Khabib Nurmagomedov: The five fights that made 'The Eagle' soar to greatness
Twenty-eight men have tried and 28 men have failed as Khabib Nurmagomedov has climbed the ranks to become the greatest lightweight fighter in the world. RT Sport looks back at the five UFC fights that propelled him to greatness.
1. RAFAEL DOS ANJOS, UFC ON FOX 11, ORLANDO, APRIL 2014
The first truly world-class test of Khabib's UFC career came in a featured preliminary bout at UFC on Fox 11 in Orlando, when he faced Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos, and the Russian star proved to be more than up to the task.
Nurmagomedov dominated the usually powerful Dos Anjos throughout the three-round matchup to earn a unanimous decision victory and prove that he was ready to take on the very best fighters in the UFC's 155-pound division.
2. MICHAEL JOHNSON, UFC 205, NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 2016
This was the performance that saw Khabib stand up and announce himself to the world as the man to take on McGregor as he utterly dominated seasoned opposition in the form of Johnson, whose slick hands and solid wrestling credentials were expected to pose a stiff test for the Russian star.
Johnson's striking looked good early on, but Khabib soon walked through the American's punches and dragged Johnson to the canvas, where he proceeded to hand out one of the most one-sided beatdowns we've seen inside the octagon in a long time.
Khabib even had time to talk to Johnson while battering him, telling him to quit, and even took time out of his corner advice between rounds to turn to UFC president Dana White and tell him he wanted McGregor next.
Then, once he'd completed his dominant win, he grabbed the microphone and gave the interview that served notice to McGregor that he couldn't hide. "The Eagle" was coming.
3. AL IAQUINTA, UFC 223, BROOKLYN, APRIL 2018
It wasn't Khabib's most dominant performance, nor did it feature a highlight-reel finish. But his victory over Iaquinta at UFC 223 put him in the position he remains in today, as the UFC lightweight champion of the world.
Initially set to face Tony Ferguson, Khabib accepted a last-minute replacement after the American suffered a freak injury in the lead-up to the fight.
And while New Yorker Iaquinta fared well over the five rounds, "The Eagle" still dominated as he earned a straightforward unanimous decision victory to get his hands on UFC gold for the very first time.
4. CONOR McGREGOR, UFC 229, LAS VEGAS, OCTOBER 2018
It was the fight the world wanted to see. And when it eventually happened in Las Vegas, it was Nurmagomedov who held all the aces as he dominated McGregor before eventually submitting him with a rear-naked choke in the fourth round.
Much was made of the "striker versus grappler" style clash, but while Nurmagomedov lived up to expectations by dominating the Dubliner on the mat, he surprised many with his stand-up prowess, and even dropped the noted Irish striker with a big overhand right.
For all of the hype and hate spewed in the lead-up to the contest, the fight itself wasn't that close. Nurmagomedov arguably had a tougher night against last-minute replacement Al Iaquinta in his previous outing at UFC 223, and while talk of a rematch is still hanging in the air, Khabib has very little to prove by taking it.
5. DUSTIN POIRIER, UFC 242, ABU DHABI, SEPTEMBER 2019
Some observers believed that Dustin Poirier might be the man with the skillset to unseat Nurmagomedov from the top of the UFC lightweight division, but “The Eagle” buried those assessments in the Abu Dhabi desert with a dominant performance that cemented his place as the top lightweight fighter on the planet.
Nurmagomedov overwhelmed Poirier with his wrestling and eventually submitted the American with a rear-naked choke in the third round to ensure he took home his new UFC legacy championship belt along with his colossal $6 million payday.Also on rt.com Nothing but respect: Khabib & Poirier don each other’s T-shirts for charity after UFC 242 fight
With arguably only Tony Ferguson in a position to give Nurmagomedov a serious test, it may not be long before there is talk of the Russian star moving up to try his hand at welterweight, having cleaned out the lightweight division.
After he defeated Conor McGregor, Nurmagomedov’s star went stratospheric. And after this performance in Abu Dhabi, he’ll be an even bigger star in the weeks and months ahead.Also on rt.com Khabib vaults cage again to celebrate submitting Poirier to become undisputed champ at UFC 242