Khabib Nurmagomedov holds one of the longest winning streaks in MMA. But is he as good as it suggests?
One of those is his name, a tongue-twisting trap of conflicting consonants that's nearly impossible to spell or pronounce without some outside help.
But Nurmagomedov's other distinguishing feature is his 18-0 undefeated professional fight record.
That's 18 fights over four years without a single huccup—no draws and not a single "no contest" marring that flawless record.
According to Fight Matrix's exhaustive database, not one single active MMA fighter in the world holds an undefeated streak like that—and at a glance, it's even more impressive when you consider that "The Eagle" is just 24 years old.
But ultimately, that 18-0 record has a few major asterisks attached.
It's only when looking a bit closer at his career that Nurmagomedov suddenly doesn't appear to be as good as the raw numbers suggest. In fact, it's fair to say that the international Sambo champion has done a lot of work padding his record against overmatched journeymen.
When will Khabib get his first loss?
Prior to joining the UFC, Nurmagomedov fought 16 men exclusively in Russia and Ukraine, stomping out opponents in promotions such as M-1 Global and Pro FC.
But put together, all 16 of those opponents currently add up to a combined 96 wins and 88 losses—not a stellar mark by any means, especially since only eight of them have a winning record.
Most damning of all are Nurmagomedov's past bouts against the likes of Ashot Shahinyan (0-4) and Vadim Sandulitsky (2-2).
By the time "The Eagle" faced them in combat, he was already a dominant prospect with double-digits in the win column—not exactly an even playing field.
But even with clear can-crushing padding his record, Nurmagomedov has nonetheless defeated far more talented men like current Bellator fighter Shahbulat Shamhalaev (11-1), former UFC competitor Kamal Shalorus and six-year UFC veteran Gleison Tibau.
That's why heading into UFC on FX 7, Nurmagomedov's main card fight with Thiago Tavares will be a more interesting opener than fans might think.
After all, staying undefeated in 18 fights is only impressive as long the fighter in question continues to win. Now that "The Eagle" is settling himself into the UFC's talent-stacked lightweight division, he may as well be a 2-0 prospect rather than a seasoned pro with 18 career wins.