Opinion: Khabib Nurmagomedov Can Help Shake up UFC Lightweight Division
By Michael Hatamoto
Rising lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov beat MMA veteran Pat Healy and has become an important piece to the current lightweight puzzle.
Nurmagomedov won a unanimous decision after rightfully being awarded all three rounds, though Healy was able to land some decent strikes. However, it was impressive to see Nurmagomedov use his grappling to put pressure on Healy, as Healy has an extremely strong wrestling background
“This kid comes out and goes for it,” UFC President Dana White relayed afterwards. “He went in there with a bigger, stronger dude, and he was getting hit with some big shots tonight. He can wrestle, he can punch, he’s got good punching power as well.”
Since joining the UFC, Nurmagomedov has beaten Kamal Shalorus, Gleison Tibau, Thiago Tavares, Abel Trujillo and Healy – and has looked dominant for a 25-year-old with a perfect 21-0 record. He has improving striking and a good chin mixed with a strong grappling background, including serving as a two-time Combat Sambo champion.
Healy is a proficient striker, but he couldn’t get through Nurmagomedov’s defense, sometimes walking straight into accurate jabs. As Healy looked increasingly tired towards the end of the fight, Nurmagomedov was able to mix in striking and takedowns.
The UFC lightweight division was already turned upside down when former champion Benson Henderson lost his title to Anthony Pettis. Now, Josh Thomson, former Strikeforce lightweight champion, will take on Pettis in December – and Nurmagomedov could be next in line if Pettis beats Thomson.
Until then, I wouldn’t mind seeing Nurmagomedov fight Bendo, or be matched up with the winner from Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez. I look forward to watching Nurmagomedov develop, as he certainly has the youth, athleticism, and evolving skill to be around for quite some time.