Khabib Nurmagomedov Becomes UFC Lightweight Champion, Targets Georges St-Pierre Next
Khabib Nurmagomedov is now the undisputed UFC lightweight champion
Following a bizarre and tumultuous week leading up to Saturday night’s card, Nurmagomedov still got the result he wanted with a unanimous decision win over Al Iaquinta to become the undisputed lightweight champion.
When Nurmagomedov arrived in New York earlier this week he was preparing for a showdown with featherweight champion Max Holloway but that fight was scrapped after the Hawaiian was ruled out by the New York State Athletic Commission over concerns about his weight cut.
Several options were explored for a replacement but the UFC finally landed on Iaquinta, who was already competing on the UFC 223 card against Paul Felder. To his credit, Iaquinta walked into the fight as a massive underdog but he gave a very good showing for himself making it all the way to the final bell.
Actually as the main event got underway, Iaquinta didn’t show any lack of confidence as he stalked Nurmagomedov across the Octagon and throwing bombs with every punch he aimed at the Dagestani’s head.
Still that didn’t help him avoid Nurmagomedov’s tenacious wrestling as he continue to look for the takedown before planting Iaquinta on the mat two times in a row.
Like so many of his past fights, Nurmagomedov pressed Iaquinta against the cage and began hammering away with punches. Iaquinta did an admirable job working his way back to the feet but he couldn’t break free of Nurmagomedov’s bear like grip.
Nurmagomedov was unrelenting with his wrestling in the second round as well as he dove at Iaquinta’s leg in the opening minute and dragged him back to the ground.
— UFC (@ufc) April 8, 2018
From there it was all Nurmagomedov as he absolutely mauled Iaquinta on the ground, punishing him with punches before taking the New Yorker’s back where he continuously switched from throwing shots to looking for submissions.
Iaquinta was in survival mode with Nurmagomedov just battering him with punches but still the former “Ultimate Fighter” contender wasn’t going down without a fight.
Despite taking a lot of punishment in the first two rounds, Iaquinta started to finally a home for his punches on the feet as Nurmagomedov suddenly abandoned the takedown in the third.
Iaquinta was able to tag the Russian fighter with several hard shots while Nurmagomedov was holding his chin up high without offering much defense on the feet.
Where Nurmagomedov was able to take advantage on the feet was with a stiff jab that continuously popped Iaquinta in the face, drawing blood from his late notice replacement.
As the fifth and final round got underway, Nurmagomedov was once again willing to exchange strikes with Iaquinta on the feet, perhaps to his detriment in some exchanges.
— UFC (@ufc) April 8, 2018
Still, Nurmagomedov found a way to pressure forward with punishing shots before finally planting Iaquinta back on the mat, regaining control on the ground for the first time since the second round.
Nurmagomedov continued to improve his position, taking the back and looking for the choke once again. With time running out, Nurmagomedov kept pushing the pace with punches while maintaining his powerful offense until the fight finally came to an end.
While it may have surprised some that Iaquinta lasted all five rounds, it was Nurmagomedov who still earned the lopsided victory with scorecards coming back 50-44, 50-43, and 50-43 all in favor of the undefeated Russian, who moves to 26-0 in his career with the win.
Afterwards, Nurmagomedov didn’t waste much time throwing a shot at now former lightweight champion Conor McGregor, who may have been cage side on Saturday night if not for his rampage through the Barclays Center that ended with him being arrested and charged with assault and criminal mischief.
“Iaquinta is a real gangster. Where’s Conor? He wants to fight with bus,” Nurmagomedov said following the win. “I want to fight with real gangster. Iaquinta, thank you so much.”
As far as what comes next, Nurmagomedov will observe Ramadan starting in May, which means the new lightweight champion probably won’t fight again until after the summer is finished.
When he’s ready to fight again, Nurmagomedov isn’t looking at McGregor or even former interim champion Tony Ferguson as his next opponent. Instead, he’s targeting a UFC legend and arguably the greatest fighter of all time.
“Now I want to fight with Georges St-Pierre in New York, Madison Square Garden in November,” Nurmagomedov said.
St-Pierre has given no indication that he plans to return any time this year after dealing with a crippling bout of ulcerative colitis following his last fight but obviously Nurmagomedov is interested in welcoming him back if he fights again.
What’s more likely, however, is the UFC attempting to put together a fight between Nurmagomedov and McGregor, assuming the Irishman can get through his legal battles after his arrest this past weekend.
Full Nurmagomedov post-fight press conference