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Kate Upton vs. Irina Shayk: Sports Illustrated Bikini Battle (photos!)

Irina Shayk has a hot sports connection.

Irina Shayk has a hot sports connection.

Kate Upton, the leggy 19-year-old model from Florida, replaced Irina Shayk, best known as the girlfriend of soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, on this year’s cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Is she a worthy successor?

The iconic cover is considered a coveted spot, and models who land there usually wind up with a major career boost.

Irina, who is Russian, added an exotic international touch to last year’s cover. Plus she had a solid sports connection through her boyfriend. Brooklyn Decker, who covered the issue before her also had a sports connection. She’s married to tennis star Andy Roddick.

Upton is more wholesome and All-American looking, with a voluptuous 33D-25-36 bombshell body. And, she may also have a sports connection. There have been numerous reports that she’s seeing New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The guy gets around the rumor mill. Sanchez was also rumored to be seeing Kim Kardashian, since denied by the reality personality herself. Upton, for her part was coy about the relationship.

Since landing on the cover, Irina’s life hasn’t changed appreciably. She’s still modeling for brands like La Senza, the high end lingerie company. She follows a string of celebrity models both for the fashion house and SI.

Among La Senza models are Gemma Atkinson, model Petra Nemcova, also an SI covergirl, and Emma Heming, who is married to actor Bruce Willis.

Decker has since launched a film career since her turn on the cover. She debuted in Adam Sandler’s movie “Just Go For It,” with Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman.

The 25-year-old model has two more films coming out this year. She also appears in “Battleship” a science fiction naval war film directed by Peter Berg. The film also stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgård, Rihanna and Liam Neeson.

She’s also appearing in the ensemble film “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” She’ll join Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, Rob Huebel, Chace Crawford and Chris Rock.

Upton is trying to branch into acting as well. She debuted on the big screen this year in “Tower Heist” with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. She’ll also appear in the Farrelly brothers’ latest comedy, “The Three Stooges,” due to be release in April.

Check out Irina’s photos. Click to enlarge!

Irina Shayk Shows Off Her Svelte Figure

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