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Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan \mbp during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
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Shavkat Rakhmonov A Scary Proposition At 170

Surging Welterweight Eyes Toughest Test To Date Saturday In Neil Magny

Through his first three UFC appearances, Shavkat Rakhmonov has lived up to his advanced billing and established himself as someone to keep a close eye on in the welterweight division.

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He reached the Octagon with a 12-0 record, having won and successfully defended the M-1 welterweight title in his final two bouts prior to matriculating to the biggest stage in the sport. In his debut, the now 27-year-old rising star made an instant impression, submitting Brazilian veteran Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira in the opening round.

Eight months later, he submitted another Brazilian stalwart, Michel Prazeres, in the second round, and earlier this year, Rakhmonov pushed his record to 15-0 with his most impressive victory to date — a first-round spinning hook kick knockout of Carlston Harris that elevated him into the Top 15.

“Three wins in UFC — I’m pretty happy about that because it’s a result of my hard work in training outside the Octagon,” said the surging welterweight, who squares off with Top 10 fixture Neil Magny in the co-main event of this weekend’s fight card at the UFC APEX. “I believe I belong among the top of the UFC welterweight division, and with God willing, I will prove that.”

Because he’s made it look so easy, because he’s yet to face any moments of peril, let alone deal with a setback inside the UFC cage, it’s easy to blow past the fact that what Rakhmonov is doing is atypical.

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Plenty of athletes reach the UFC with undefeated records and having experienced great success in different promotions around the globe. Many claimed championship gold and posted impressive results, but parlaying that into continued success inside the Octagon is a difficult task, and many often stumble while trying to find their footing.

It can be even more difficult when you’re thrust into the thick of a talent-rich weight class, paired off with seasoned competitors that have already passed certain tests and established their positions within the divisional hierarchy. Add in lofty expectations and immediate attention and you have a potential pressure cooker situation that has gotten the better of a great number of new arrivals.

Which is why seeing someone like Rakhmonov come in, blow through his first three appearances with poise and precisions, and quickly set his sights on someone further up the rankings has been such an impressive sight to behold.

It’s also what makes the fact that the surging “Nomad” feels like he has plenty more to improve upon and show a scary proposition for everyone else in the 170-pound weight class going forward, beginning with Magny this weekend.

Shavkat Rakhmonov: Fighter Trailer | UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan vs Gamrot
Shavkat Rakhmonov: Fighter Trailer | UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan vs Gamrot
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“I think I still can improve and learn a lot more,” offered Rakhmonov, who finishes his training camps at Sanford MMA in South Florida, citing the high-level training partners and quality of coaching as keys to helping him round out his preparations. “I’m far from reaching my full potential yet.”

When asked about being recognized as one of the top prospects in the sport and a future contender, the undefeated standout responded with the same kind of measured confidence he’s displayed inside the Octagon thus far.

“There’s a reason why people think like that,” he began. “I dedicated my whole life to this sport; I spend all my time just to get better at it. It’s not easy; it’s a lot of hard work and determination to be able to do that.

“To compete at this level, you always have to be in great shape, always have to continue to develop and get better, and never stop learning. Time will show the results of the work I put in.”

Those results are already showing, and Saturday’s pairing with Magny should provide any final clarification anyone may still need about the skills Rakhmonov brings to the table and his promising future in the welterweight division.

No one in the history of the division has more victories than Magny, who drew level with former champion Georges St-Pierre with his split decision nod over Max Griffin earlier this year. The former Ultimate Fighter contestant and long-time Elevation Fight Team member has been a model of consistency over the last decade, rebounding from a two-fight skid and 1-2 start to his UFC tenure to post an 18-5 mark since, including wins over former titleholders Johny Hendricks, Carlos Condit, and Robbie Lawler.

Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan punches Carlston Harris of Guyana in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Shavkat Rakhmonov of Uzbekistan punches Carlston Harris of Guyana in their welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 05, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The rangy welterweight has been a fixture in the Top 15 for the last seven years and counting, and stands as the kind of polished, seasoned test every ascendant hopeful has to pass in order to establish himself as a member of the welterweight elite.

Rakhmonov knows that and is more than ready to face this next challenge.

“I think Neil is a top opponent with good skills and experience,” he said of the man he’ll face this weekend. “He has an unconventional style and is not easy to beat, so a fight against a name like him is a very important next step for me. A win over such a well-known veteran will help me build my name further and cement my place among the top of the division. 

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“I have to be aware of his unorthodox style, his length,” added Rakhmonov. “The cage will show who’s better and what is that right approach to fight him. The Octagon will show, but I need to be better than him in all aspects.”

With the opportunity to pick up a fourth consecutive UFC victory over one of the most established names in the division in front of him, and a place in the Top 10 awaiting him if he’s successful, Rakhmonov has already sketched out a rough outline for how he’d like to see things shake out in the second half of the year, but was clear that for the moment, only one thing matters.

“If everything will go smoothly, I would like to come back after three or four months,” he said when asked about his next steps, suggesting that he’d like to face “anyone ranked higher than (him)” should he emerge victorious this weekend.

“But I take one step at a time,” he added. “And now, my full focus is on Magny.”

UFC Fight Night: Tsarukyan vs Gamrot Took Place Live From The UFC APEX In Las Vegas, Nevada on June 25, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass