingness to give in when things are getting ugly. In his aforementioned bout with Prachnio. Rakic jumped out ahead before falling badly behind in the second, only to regain his composure in the third and score the knockout.
What this means for his debut:
Rakic will meet Nova Unaio’s Francimar Barosso in his September debut. Barosso will represent a huge leap from the competition that Rakic has encountered on the European circuit.
Barosso is a flat footed striker who throws all of his power behind single strikes. Rakic will be the far more dynamic striker and will have a definitive advantage when it comes to technical striking. The goal for Rakic in this fight will be to keep his distance from the hulking Brazilian’s clinch attempts and land from the outside. If it does go to the mat Barosso has the size and BJJ prowess to control the outcome of the fight.
Youth is also on the side of Rakic who is 12 years the junior of the 37 year old Barroso. This fight will answer a lot of questions about Rakic’s potential in the light heavyweight division. There is a lot to like about Rakic in this match up and if forced to chose I would lean towards Rakic having a victorious debut.
This 2015 bout against Martin Batur is a small sample of what Rakic is capable of on the feet: