Khabib Nurmagomedov received a round of boos from the Madison Square Garden crowd after he referred to Conor McGregor as a “chicken” and compared Russia to Ireland.
But the actual in-Octagon performance by “The Eagle” in his submission win over Michael Johnson was one that was overlooked and lost in the hoopla of McGregor’s thrilling knockout of Eddie Alvarez and the “Fight of the Night” battle between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson over the welterweight title.
Nurmagomedov has not lost in eight UFC fights and 24 overall in his career. The 28-year-old returned from a two-year layoff in April and finished Darrell Horcher at UFC on FOX: Teixeira vs. Evans. He was scheduled to meet Tony Ferguson that night, but accepted the Horcher bout on short notice.
A little rust there was to be expected, plus some caution competing against a newcomer, but Nurmagomedov did what he always does.
Facing a Top-10 lightweight in Johnson, he likely should have looked and competed with even more caution. Considering the last big fight for Nurmagomedov was in 2014 when he earned a decision over former champion Rafael dos Anjos, patience would have been expected vs. the hard-hitting Johnson.
But that isn’t the style of Nurmagomedov.
The American Kickboxing Academy fighter went out, dominated Johnson and punished him for two-plus rounds before locking up an easy kimura and securing the win.
Nurmagomedov’s resume includes wins over Johnson, Horcher, dos Anjos, Pat Healy, Abel Trujillo, Thiago Tavares, Gleison Tibau and Kamal Shalorus.
Some might question if that is worthy of being the No. 1 contender, but when you hear constant whispering about fighting declining bouts with Nurmagomedov, what more can he do? Of those eight wins, four have been finishes including his last two now.
Maybe we can finally get that long-awaited and much-anticipated Nurmagomedov-Ferguson match up now.