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Dagestan UFC Shanghai

The explosive debut of UFC in Mainland China on November 25 told many stories – the rising MMA power of Chinese fighters, the dazzling first round knockout of Michael Bisping by Kelvin Gastelum, and perhaps more subtly, a trio of Dagestani Russian champions who colored the evening with triumph and tragedy. The MMA world has buzzed more than a little lately about the influx of enormous talent from Dagestan rising up into the UFC, and to have such a strong showing here in China only reaffirms that this singular MMA power is indeed on the fast track.

Dagestan Fighters in UFC Shanghai

Dagestan UFC Shanghai
Dagestan UFC Shanghai

Muslim Salikhov, Zabit Magomedsharipov, and Shamil Abdurakhimov wowed the fans with three very different fights and fighting styles.

Dagestan UFC Shanghai

Heavyweight Abdurakhimov was fourth on the undercard fighting American Chase Sherman, and came out with a strong energy and presence. From the start he took control of the fight, and despite Sherman’s previous consecutive UFC wins, the American was felled by Abdurakhimov 84 seconds into the first round with a resounding knockout. “The goal was to win the fight,” the Russian powerhouse stated afterwards,” but most importantly I wanted to knock him out and I achieved that. My opponent was talking trash about me, saying I don’t have a good punch, so that motivated me even more before that fight.”

Dagestan UFC Shanghai

Next, sensational UFC newcomer Zabit Magomedsharipov – who debuted earlier this fall at UFC Fight Night September 2, not only winning his bout with Mike Santiago, but also grabbing the performance of the night bonus – kept the Shanghai crowd’s eyes glued to the octagon with his explosive repertoire of fast strikes, spinning kicks and relentless wrestling against Brazilian newcomer Sheymon Moraes.

Two rounds of action had Zabit ahead on points. As one would expect with a Brazilian stylist, Moraes took it to the ground, but Zabit controlled the fight and in a third round that had the crowds cheering, he submitted his opponent with a dramatic Anaconda choke.

Zabit, with his characteristic coolness and charming grin after his win, said, “There was no pressure tonight. I have so many fans around the world and knowing I have their support makes it that much easier. I definitely feel like I’m one of the top fighters in the division and I’d love to have my next fight against Yair Rodriguez. He’s a great striker and I think we could have a fun fight.” At the end of the night it was also announced that Zabit had won his second performance bonus – making him now two for two, and most definitely a strong rising player in the UFC.

Dagestan UFC Shanghai

If Zabit felt little pressure, the opposite was true for Muslim Salikhov, who was debuting in the UFC but already a star favorite in China. Winning the “King of Sanda” title in 2006 (the only non-Chinese to ever do so) shot him to fame in the Middle Kingdom, and after 5 World Championship sanda medals and glamorous victories in China’s Kunlun MMA, Salikhov is a familiar face to Chinese fighting fans. Thus, for his much-hyped debut, he was fourth on the Shanghai UFC main fight card, and the fans were cheering.

Salikhov was facing Dominican Alex Garcia, a tough fighter with strong jiu jitsu skills which ultimately would be the Dagestan star’s undoing. In the first round the crowd was treated to some thrilling strikes from both fighters, as well as a few of Salikhov’s trademark lightning fast kicks, and judged about evenly at the end of the round.

It was in round two that Salikhov admits he made a mistake. “I turned my shoulder, and gave him an opening.” Garcia didn’t miss the chance – he took Salikhov to the mat and ended the fight with a submission by rear naked choke at 3:22. While regarded as something of an upset, Salikhov took his loss in stride, and told us, “I’m disappointed, of course, but I’m just more motivated now. I want to fight again as soon as possible.” Look for an amped up Salikhov seeking redemption in early 2018, most likely either in Europe or the US.

Dagestan Fighting in Chinese Fighters

Dagestan UFC Shanghai
Dagestan UFC Shanghai

The powerful MMA reach of the small Russian republic was also evident in shadow elsewhere in this UFC Shanghai debut, as Dagestan fighting prowess was signaled by the presence of young Chinese fighter Song Yadong — who amazingly stepped in just one week before the Shanghai event when his teammate was injured. Featherweight Song represented the En Bo fight team based in Chengdu, China, and run by seasoned Dagestani MMA coaches Anvar Alizhanov and Magomed Gadzhiev.

Chinese fighter Wang Guan also trained there for a bit, and Salikhov and Magomedsharipov landed at the Chengdu club for two weeks before Shanghai to acclimate.

When Song won his match, the 22-year-old was overjoyed and remarked, “I followed the strategies made by my team regarding movements and steps, and am very grateful for the support of my team.”

His coach Alizhanov, who has lived between China and Dagestan since he was a child and speaks fluent Mandarin, noted that Song has studied with them for the past two years and believes the young fighter is one of the rising stars of Chinese MMA who will bolster the popularity of the new sport there even more.

Zabit Magomedsharipov Instagram
Shamil Abdurakhimov Instagram
Muslim Salihov Instagram
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