Newly-crowned Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, received heavy criticism for his inability to finish Al Iaquinta in the UFC 223 pay-per-view (PPV) main event earlier this month in Brooklyn, New York.
But one person who won’t shit on “The Eagle” is “Raging Al,” who was outstruck 172-43 in their five-round championship headliner (highlights). In fact, Iaquinta praised Nurmagomedov for his awkward (but accurate) style that made him hard to hit.
From his conversation with MMA Fighting:
“His standup was really good. I felt like I was a step behind him, just from the first two rounds of trying to get up and stay against the cage, he was kind of wearing on me a little bit. So I felt a little behind, but his jab is good. Every time I tried to let so combos go, he’s awkward, he’s got like the Russians — it’s just a different style of boxing. They were saying he’s got his head up. I connect with everybody. ... It was hard to get to him. He’s tough, he’s tough. He’s got his own style. He’s awkward. Maybe it doesn’t look like it from the outside, but, he’s definitely, he’s fucking tough man. I knew we had a mutual respect on the standup when it was going back and forth, he was definitely worried about my power shots. But he kept me away with his jab and his movement was a little awkward and good.”
The still-undefeated Nurmagomedov is best known for his unstoppable takedowns and punishing top game, but the Dagestani champion seemed content to bang it out on the feet against a legitimate knockout artist.
Granted, Iaquinta entered the bout on super short notice after both Tony Ferguson and Max Holloway were pulled from the UFC 223 fight card, but he was already scheduled to compete in “The Empire State” and was not coming in cold.
Is it time to give Nurmagomedov more credit for his striking prowess?