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Canada bantamweight Aiemann Zahabi defeats Snow Leopard for 4th straight UFC win

LAS VEGAS — Canadian bantamweight Aiemann Zahabi won his fourth straight fight in the UFC on Saturday, earning a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Javid Basharat on the undercard of a UFC Fight Night card,

The judges scored it 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 for the 36-year-old Zahabi (11-2-0), a betting underdog who came on as the bout wore on.

It was a close fight with Zahabi holding a 75-67 edge in significant strikes according to UFC Stats. Basharat, an Afghan-born Briton whose nickname is the Snow Leopard, threw up his hands in disbelief when the decision was announced.

The 28-year-old Basharat (14-1-0 with one no contest) had won all four previous UFC bouts since winning his way into the promotion on Dana White's Contender Series in October 2021.

The main event at the UFC's Apex production facility saw Suriname's Jairzinho (Bigi Boy) Rozenstruik, ranked 12th among heavyweight contenders, stop Bahrain's Shamil Gaziev via TKO with referee Marc Goddard calling a stop to the action after four rounds.

Basharat pressed the action in the first round, coming forward. He finished the round with a 14-12 edge in significant strikes. Zahabi got Basharat's attention late in the second, wobbling him with a right hook.

Zahabi kept coming in the third, lashing Basharat with a body kick. Both men landed blows with Zahabi finishing the round with a 37-25 edge in significant strikes.

Zahabi is the younger brother of famed trainer Firas Zahabi, the Tristar Gym owner and head coach who helped Georges St-Pierre to two UFC titles. Firas Zahabi was in his brother's corner Saturday.

Aiemann Zahabi won his UFC debut in February 2017, via decision over Brazil's Reginaldo Vieira. He lost his next two — to Brazil's Ricardo Ramos and American Vince (Vandetta) Morales — before bouncing back to defeat Americans Drako (The Great Drakolini) Rodriguez, (Pretty) Ricky Turcios and China's Qileng (Mongolian Murderer) Aori.

His one-punch KO win over Rodriguez ended his losing streak — which included being at the wrong end of a spinning back elbow KO by Ramos — and earned him a US$50,000 performance of the night bonus and a new UFC deal.

Zahabi, the youngest of four brothers, started martial arts at five with karate. Brother Alex, who holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well as a PhD in microbiology and an MBA, teaches at Tristar Burlington (Ont.) BJJ. Tarek, the fourth brother, no longer trains.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2024.

The Canadian Press