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The Curious Case of Khabib Nurmagomedov; a Look at What is Next

April 21st, 2014 at 10:46 AM
By Steven J Cavagnino

After Saturday’s stellar fight card, it is hard to pick one fighter who had the best performance. Superstars like Fabricio Werdum, who earned a heavyweight title shot, Donald Cerrone, who has posted 3 straight finishes, Yoel Romero, who is now 4-0 in the UFC and Thiago Alves, the former welterweight #1 contender who won after a 2 year layoff. From top to bottom, prelim to main event, UFC on Fox 11 had storyline after storyline. One fighter, however, despite headlining the prelims on Fox Sports 1, seems to be getting little attention. 

Khabib Nurmagomedov has quietly posted a 6 fight win streak in the UFC’s lightweight division after defeating Rafael Dos Anjos on Saturday. That is six fights in what is widely considered the most talent-stacked division in the UFC. Not to mention Nurmagomedov is 22-0 as a professional fighter. ‘The Eagle’ seems to be flying under the radar, though, and it is entirely a result of circumstance. What can a fighter do to garner the attention of fans and employers alike? Win. Well, winning is all Nurmagomedov has been doing, in fact, having never lost, it’s hard to determine any other fighter who deserves a number one contender bout more than Nurmagomedov.

Why is it that ‘The Eagle’ seems to be getting snubbed, it’s a simple case of who is fighting who and when, when speaking about the lightweight division. An injury to the champ, Anthony Pettis, put the division on ice for a while, delaying any immediate decision as to who should fight for the title. Then, shortly after his injury was cleared up, it was announced the Pettis would be coaching The Ultimate Fighter reality show against Gilbert Melendez and that, after the taping of the show, the two would fight for the title. The bout will take place December 27, 2014, literally the last UFC show of the year. 

So who should Khabib fight while he waits for Pettis and Melendez to duke it out? There are three fighters who seem to be the best option for Nurmagomedov, each present their own set of skills, but a win for Nurmagomedov would, without a doubt, solidify his claim to the 155 pound title. 

Donald Cerrone

Despite a rocky start to 2013, Cerrone has posted 3 straight wins and 3 straight finishes. ‘Cowboy’ has seemed to find his groove in the division and has been ranked in the top 10 for years. Nurmagomedov would have to find a way inside Donald’s long, lanky kicks and knees in order to achieve the takedown and look to dominate on the ground. Standing with Cerrone has proved a fatal flaw to all but a few fighters. Cerrone is ranked #8 in the division, but, with the recent surge from both fighters, this could easily be a number one contender bout. 

TJ Grant

After a strange and injury-prone year, last year, TJ Grant, who was supposed to fight for the title, hasn’t been seen in the Octagon for 11 months, after knocking out Gray Maynard in the first round. TJ is ranked at #3 in the division, a fight with Nurmagomedov would be the perfect opportunity for both men to take advantage of their recent winning streaks and clear up any doubt as to who should fight for the title next. 

Nate Diaz

Ever the perennial top 10 fighter, Diaz was last seen making quick work of Gray Maynard after suffering a head kick TKO at the hands of Josh Thomson. Though it might take Nate a little longer to work his way back up to a title shot, especially after losing his own, if Nurmagomedov were to defeat Nate, there is not many who would say he was not deserving of a crack at the belt. 

 

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Tags: Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Khabib Nurmagomedov, lightweight, MMA, Nate Diaz, Rafael Dos Anjos, UFC, UFC on Fox 11

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