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Khabib
Nurmagomedov
rose to the top of the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
’s lightweight division with
cold, calculated efficiency and an almost psychotic pursuit of
excellence.

The Dagestani juggernaut’s career record now sits at 28-0 and
includes a run of 12 consecutive victories inside the Octagon.
Nurmagomedov quieted his few remaining skeptics at UFC 229, where
he submitted Conor
McGregor
with a fourth-round neck crank to retain the
undisputed lightweight championship and cement his claim as the
sport’s alpha male at 155 pounds. His pristine resume features 10
wins by submission, eight wins by knockout or technical knockout
and 10 wins by unanimous decision. Though the riddle remains
unsolved, Nurmagomedov still has potential hurdles in front of him,
most notably Tony
Ferguson
and Justin
Gaethje
.

In a career already full of defining moments, here are five that
stand out:

1. Close Call

Detractors point to one Nurmagomedov fight more than any other: his
controversial unanimous decision over
American Top Team
’s Gleison
Tibau
under the UFC 148 flag on July 7, 2012 in Las Vegas. All
three judges scored it 30-27 for “The Eagle,” who struggled to get
in gear against the hulking Tibau. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black
belt stuffed all 13 of Nurmagomedov’s takedown attempts and
outstruck him by a narrow margin. However, the unbeaten Russian was
the chief aggressor for much of the match, and despite surrendering
a takedown to Tibau in the third round, his persistence paid off in
the eyes of the judges.

2. Another Shutout

Nurmagomedov improved to 20-0 and flexed his superiority, as he
procured a unanimous decision over Abel
Trujillo
in a one-sided undercard affair at UFC 160 on May 25,
2013 in Las Vegas. The
American Kickboxing Academy
standout swept the cards with 30-27
scores. Trujillo, who entered the cage on the strength of a
five-fight winning streak, never had a chance. Nurmagomedov
overwhelmed the Greensboro, North Carolina, native with repeated
takedowns, many of them from the rear waistlock position. He
threatened with submissions throughout the first round, applied his
ground-and-pound in spurts and generally made Trujillo’s life
miserable for 15 minutes. By the time it was over, Nurmagomedov had
recorded a single-fight record 21 takedowns.

3. Bully Beatdown

Rarely has such a high-level fight been so one-sided. Nurmagomedov
made an example of Michael
Johnson
at UFC 205 on Nov. 12, 2016, as he submitted “The
Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 finalist with a third-round kimura at
Madison Square Garden in New York. He landed 140 of his 190 total
strikes, executed two takedowns and passed guard six times,
taunting Johnson—he could be heard urging him to quit—while he
tortured him. While “The Menace” was reasonably competitive in the
first round, the same cannot be said for the second and third.
Across those seven-plus minutes, Johnson found the mark with just
four of his 26 attempted strikes. Nurmagomedov by comparison
connected on 91 of them, then isolated an arm and dismissed the

Hard Knocks 365
rep 2:31 into Round 3.

4. A King Holds Court

In the absence of McGregor and Ferguson, Nurmagomedov swept to
power inside lightweight division with a unanimous decision over
“The Ultimate Fighter 15” finalist Al Iaquinta
in the UFC 223 main event on April 7, 2018. Scores at the Barclays
Center in Brooklyn, New York, read more like a coronation than a
competition: 50-44, 50-43 and 50-43. Nurmagomedov secured half a
dozen takedowns, outlanded Iaquinta by eye-popping margins—134-41
in significant strikes, 172-43 in total strikes—and executed seven
guard passes against the Serra-Longo Fight Team standout. None of
the rounds were close by any standard of measure. Nurmagomedov even
outstruck “Raging Al” on the feet, where he deployed a punishing
jab and mixed in occasional uppercuts, one of which had the
Wantagh, New York, native’s nose leaking like a sieve in the fifth
round. With that, the undisputed UFC lightweight championship was
vacant no more.

5. Diamond Cutter

Nurmagomedov bolstered his resume and grew his legend, as he
submitted Dustin
Poirier
with a rear-naked choke in the third round of their UFC
242 headliner on Sept. 7, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Poirier decided it was time to call it a day 2:06 into Round 3,
becoming the latest victim of a runaway Dagestani freight train.
Nurmagomedov offered the Lafayette, Louisiana, native a few
glimmers of hope: Poirier appeared to connect with a sharp right
hand in the second round and went all-in on a guillotine choke in
the third. It was a classic case of fool’s gold. Nurmagomedov
extricated himself from the guillotine, moved to the American Top
Team rep’s back and snuck the rear-naked choke into place when
Poirier made the mistake of leaving his chin too high and his neck
exposed.


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