Russian sensation Zabit Magomedsharipov pushed himself further into featherweight title shot contention as he came through a war of attrition with America’s Calvin Kattar in their main event at UFC Moscow.
Zabit secured a unanimous decision victory 29-28 on all three scorecards, but was forced to scrap hard against a gutsy Kattar.
While the bout lacked the fireworks many in the Moscow crowd had hoped for, Zabit ultimately did the tidier work to prevail on points and improve his winning streak to 14 and take him to 6-0 in the UFC.
Ranked 5th in the featherweight ranking, the Dagestani will now surely have strong claims for a shot at the title currenlty owned by Max Holloway, who faces Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 245 in December.
The opening stages in Moscow on Saturday were a case of both men sizing each other up before Zabit began to find his groove, throwing out some sharp spinning backfists as a statement of intent.
Kattar came forward looking to utilize his boxing skills, also mixing in kicks but the home favorite kept his range, landing kicks and jabs of his own.
Kattar’s efforts were largely wild in comparison as Zabit began to land more consistently, but without the power to trouble his opponent.
Kattar gave a reminder of his threat with some solid shots and a flying knee attempt as the first round closed with another spinning backfist from Zabit to huge applause from the partisan crowd at CSKA Arena.
The Dagestani phenom stepped up the pace around a minute into the second round with a flurry of shots and some trademark flourishes.
However, ‘The Boston Finisher’ escaped and landed a solid right hand and a knee of his own to show he was very much in the fight.
Going into the final round Zabit was ahead on the cards, but Kattar continued to load up looking for a knockout shot and had some joy, causing the Dagestani to back off as he looked momentarily wobbled.
The American continued to push the pace inside the final stages to take the round, with the bout ending in the pair trading punches on the ground.
As it went to the cards, Zabit claimed a deserved win that will add to the calls for the Russian to be given a shot at featherweight gold.