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On the Rise: Rotterdam Edition


Hey – nice to see you again!

After what has been the longest stretch in recent memory without a UFC event, the action returns to the Octagon this Saturday in Rotterdam, Netherlands with a 12-fight card that airs live and early on UFC FIGHT PASS, allowing UFC fans to kick off the Labor Day weekend in style.

Headlined by heavyweight giants Alexander Volkov and Stefan Struve, this weekend’s card is flush with fighters looking to make an immediate impression as they step into the UFC cage for the first time in their careers.

This is On the Rise: Rotterdam Edition.

Aleksandar Rakic

There has been an injection of talent into the light heavyweight division over the last couple years, with fighters like Misha Cirkunov, Jared Cannonier and Jordan Johnson finding success, while Volkan Oezdemir has become a legitimate title threat with three Top 10 wins in the last seven months.

The 25-year-old Rakic hopes to add his name to that growing list of guys to watch in the 205-pound ranks as he makes his maiden voyage into the Octagon to square off with Brazilian veteran Francimar Barroso this weekend.

The Austrian newcomer has rattled off eight consecutive victories since dropping his pro debut nearly six years ago, finishing each one of those bouts inside the distance. Rakic has good size for the division and it’s difficult not to be intrigued by his string of stoppages on the regional circuit. However, Barroso represents a significant step up in competition for the UFC neophyte.

But if Rakic can replicate the strong showings he’s amassed while building to this moment on Saturday, he’ll instantly establish himself as one of the top young talents in the light heavyweight division.

Abdul-Kerim Edilov

Edilov is also looking to make waves in the light heavyweight division right out of the gate, and a quick scan of his past performances reveals a victory that makes you think it’s possible for the 25-year-old Chechen fighter to do just that.

Back in June 2012 at the tender age of 20, Edilov picked up a first-round stoppage win over Gadzhimurad Antigulov, who currently sits at No. 15 in the rankings and has earned consecutive first-round submission wins heading into his UFC 217 showdown with Ion Cutelaba.

The big question mark for Edilov heading into his debut this weekend against Bojan Mihajlovic is ring rust, as the newcomer has not competed in over two years. If he’s able to pick up where he left off and post an 11th consecutive victory in his return to action and UFC debut Saturday inside the Ahoy Rotterdam, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Edilov earn some “future contender” buzz.

Zabit Magomedsharipov

Talk to anyone at Team Ricardo Almeida BJJ and they all rave about Magomedshapirov, the former ACB featherweight champion who makes his UFC debut Saturday in Rotterdam.

When you’ve got the likes of Frankie Edgar and Edson Barboza singing your praises, you’re definitely going to find a way into this space before your first trip into the Octagon.

The 26-year-old is big for the division, standing six-feet-one with long pipe cleaners for arms. He’s collected eight straight victories and 10 stoppages from his 12 career wins and gets an instant opportunity to show why his teammates are so high on his talents this weekend.

Featherweight is one of the most competitive divisions in the UFC, but if Magomedshapirov can emerge with a victory, the Dagestani newcomer will validate the hype and position himself as one to watch in the talent-rich 145-pound ranks down the stretch and into 2018.