It was a heck of a start to the night for Dagestanis with beards.
Zabit Magomedsharipov put his slick striking and stout wrestling on display and won his 11th straight fight by efficiently outclassing a game Kyle Bochniak via unanimous decision in a UFC 223 undercard fight Saturday night in New York.
For Magomedsharipov (15-1), this stellar performance was necessary because Bochniak had a lot of fight in him. The 31-year-old Boston fighter showed heart and toughness -- and lots of enthusiasm -- but always seemed a step behind the featherweight countryman of main event fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Magomedsharipov never lost focus despite the taunting and even yelling of Bochniak. The 27-year-old Dagestani never was on the verge of finishing, but he led the dance until the fight's final moments. At that point, he threw caution to the wind and engaged with Bochniak in a rock-'em, sock-'em exchange to the horn.
Afterward, Magomedsharipov's callout was almost as exhilarating as his fight. First, he posed a simple question to Sean Shelby: "Who's next?" Then he decided to do the matchmaker's job for him. "Yair Rodriguez," he said, "let's do it in Moscow in September."
Chris Gruetzemacher brutalizes veteran Joe Lauzon
Fighting a man with just three previous UFC bouts, two of them losses, Joe Lauzon came out aggressively, going right after Chris Gruetzemacher. It put the 31-year-old Gruetzemacher on his heels for a moment.
But then Gruetzemacher stood his ground, and the fight changed. So did Lauzon's face.
As the veteran got touched up with punches and elbows, he slowed, then sagged. Lauzon tried turning it into a ground fight, but Gruetzemacher was up to the task. And when the fight was standing, Lauzon went from bruised to bloodied.
By the end of the second round, the 33-year-old Lauzon was returning fire only sporadically. When the horn sounded, his cornermen took one look at his crimson face and decided he had had enough. Gruetzemacher (14-3) was awarded the TKO victory.
It was the third straight loss for Lauzon (27-15) and the biggest win of Gruetzemacher's short UFC career.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz makes case for another title shot
One especially interested observer for the co-main event -- and a tired and bruised observer at that -- was Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
When Rose Namajunas defended her strawweight belt against former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk, the bout served as a scouting report of sorts for Kowalkiewicz. She didn't need to do too much scouting of her fellow 115-pounders, actually. She owns a victory over Namajunas and went five tough rounds with Jedrzejczyk, who held the belt at the time.
Earlier in the evening, Kowalkiewicz (12-2) stated her case for another shot at the belt by beating American Felice Herrig by decision. The judges were split, but the Pole was the one inflicting the damage throughout. Herrig (14-7), who came in having won four straight, withstood flurries of elbows and knees and toughed it out to the final horn.
Afterward, Kowalkiewicz shifted her focus to the future.
"One day," she said, "I want [to fight] for the title once again."