Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes came up short in attempts to capture UFC championships in 2019, but their teammates Zabit Magomedsharipov and Corey Anderson are slowly approaching title bouts at featherweight and light heavyweight.
Magomedsharipov, victorious in five UFC appearances and riding a 13-fight winning streak, is expected to return to the Octagon later this year. Ricardo Almeida, one of his main coaches in New Jersey, told MMA Fighting he expects to see the Russian talent headlining or co-headlining the upcoming UFC Moscow card on Nov. 9, and wants top-ranked opposition to cement his place as the next in line for the 145-pound belt.
“It could be Jose Aldo, it could be (Brian) Ortega. Yair (Rodriguez) is a great kid, but I don’t think he’s at Jose Aldo’s or Ortega’s or (Alexander) Volkanovski’s level yet,” Almeida said. “To me, fighting any one of those guys would be the path for him to get prepared to a title fight against Holloway or Volkanovski.”
The jiu-jitsu specialist, who sees featherweight champion Max Holloway as the favorite against Volkanovski, wants Magomedsharipov against “one or two” fighters from the top 5 to earn enough experience to challenge for the UFC gold in 2020. Magomedsharipov, 28, is 5-0 under the UFC banner with wins over Jeremy Stephens, Brandon Davis, Kyle Bochniak, Sheymon Moraes and Mike Santiago.
“There’s a huge difference between guys ranked at No. 6 or 10 and top 3 fighters, guys who have fought for the belt or are former champions,” Almeida said. “It’s like rolling a dice, you never know what will happen, you can win or lose. I want Zabit to gain more experience against someone at that level, someone that will try to kill his game, who trains in a big team that will really prepare him to capitalize on Zabit’s flaws. (Zabit) will gain experience by going there and beating someone like that.”
“His last fight against Stephens was very important, someone who’s around for a long time and has heavy hands. The fight was a bit tepid, but he had no problems, and having no problems when you’re fighting Jeremy Stephens isn’t easy, so I think it was a good experience for him. I want one or two fights for him at this level.”
At light heavyweight, Corey Anderson’s three-fight winning streak got him hoping to be next in line for Jon Jones’ belt. “Overtime” has yet to return after going 3-0 in 2018 with decisions over Patrick Cummins, Glover Teixeira and Ilir Latifi, but teased about a potential fight with rising talent Johnny Walker at UFC’s next card at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 2.
“I think that would be a good fight, someone who’s in the spotlight,” Almeida said, “so a win would make it unquestionable for Corey to fight for the title.”
Jones is coming off a hard fought five-round win over Thiago Santos in July, a fight many scored in favor of “Marreta”, and Almeida is confident that Anderson would bring different challenges to attempt to dethrone the light heavyweight king.
“I think it was pretty clear that Jon Jones fought too calm, paying attention to ‘Marreta’s’ hands,” Almeida said. “Corey is a different fighter, he will have other things to worry about. Sure, we look at Jon Jones and see maybe the best fighter in UFC history. I really think that if Jon Jones stopped training for 10 years and came back he would still have what it takes to become champion. He’s amazing as a fighter, but we look at him and see holes (in his game). If there’s something about MMA is that any given Saturday night anyone can win. No matter who’s the champion and how many times he’s won, if he never lost, anything can happen in this sport.”
“Corey has a long reach, Corey has great wrestling. Corey might have the best gas tank in the division,” he continued. “He doesn’t get tired and will put pressure on Jon Jones for five rounds. He has a chance. He’s more experienced now. He suffered a few knockouts due to lack of experience, allowing heavy-hitters to land and finish him. Jon Jones, even though he’s devastating, he doesn’t have this knockout power in his hands. His kicks are a bit more complicated, If you move your head to the wrong side he can knock you out like he did to (Daniel) Cormier, but Corey is taller, has a longer reach, so he has a good chance. There are many things to explore if Corey has the opportunity to fight Jon Jones.”