clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Welcome to the UFC, Anton Zafir

A new welterweight is on his way to the big show with the signing of Aussie Anton Zafir on short notice for UFC 193.

It's a story as old as time... or at least as old as UFC fight booking. Guy gets injured, new guy comes in on short notice to replace him. Somehow it almost always seems to be welterweight that's on the receiving end of these new faces, but the 145-170 window is where the bulk of the world's MMA talent lies. This time around its an Aussie newcomer getting the call for UFC 193 in Melbourne. Brendan O'Reilly has been pulled from his bout with James Moontasri due to injury, as reported by the Herald Sun. Zafir will step in as his replacement on just about one week's notice. So...

Who is Anton Zafir?

The 28-year old high school teacher in Queensland, Australia trains out of Whitsunday's Martial Arts in Airlie Beach where he's the gym owner and head coach.  Zafir started his pro MMA career just back in mid-2012 and has gone 7-1 since, picking up and defending the Nitro MMA welterweight title along the way. His opponents are about what you'd expect for the Australian regional scene, a mix of journeyman, young fighters, and a few decent records sprinkled in, with no major standouts. His only loss comes to hot regional prospect Alex Volkanovskiy, who is currently set to fight for the PXC title, and has since dropped all the way down to featherweight. Zafir's own combat sports background outside of MMA seems to be pretty limited, as he reportedly started out taking boxing classes about six years ago and eventually moved over to MMA and went pro just a couple years afterward.

What you should expect:

Simply put, Zafir's game is the product of a relatively inexperienced fighter working in a pretty underdeveloped regional scene and training out of a very small camp. He looks like a good athlete and he does a little bit of everything, but none of it particularly exceptionally. Most particularly he tends to rush into the clinch behind big, winging strikes, from which he'll drop for a double or switch to the single up against the cage. A lot of the fighters he's faced just don't seem to know how to stuff a shot, so while he does some things right, like turning on his takedowns and switching approaches, it's hard to put a lot of faith in his wrestling game against better competition. From there, he's mostly a stifling top control fighter. He drops a lot of short elbows and small strikes.

Perhaps the best part of his game is his transition striking. He's aggressive and consistent about punishing opponents as they try to escape or stand up. He seems to have some decent size for his division, so if his chin holds up and he makes his way to a bigger camp, there's a chance he could really improve. But as it is, training out of his own gym, he's going to have a tough road ahead of him.

What this means for his debut:

James Moontasri isn't exactly a picture of consistency. He's got a great kicking game, a lot of natural athleticism, and a general collection of other skills that haven't quite come together into a complete style yet. Moving up to 170 might help as he was a gargantuan lightweight and seemed prone to gassing. I could see this fight getting pretty sloppy, depending on how well Zafir can absorb early punishment and keep going. But, especially on short notice, I think he's going to have trouble against a faster, more technical fighter out of a bigger camp.

To get us better acquainted, here's Zafir's last pre-UFC bout against Ryan Heketa at Nitro MMA 13:

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bloody Elbow Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your MMA and UFC news from Bloody Elbow