Umar, the cousin of former undefeated UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, made his first appearance in the Octagon in the promotion’s second card of the year. Before establishing his name on MMA’s biggest stage, the 25-year-old had built an unblemished 12-0 record that included six submission triumphs.
At UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs. Magny on Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island, Nurmagomedov returned to action for the first time since 2019, squaring off against Kazakhstan’s Sergey Morozov, who was also debuting that night. With “The Eagle” in his corner, the Russian prospect got off to the perfect start in the UFC, submitting Morozov with a second-round rear-naked choke.
Cormier Chooses Umar Over Garry & Pimblett
For color commentator Cormier, who trained at American Kickboxing Academy alongside Khabib and the UFC’s large Dagestani contingent, Umar made the biggest splash out of any debuting UFC prospect in 2021. That’s despite a host of exciting new talents making themselves known in the Octagon across the last 12 months.
Among them are Ireland’s Ian Garry and England’s Paddy Pimblett. While Garry, tipped by many to be the next Conor McGregor, delivered a highlight-reel knockout against Jordan Williams at Madison Square Garden in November, Pimblett delivered on his promise to finish Luigi Vendramini inside one round two months prior.
But despite both men finishing their opponents inside the opening frame, the pair experienced early adversity and perhaps displayed less sound defense than Nurmagomedov.
Speaking on a recent episode of DC & RC, Cormier cited the less-clean nature of Pimblett and Garry’s debuts as his reason for choosing the Russian.
“He (Pimblett) got hurt. Great performance, but he got hurt. I think I’m gonna do Ian Garry, was Ian Garry hurt? I think Ian Garry got hurt… I’m tapping out, only because they got hurt a little, but still, very impressed by Paddy, and very, very impressed by Ian Garry.
“This guy, this guy right here (Umar Nurmagomedov). That’s the guy that had the most impressive debut for a prospect. But I forgot about it. Like John said on ABC, it seems so far away. But you remember, Ryan. You remember Umar Nurmagomedov, right? Yes. Him taking the guy down, and choking him out; the whole thing, right? ‘I made my debut better than Khabib,’ that’s the performance. That’s the one. And guess what? He was clean. That’s the performance for me that I’m gonna say was the most elite prospect debut in the UFC.” (h/t Sportskeeda)
Having not appeared since his debut victory in January, Umar looked set for the chance to continue his rise up the bantamweight ladder in the first quarter of 2022. The 25-year-old was booked to face UK prospect Jack Shore on the March 19 UFC Fight Night card. The event is expected to signal the promotion’s return to London, England.
However, Nurmagomedov has been forced to withdraw and has been replaced by his compatriot Timur Valiev. With that in mind, the wait for the highly-touted prospect’s return goes on.
Which UFC prospect impressed you the most in their debut this year?