The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returned to Moscow with UFC Fight Night 163 -- a card showcasing several of the top fighters from the area. Unfortunately for the crowd at the CSKA Arena, Russian went 4-6 when paired with opponents who did not represent the home nation. However, it was not all doom and gloom for those in attendance, as the top two billed fights ended in victories for native sons.
Rising featherweight star Zabit Magomedsharipov managed to withstand a late surge from Calvin Kattar in the main event, as he moved to 6-0 inside the Octagon with a unanimous decision. He used his varied striking attack to bank the first two rounds before fading late and ceding some ground to Kattar.
“I got a little tired in the third round because I had an infection when I was in Thailand,” Magomedsharipov said during the ESPN+ post-fight show. “I had to take antibiotics. I think that influenced my performance.”
Magomedsharipov has for years been touted as a potential future champion at 145 pounds. His latest win may have put the 28-year-old next in line to challenge for the featherweight title, the fate of which will be decided when current champion Max Holloway meets Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 245 in December. Magomedsharipov admitted he will have an eye on the bout.
“I think it is going to be a very exciting fight, and I can’t wait to see it,” he said. “I will also be happy to face the winner of this upcoming fight. I think I fully deserve the title fight, and after enough preparation, I should be more than ready to have a go after the title.”
In the co-main event, former Bellator MMA heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov managed to get past the polarizing Greg Hardy via unanimous decision. The 6-foot-7 Russian used his length to keep a safe distance and pick apart the former NFL Pro Bowler with punches and kicks.
“There was a lot of pressure before this fight, [and] it is understandable why,” Volkov said. “I feel like I went to the expectation. I was very cautious because Greg was very hard and tough. He ate a lot of my punches and didn’t flinch. I know that while his style is very unorthodox I [have] got to be careful and work my way without any chance of him to win.”
Volkov rebounded from his first defeat since joining the UFC roster, which came at the hands of Derrick Lewis in October 2018. Prior to his stunning knockout loss to Lewis in a bout he was winning, the Strela Team representative was a perfect 4-0 in the promotion. Volkov was originally slated to face former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, but the Brazilian was forced off the card due to a staph infection.
“First of all, I shook off the ring rust,” Volkov said. “Actually, it was pretty heavy. For the other side, I returned to the title race. I want to be on the top. I will be the best.”
Hardy, who remains a wildly controversial figure due to his history with domestic violence, took a major step up in competition. Despite only turning professional 17 months ago, the 31-year-old did not hesitate to fill in for dos Santos when the opportunity arose. Hardy fought to a no-contest with Ben Sosoli a little more than three weeks ago, the outcome the result of his using an inhaler in between rounds. Despite the lack of a full training camp, competing in front of a pro-Volkov crowd and suffering an injury to his right arm in the first round, the former defensive end refused to explain away the loss.
“Not a single one, no excuses,” Hardy said. “I fought a great opponent. I’m clearly devastated by the decision. I didn’t fight well enough, plain and simple. That’s the hardest thing to tell yourself after you just went to war. I didn’t earn it today.”
The loss drops the American Top Team export’s UFC record to 2-2 with one no-contest, this after he won all three of his fights before joining the roster. His only other defeat came in his promotional debut at UFC Fight Night 143, where he was disqualified for an illegal knee against Allen Crowder. Despite the adversities he has faced, Hardy does not sound like a man who has lost belief in himself.
“I don’t think the bar is too high [in regards to Volkov],” he said. “I think it is there. The bar that I want to get to is astronomically high. It’s so far away from me right now, I’m in tears on the inside. I have a lot to go get, and I am going to go get it. I’m going to bleed and I’m going to sweat until it is done. When I come back, I will be the ‘King of War.’ Right now, I am humbly bowing down as the ‘Prince of War’ in defeat to one of the best in the game right now.”