There is something that stands out about Mariya Agapova.
It was evident when the 23-year-old appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series last summer and it was confirmed when Agapova made her UFC debut against Hannah Cifers in June. Agapova quickly dispatched of Cifers in impressive fashion, earning a Performance of the Night bonus.
Agapova credits a change in mindset, along with the coaching at American Top Team, for her recent three-fight finish streak. And while finishing her opponents in the first round isn’t something that she’s planned, it’s definitely something that she enjoys.
“Before Dana White’s Contender Series, I felt pressure that I had to win that fight,” Kazakhstan’s Agapova told UFC.com. “I was just so worried. I couldn’t even do anything, and I was afraid to make a mistake and I did a lot of mistakes in the fight. I understand that you’re supposed to fight for pleasure, not for something else. You fight only for yourself, for pleasure and that’s what I realized. Afterwards I started enjoying what I was doing, and I finished every fight in one round now. It wasn’t even my plan; it’s just what has happened.”
Agapova has showed star potential both inside and outside the Octagon, intriguing fight fans with her exciting fighting style and personality.
On Saturday, Agapova will make her second walk under the UFC banner and fight in the UFC Apex for the third time. Standing across from her will be Shana Dobson, who will be looking to secure the victory after coming up short in her last three Octagon bouts.
A motivated Dobson is a good challenge for Agapova, who is confident that their combined styles will make for an interesting showdown. Even though Agapova loves to strike, four of her six finishes have come via submission and she believes that she can use her jiu-jitsu game if the fight hits the canvas.
“Shana Dobson is a good striker. I just want to make sure the fight is beautiful. I will work for it and it will be a good fight,” Agapova said of her matchup with Dobson. “I always change myself and change my style to try something new. I guess this will be a war of strikers but if I can take her down, I will take her down and try to finish her on the ground. My grappling is good now and I will do anything to get the job done that I can, so we will see.”
Even though Dobson is going through a rough patch, Agapova knows that if she wants to continue her climb from prospect to contender, she can’t overlook Dobson for a second.
“We don’t know what will happen; it’s MMA, so anything can happen. You’re never supposed to be relaxed and think things like ‘my opponent is very nice.’ She’s nice and she will fight very dangerous. But I’m supposed to be prepared for this. I will try to do my best to enjoy myself and we will see if I can finish another fight in the first round.”
Tune into Agapova versus Dobson, Saturday live on ESPN+ at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT.