Zabit: Sweep the Leg

Joey Diaz once lamented that “the sweep has disappeared from our society.”

“In the 70s, everybody swept, Joe Rogan! Everybody! You had to watch that front leg [or] you were getting swept,” he said on the Joe Rogan Experience, while him and Rogan analyzed a scene from a Bruce Lee movie. “Once you got into range; you threw two punches and they felt it, you were getting swept, dog. The sweep has disappeared from our society.”

If the sweep has truly disappeared from our society, we can credit Zabit Magomedsharipov for bringing it back.

If you’ve ever been leg swept, you know that they work. And in pretty much every martial art, leg sweeps are considered an effective technique (assuming they are allowed). And yet, we don’t really see leg sweeps in MMA that often. And perhaps it is with reason: there is no point system in MMA; a leg sweep is only useful inasmuch as it can lead to effective offense. A sweep is not effective offense in and of itself because it does not do damage.

Zabit, however, is not consumed with trying to be a “normal” fighter, and thus he has scored leg sweeps in the world’s most prominent MMA organization, time after time after time.

Zabit catches Calvin Kattar here with a beautiful outer leg trip. His timing and technique are immaculate. But Zabit did not get any meaningful offense from that sweep. So why bother doing it? Well, Zabit is Zabit. He is unique. He does things differently than your average fighter.

For one, he tries techniques in the cage that most fighters would not try even in a light, friendly sparring session.

When the Showtime kick is too boring

But the leg sweep belongs in a category of its own. It’s much less flashy, and more energy-efficient, than the so-called “ninja s***” that Zabit typically brings to the table. The effectiveness of a leg sweep boils down to the timing. You must sweep the leg just as your opponent puts his weight on it. A split second too late or too soon, and your leg sweep is just a crappy leg kick.

Zabit has clearly gotten the timing down perfectly, probably owing to his extensive wushu sanda background.

The rules of sanda encourage you to do leg sweeps. You earn two points if you remain standing while your opponent falls down. Thus, a leg sweep is worth as much as a knockdown.

And although this scoring system is obviously not used in mixed martial arts, there are benefits to the leg sweep. It creates a big impression on judges, and it completely messes with the opponent’s rhythm. It is not a high-risk technique, and unlike a more conventional takedown attempt, it does not require energy or power.

Zabit is a breed of fighter we have really never seen before. He is so adept at every facet of the game and yet he clearly is at his most comfortable when he is raining spinny techniques on his opponents and following them up with perfectly-timed leg sweeps.

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