Khabib Nurmagomedov has run through every opponent on his way to a spectacular 29-0 MMA record.
But staying undefeated isn’t what makes him so incredibly famous. Jon Jones has never technically tasted defeat, Israel Adesanya is on quite a run too, and there are so many up and coming fighters with an ‘0’ in their records, but what makes Khabib so special is the way he does his thing.
Almost everyone knows what he’s going to do, yet nobody has the answer to his relentless pressure, and annihilating wrestling prowess. What makes him invincible is the fact that he makes high-level fighters look like amateurs, and does so, without a scratch on his face. We don’t get to see this very often in a sport that is so indiscriminately brutal.
However, styles make fights, and to give Khabib any sort of problems, the right kind of skill set is needed. Here’s a list of fighters who make a strong case against the undefeated Russian superstar.
Georges St-Pierre is by far the best bet against Khabib, and fortunately, a fight between the two is quite likely down the road. GSP is the greatest MMA fighter of all time in the eyes of many, and rightly so. He, like the undefeated lightweight champion, dominated his era. Unlike Khabib however, he looked vincible at times.
Nonetheless, he’s got the perfect skills. He’s not only better at stand-up than Khabib, but he’s also a great wrestler and has made a career out of smothering his opponents. Nurmagomedov has come leaps and bounds in terms of his striking and is arguably one of the best grapplers in MMA history. A fight between the two would be very competitive. The only key factor is age and ring rust.
GSP is past his prime yet in great shape. But Khabib is in his prime, and he looks better than ever. If prime St-Pierre and prime Khabib were to fight, GSP would have the edge, by a slight margin. Right now, Khabib has the advantage, but not a major one either.
This is the fight to make.
A lot of MMA fans want to see Khabib move up to welterweight to challenge Kamaru Usman, and it’s a great suggestion. These are two men in their prime, sitting at the top of their division and dominating one fighter after another.
Both are incredible wrestlers, and might possibly cancel each other out on the mat. Skill-wise, Khabib’s the better wrestler, but Usman can use his strength and size to his advantage. He might be ‘The Eagle’s’ toughest challenge since Gleison Tibau. On the feet, Usman has a slight technical edge over the Russian, but a major power advantage. Khabib hasn’t really shown a weak chin in his fights, and can take a shot, but would he be able to withstand Usman’s power?
— UFC (@ufc) January 15, 2018
‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has a good chance of handing Khabib his first loss.
Charles Oliveira was the UFC lightweight division’s dark horse until he turned into a hot favorite overnight after manhandling Tony Ferguson at UFC 256. People immediately started arguing how his style could be the solution to the Khabib puzzle, and they do have a point.
He is pure violence on his feet, but that’s not the worry for Khabib, who has fought some of the best strikers in the game. The big question is whether Khabib would be able to avoid the submission attempts and if he gets caught in one, would he be able to get out of it?
— MMA mania (@mmamania) December 13, 2020
Oliveira doesn’t have a massive chance like GSP or Usman, but he has a better chance than every single top-five lightweight fighter in the UFC.
To beat Khabib, you’ve got to put him to sleep, and Oliveira’s chokeholds could do the trick.
Garry Tonon is a grappling phenom, who has only recently transitioned into MMA and competes in ONE Championship. He is 6-0 in MMA, but has won dozens of gold medals in grappling and jiu-jitsu competitions throughout his career. The American has also expressed his interest in competing against Khabib.
Grappling wizard Garry Tonon locks in a tight guillotine to force the tap from Sung Jong Lee at 2:04 of Round 2! @Garry_Tonon #WeAreONE #HeartOfTheLion #Singapore #MartialArts pic.twitter.com/4E3T3MKKkY
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) November 9, 2018
While he doesn’t really have the elite MMA skills needed to pose a major threat to Khabib, he would, like Oliveira, pose a great deal of threat on the mat. He also has a variety of submission moves and is a crafty ground fighter.
He’s definitely a dark horse.
Let’s be real, it’s never going to happen, not even for a gazillion dollars. But honestly, Islam Makhachev vs Khabib Nurmagomedov would be a great fight. Both have a similar style, and know each other like they know their five fingers.
There are only a few disparities between the two fighters. For example, Islam has a slight striking advantage, while Khabib is miles ahead in terms of experience. Other than that, they are one and the same. That is why Khabib has his cousin in his lightweight top three, which also includes Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, both of whom are expected to compete at UFC 257.
It’s about time Makhachev starts working on himself, and fight regularly because he truly has the potential to be a champion.
Apart from the five fighters mentioned above, who do you think stands a chance against Khabib Nurmagomedov? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
Also take a look at our preview of UFC Fight Island 7, headlined by featherweight contenders Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar.
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