Heading into Pat Healy.: "Jones vs. Gustafsson," which took place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this past weekend (Sat., Sept. 21, 2013), mixed martial arts (MMA) fans wondered how against a significant step up in competition,
The two-time World Combat Sambo Federation champion delivered a rather rousing response, routing the tough Strikeforce veteran en route to a very impressive unanimous decision to kick-off the pay-per-view (PPV) main card.
Following the big win, Nurmagomedov called his next shot:
"Listen to me, UFC and Canada. There's a gentleman (21-0), (5-0) in the UFC -- UFC give me a title shot. I'm ready."
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White sure seemed to agree that he was a bonafide talent on the rise, singing the Russian's praises at UFC 165's post fight press conference (watch full video replay here).
Following his dismantling of Abel Trujillo at UFC 160, many fully expected "The Eagle" to come into this scrap similar to the way Jim Miller did when he got served by "Bam Bam" at UFC 159. But, the young Russian emphasized crisp counter striking and tight grappling to score needed points, most notably during a close second round.
Nurmagomedov, for all intents and purposes, ran a well-rounded clinic on a very talented and experience adversary. The sky is seemingly the limit for the 25-year-old, who will undoubtedly have to kill some time while division champion Anthony Pettis attempts to hold off top contender Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 9 later this year.
So what comes next?
With T.J. Grant continuing to nurse himself back to health, Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez set to tango on an upcoming cards and B.J. Penn -- who "Nurm" initially called out -- fighting Frankie Edgar at Featherweight, the potential "top" options are few and far between.
Former 155-pound champion, Ben Henderson, however, is currently single.
Sure, the risk for "Smooth" is greater than the reward, but a match-up between the man all other contenders in the division have previously lost to (outside of Pettis) and an undefeated prospect -- both awaiting shots in a clouded title picture -- seems prime.
While Henderson might be a slight reach, a more likely scenario involves another surging fighter named Rafael dos Anjos. The Brazilian, who has rallied off five straight wins -- most recently Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 27 -- would pose another stiff test for Nurmagomedov and would help sort out the weight class contenders from the pretenders.
One things for certain, if you ask Nurmagomedov, he will fight anyone. But, can the same be said for the rest of the division?