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Khabib Nurmagomedov can also box, won’t shy away from striking against Edson Barboza at UFC 219

Esther Lin/MMA Fighting

After more than a year away from action, Khabib Nurmagomedov will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon at UFC 219 on Dec. 30, 2017, where he will face one of the more devastating strikers in the Lightweight division in Edson Barboza.

Known as one of the best grapplers in all of MMA, Khabib has pretty much dominated all of his fights thanks to his outstanding wrestling abilities, which often lead to a vicious ground-and-pound attack. But don’t get it twisted, “The Eagle” is more than capable of hanging with Barboza on the feet.

In fact, Edson will have to keep his head on a swivel come fight night.

“He has very good kicks and he has very good footwork, movement, he’s like a little bit running too, so I have to find him in the cage. But my boxing is not bad,” proclaimed Nurmagomedov during a recent media scrum.

“I know he has good boxing skills, too, but my pressure and my boxing, he will worry about my hands and then he is going to worry about my takedowns. It’s going to be hard for him. Of course for me it’s not an easy fight, but I have a very good gameplan for him.”

While the Lightweight title race is in a bit of a “wait and see” state of mind, Khabib had no issues taking on Barboza when a title fight didn’t come to fruition. That’s because the undefeated (24-0, 8-0 UFC) combatant has no qualms in picking apart every other contender in his way.

“I agree with this. You cannot fight every fight for the title. We have a lot of contenders. Lightweight is so busy and we have a lot of good guys here,” said Khabib. “So when UFC tells me I need to fight somebody, I tell them I need somebody like Edson Barboza. He stays in high level of rankings. I don’t want to take easy fights where people say, ‘Khabib is going to kill this guy.’ There is no interest. When I get opponent, I want people to talk about, ‘Maybe this guy can give him a hard time.’”

And give him a hard time he will, as the Brazilian bomber is currently riding a three-fight hot streak, including taking out former champions Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez rather handily.

The winner will likely set himself up for a shot at the division strap, but whether it’s against interim champ Tony Ferguson or Conor McGregor, is still the bigger mystery.

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