Khabib Nurmagomedov used his world-class Sambo and lethal ground and pound to score a dominant unanimous decision win over Edson Barboza.
League of his own
The co-main event at UFC 219 was expected to be fireworks, the classic striker vs grappler matchup has fans thinking: will Khabib be able to handle Barboza’s speed and power on the feet, or will he assert his dominance by displaying yet another one-sided performance?
This was a crucial fight for the lightweight division, the winner almost guaranteed a shot at the interim champion, Tony Ferguson. Barboza, who last lost to Ferguson in 2015, was riding a 3 fight win streak. The Chechen born fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, who last fought at UFC 205 in November of last year, went into the fight with an undefeated professional record of 24-0.
When the fight started it became clear what Khabib’s gameplan was – apply pressure and look for the takedown. Although his opponent came marching forward, Barboza found early success in his leg kicks. However, it wasn’t long until “The Eagle” got hold of Barboza, and when he did he never let go.
Nurmagomedov dragged his opponent to the ground and kept him busy, displaying his world-class Sambo whilst relentlessly ground and pounding him. Barboza’s face said it all, Khabib Nurmagomedov was in a league of his own.
In the second round the Russian went right back to work, pressuring and even striking with the fatigued Barboza, who was still throwing shots. Khabib was starting to talk to his opponent, as well as smile when he attempted to land something. He had him right where he wanted him – fatigued and vulnerable.
The takedown remained Nurmagomedov’s most lethal weapon, he was overwhelming Barboza with his strength as well as his brutality. He would force the Brazilian onto his back, then hammer down shots that connected with the chin, requiring Barboza to react.
Dominating the competition
The third round was the same, although Barboza was still fighting back. He attempted three wheel kicks over the course of the third and final round, two of which landed cleanly. However it wasn’t enough to stun the undefeated lightweight fighter.
The judges scored the fight 30-25, 30-25 and a rarely seen 30-24 in favor of Khabib Nurmagomedov, extending his record to 25-0. The scorecard reflected the fight perfectly, total domination for the Russian.
“First of all I wanna say thank you for God” said Nurmagomedov after the fight, “God is number 1″
He went on to mention the recent birth of his son, and spoke about his undefeated record of 25-0.[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”16″]”Without injury I can fight anybody. If the UFC gave me one hour rest, I could fight one more time with Conor or Tony, no problem. This guy (Edson) is one of the best strikers in the UFC, and I fought with him for 15 minutes.”[/perfectpullquote]
Nurmagodev stated that if he had a choice between Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson, he would choose Tony as he doesn’t believe McGregor will be back anytime soon. He also took the time to thank all his coaches and training partners at American Kickboxing Academy and Eagles MMA.
“Thank you so much” he said, as he embraced his victory with his coaches and family.
Steven is a Mixed Martial Arts journalist and analyst from the United Kingdom.