The only thing Khabib Nurmagomedov has done wrong in the UFC hasn’t even happened inside the Octagon. The now 20-0 Russian fighter missed weight for his fight vs. Abel Trujillo at UFC 160, forfeiting 20 percent of his purse.
The former Combat Sambo world champion may be a little lighter in the pocket due to his weight infraction, but he is now rich in opportunity and will face someone in the upper echelon of the 155-pound division in his next fight.
In what Dana White described as an “ugly wrestling clinic” at the post-fight media scrum, Nurmagomedov dominated Trujillo in the grappling department for the entire three rounds, cruising to a unanimous 30-27 victory.
Nicknamed “The Eagle,” the Russian fighter from AKA took down the Blackzilian protege at will, shattering the UFC takedown record for one fight. He hit 21 out of 27 attempts, surpassing Sean Sherk's record of 16 that was set in a five-round title fight at UFC 73, back in 2007.
Nurmagomedov has now won his first four fights in the UFC. He has proven his worth by finishing Kamal Shalorus and Thiago Tavares—who are two very credible grapplers—while also showing he can grind out a decision in his win vs. Gleison Tibau.
This isn’t a young fighter the UFC needs to groom. He is a 24-year-old phenom it needs to unleash.
“The Eagle” has yet to taste defeat in 20 professional fights and has already been ranked in the Top 10 in the lightweight rankings. Josh Thompson and Pat Healy’s recent performances were the only reason he was bumped out of the Top 10.
Will the undefeated Red Fury fighter be tested by a higher-ranked 155er the next time out?
“He needs to fight higher-caliber guys,” White said.
Yes he does.
After his performance at UFC 160, Nurmagomedov should find himself back inside the Top 10 of the UFC rankings.
As far as his next fight, Pat Healy or Josh Thomson sound like good matchups. Either opponent will test if he belongs among the elite of the 155-pound division.
Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.