UFC Moscow preview: Breaking down Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Calvin Kattar

Elias Cepeda
Yahoo Sports Contributor
(L-R) Zabit Magomedsharipov and Calvin Kattar face off during A news conference at Arbat Hall on Nov. 7, 2019 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Saturday’s UFC main event in Moscow pitting Zabit Magomedsharipov against Calvin Kattar is a fascinating bout that should tell us a lot about who is in the top three or so among featherweight title contenders. Below we take a quick survey look at the matchup to help you prepare for the weekend’s big MMA event.

Read on and then stay with us Saturday for coverage of the contest right here at Yahoo Sports.

Stand-up striking

This is an area of the fight where it truly is unknown who will have the advantage. Both men are effective and dynamic strikers, though quite different in their approaches and strengths.

Magomedsharipov keeps a steady pace and throws in volume while appearing relaxed and measured throughout, especially in the center of the mat. The Dagestani fighter gets a bit more aggressive on the feet when he’s cornered an opponent or pressed them against the fence, unleashing spinning attacks and looking for the kill.

Magomedsharipov looks calm at just about every range on the feet, but the 6-foot-1 and a half striker is best at kicking length. He does an excellent job throwing a variety of attacks from out of both stance orientations, and can really do work on the lead legs (both the inside and outside) of opponents.

This could serve him especially well against Kattar, who has not historically shown much of an interest in checking leg kicks, and who also often leans heavily on his lead left leg while throwing right crosses. This micro-battle in particular will interesting to watch between these two men.

Kattar often chooses to defend leg kicks by getting so close to opponents – punching range – that those kicks are jammed up, and he will also try to counter leg kicks by absorbing them and countering with punches.

Calvin Kattar holds an open training session for fans and media during open workouts at Arbat Hall on Nov. 6, 2019 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Both of those approaches are smart and have worked well for him. Magomedsharipov, on the other hand, might very well look to take some of the sting out of Kattar’s right punch by chipping away at his left leg with kicks.

It’s a risky strategy, to be sure, as Magomedsharipov will need to get to the legs before Kattar throws those big right hands, and not during or right after, lest he be caught on the head on one leg. Still, the way Kattar throws his right hands is often in a leaning position, where he’s placed a particularly large amount of weight on his lead leg.

Kattar certainly doesn’t look off-balance when he does this, and his crosses are technical, and effective. He just puts a lot into them for damaging effect.

If he takes a lot of leg kicks before attempting any big rights, Kattar may find them less effective. If he can time his right hands to connect as Magomedsharipov throws his leg kicks, however, he may very well hurt his opponent.

Kattar doesn’t just throw his right hands without setting them up, either. In fact, the Massachusetts resident uses an excellent and long jab to hide the forthcoming crosses a lot of the time.

Magomedsharipov is used to be being much taller and longer than his opponents, and he’ll be taller and longer than Kattar this weekend. Still, at 5-11, Kattar is not that much smaller than Magomedsharipov and so the advantage won’t be as pronounced for the Kung Fu stylist as it often is.

Kattar turns his left jab over and twists his torso well to get maximum length out of the punch. From there, he often follows with the right punch. Against Magomedsharipov he could very well adjust the right cross to be slightly more of an overhand to reach the taller opponent.

Magomedsharipov will want to keep the stand-up striking to kicking length as much as he can because once Kattar gets in punching range he might have the advantage. Magomedsharipov is calm on the inside and blocks well, also using good head movement.

But he still seems to rely a lot on his sense of distance and timing and sometimes drops his hands in the pocket. That might work against Kattar, but if Kattar finds Magomedsharipov’s head uncovered with more than a few punches, it could spell disaster for the phenom in his big-league homecoming Saturday.

Kattar has shown that he has a power advantage when it comes to strikes, and he’s got a whole middle range on the feet that he very well could do a lot of damage in.

Zabit Magomedsharipov takes down Jeremy Stephens in their featherweight bout during UFC 235 at T-Mobile Arena on March 2, 2019 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Takedowns

Magomedsharipov will likely want to go from kicking range into clinch/grappling range as quickly as possible against Kattar. Magomedsharipov is the more proven takedown artist in the cage, and he is capable of putting opponents down in many ways, including countering shots, hip throws, trips off of kick fakes and double-leg takedowns as well as body lock slams from various positions.

Kattar wrestled in high school and is a good grappler, though he doesn’t often look to take opponents down. Kattar won’t be easy to put down, per se, but I expect Magomedsharipov to have an advantage once the wrestling begins.

Magomedsharipov will have to get through the dangerous boxing range of Kattar to start wrestling, however, making this interesting.

(R-L) Calvin Kattar punches Renato Moicano in their featherweight bout during UFC 223 inside Barclays Center on April 7, 2018 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Ground work

Kattar trains with excellent mat wrestlers and is a phenomenal ground striker. If he gets put on his back, however, he’ll have a difficult road against Magomedsharipov.

Magomedsharipov is an excellent and opportunistic submission fighter who seizes on his opponents’ mistakes as well as their good tendencies to secure nasty finishing holds. Magomedsharipov is great at using constant ground strikes from on top to get opponents to turn their back, and he’s also effective at seizing on moments when opponents successfully work to get up to their feet to lock onto front chokes.

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