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Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Jeremy Stephens

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On Saturday, March 2nd, 2019, professional MMA (mixed martial arts) and Russian Sanshou/Sanda fighter Zabit Magomedsharipov is scheduled to fight Jeremy Stephens.  This will mark the first fight in 2019 for Zabit, who has fought twice a year since joining the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) in 2017.  Hailing from Dagestan, Russia, like the undefeated UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Zabit trained at Five Directions of the World, a Wushu school dubbed the “Shaolin of Dagestan” founded by Gusein Magomaev, the same school that produced Russian Sanda Champion and multiple times World Wushu Champion Muslim Salikhov; like Muslim, Zabit became a member of the Russian Sanshou Team, before joining the UFC.  From then, Zabit has been experiencing a meteoric rise and garnering a lot of attention from fight fans since his debut, with his flashy kicks as well as his signature Sanshou/Sanda kick catches and sweeps.  However, recently Zabit’s MMA career in the UFC has faced a bit of a roadblock, with various fighters understandably ducking him and refusing to a stepping stone for Zabit, thereby staining their own fight records and careers.  Thankfully, this matchup with Jeremy Stephens is fast approaching.

The fight will take place on the preliminary card of the UFC 235: Jones vs. Smith, where the eponymous Jon Jones will defend his newly re-earned Light Middleweight Championship belt against underdog Anthony Smith, at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, United States of America.  Zabit has amassed a record of 16-1, and only one loss to Igor Egorov by armbar submission in 2013.  In other news, fellow Sanda athlete Zhang Weili from China will face off against Tecia Torres as part of the main card.  Unlike fellow Sanda stylists Cung Le and his schoolmate Muslim Salikhov, who have earned most of their victories by way of either by KO (knockout) or by TKO (technical knockout), Zabit has proven himself to be a truly diverse MMA fighter, with victories ranging from KO and TKO, to unanimous decisions and submissions, including his latest victory against Brandon Davis by way of a surprising modified kneebar.  It is safe to say that Zabit is truly well-rounded and prepared in all areas of the fight game.

His opponent, Jeremy Stephens, fights out of Alliance MMA, the same gym as former WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting) and UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz, Alexander Gustafsson, Bellator figher Michael Chandler and former UFC Bantamweight Champion Cat Zingano.  Stephens is known for his knockout power, garnering numerous KO and TKO victories throughout his career.  He is also five years Zabit’s senior, and has experience on his side, having fought since 2005.  But he is perhaps most famous for being the originator of the “Who the f*** is that guy?!” joke, made by Conor McGregor at the UFC 205: Alvarez vs. McGregor press conference, during Conor’s prime success in the UFC, a fight event in which he would become the first two-division UFC Champion to hold two belts from two different weight classes simultaneously; when Conor was asked, “Who do you think would you give you the hardest fight out of anybody onstage?”, Stephens spoke out, “Right here.  Right here, the hardest hitting 145-pound—the real hardest hitting 145-er right here.  This guy TKOs people, when I knock people out, they don’t f***in’ move,” to which Conor responded with the famous comeback.  In favor of Zabit, Zabit has the height and reach advantage, which undisputedly contributed to his ability to manipulate and leverage his opponents with ease.  Previously, he was pushed by Kyle Bochniak, but displayed that he could manage distance and control his opponent despite the forward pressure.  Will Zabit be able to duplicate the same result here?  Or will the veteran stop the hype train of this rising Wushu Sanda representative?  Tune into ESPN on Saturday and find out!

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Matt began practicing Wushu at the age of 7 under US Wushu Academy, and is a coach of the UMBC Wushu Club. He has held positions in national, international, and local modern Wushu competitions, and is currently training in Sanshou/Sanda, traditional Chen Style Taijiquan and zhanzhuang. He is a former four-time consecutive US Wushu Team member, former Pan American Champion and multiple times Pan American Championships medalist, and is continually trying to improve himself both as a competitive athlete and as a real martial artist. If you have any questions you would like to ask Matt, please email him at matthewlee@jiayoowushu.com.