Undefeated Lightweight mauler, Khabib Nurmagomedov, returned to the Octagon at UFC 219 tonight (Sat., Dec. 30, 2017) for the first time in more than one year, hoping to get back in the 155-pound title chase immediately with an impressive performance against No. 4-ranked division contender, Edson Barboza.
And he did just that, destroying one of the best fighter’s in the division en route to a brutal unanimous decision win.
Barboza kicked off the action quite literally with thudding inside leg strikes. Nurmagomedov finally caught up to him along the fence, drilling him with an overhand right and immediately angled for a body lock. Barboza was able to break free, nailing Nurmagomedov with another thudding kick on the break. Nurmagomedov would not be denied, though, closing the distance once again almost immediately and finally getting Barboza on the ground, where he drilled him with hard shots. Barboza threw up his legs in an effort to avoid the punishment, but Nurmagomedov’s short shots found their marks more often than not. He was able to secure full mount and continued to unleash hell on Barboza’s face. He tried to scramble to his feet, but Nurmagomedov kept pulling him down and pummeling him with hard shots. Barboza was able to make it to the bell, barely, but struggled to get back to his feet.
Ringside announcer Joe Rogan pointed out that Barboza looked “extremely compromised” to start the second round. Nurmagomedov, unsurprisingly, was relentless, chasing Barboza around the cage and nailing him with punches and kicks. Nurmagomedov then pinned him up against the fence and fed him a healthy helping of short, hard left hands until Barboza was finally able to spin out of danger. Barboza fired back with a few shots, but it was clear that he had very little left in the tank. Nurmagomedov was once again able to get the fight back to the ground and into full mount, where he continued to just abuse Barboza. He was once again able to survive a brutal five-minute onslaught, demonstrating that he is as tough as they come.
Barboza was able to fare a little bit better in the third and final round, stuffing a takedown and drilling Nurmagomedov with an insane spinning heel kick to the neck. The Dagestani, though, walked right through it and into another takedown, which is where the fight ended. Nurmagomedov threw everything he had at Barboza, but he refused to be finished. He was tired, bloodied and ultimately beaten, as Nurmagomedov put him through his meat grinder en route to a very, very impressive — and lopsided — decision win over a super talented opponent.
Nurmagomedov once again proved that he is perhaps the best 155-pound fighter on the planet. If he can remain healthy, and does not run into any weight-related issues moving forward, he will compete for a world title in 2018. Whether it’s against interim champion Tony Ferguson or reigning kingpin, Conor McGregor — or both — remains to be seen.
But whenever it happens, it’s going to be great.