UFC 165: Which Fight Will Steal the Show in Toronto?

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterSeptember 19, 2013

UFC lightweight Pat Healy
UFC lightweight Pat HealyBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Unless your interest in fighting peaks with the tale of the tape, there's a pretty good chance the main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 isn't going to satisfy your need for balanced competition.

It's always a treat to watch Jones do his thing, mind you. And Gustafsson is a fine light heavyweight.

It's just that anything short of a dismantling would shock pretty much every non-Swedish viewing demographic. The light heavyweight champ is just that far above his contemporaries.

A similar problem exists in the co-main event, where interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao is expected to make target practice out of Eddie Wineland while he waits for the return of the only man who appears capable of threatening him: lineal belt holder Dominick Cruz.

So where does that leave us? Which fight will steal the show in Toronto Saturday night?

I say cast your eyes toward the bottom of the pay-per-view card to two outstanding lightweight grapplers in Pat Healy and Russian phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov.

In case you didn't know, both men are in or hovering near the top 10 in major MMA rankings. And they both have a lot on the line.

Healy is returning to action after serving a momentum-killing 90-day drug suspension, which came down soon after his scintillating UFC debut, a Submission- and Fight-of-the-Night victory over Jim Miller.

Healy is a very large lightweight with one thing on his mind: takedowns and submissions.

Well, that's two things, but you know what I mean. His striking isn't Jake Shields bad, but it's pretty utilitarian, with the utility being its ability to set up clinching and ultimately the aforementioned takedowns and submissions. Healy's tough as nails and as grizzled a veteran as they come. You can't shock-and-awe this guy.

That's not good news for Nurmagomedov, for whom shock and awe is the standard operation.

Like Healy, Nurmagomedov is a grappler first and foremost. He actually set a UFC record for takedowns in his last bout, in which he treated Blackzilian Abel Trujillo the way a bulldog treats a Koosh ball. It was very rude.

The 24-year-old, who is 20-0 overall and 4-0 in the UFC, has a striking edge over Healy, given that he uses footwork and is probably going to be a lot quicker than his 30-year-old opponent.

But here's what makes it a great fight: Neither man would appear vulnerable to the other man's bread and butter.

Healy will not be easily rag-dolled. Nurmagomedov will not be easily ground down. Though Nurmagomedov is capable of pulling a knockout here, it's far from a given against a tough (if slightly chinny) customer in Healy. 

So it should come down to a battle of wills. The pure athleticism of Nurmagomedov, the true grit of Healy.

Insert cliche about forces and objects here, with a place at the contender's banquet table resting in the balance.