UFC 165 was one of the most memorable mixed martial arts events of the year. Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson put on an instant classic, Renan Barao recorded a highlight-reel knockout and Brendan Schaub pulled off a D'arce choke to pick up a first-round submission win.
In the end, no fighter did as much to elevate his career as Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov defeated Pat Healy via unanimous decision to move to 21-0 overall and 5-0 in the UFC. He may not be the most high-profile fighter in the world, but the 25-year-old lightweight has carved out a resume worth reviewing.
If you ask Nurmagomedov, he's ready for a lightweight title fight.
Anthony Pettis will face Josh Thomson with the title on the line Dec. 14, 2013.
Nurmagomedov hasn't yet picked up a signature victory, and that could leave some believing that he's not yet ready for a title fight. With that being said, the Russian star has been executing strong fights since coming to UFC.
As a result, a title fight should be around the corner.
In 21 career fights, Nurmagomedov has gone 21-0 with seven knockouts, seven submissions and seven victories via decision. In that time, he's proven capable of going the distance, dominating on the mat or standing up and letting his fists fly.
That type of versatility is exactly what a UFC main event requires.
Both Pettis and Thomson are respected strikers who have the ability to take a fight to the mat and lock in a submission. Thomson proved as much with a TKO win over Nate Diaz in his most recent fight, while Pettis forced Benson Henderson to tap out.
Both fighters are lethal, and each will need a contender who can present a similar dual-threat approach.
Playing Nurmagomedov against either one of these men would create the potential for a fight-of-the-year type of battle. Nurmagomedov knows how to defend against takedown attempts, and when an opponent drops the gloves, he thrives in going on the attack.
After watching Gustafsson take Jones to the limit, the time for the UFC to take chances on rising stars is now.
Since February 2012, the men to contend for the UFC lightweight championship have been Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Diaz, Gilbert Melendez and Pettis. Each of those fighters remains somewhat in the running for another title shot and all could face Pettis or Thomson in the next title fight.
Instead of offering up a blast from the past, the UFC should present a rising star with an opportunity to create a new main event.
Nurmagomedov hasn't built up the resume of the previously listed fighters, but he's undefeated with 21 outings under his belt. He's the type of fresh face that the lightweight division needs to prove the depth that it possesses.
Win, lose or draw, it'd be a welcome change of pace.
Much could change between now and December, but at this current pace, Nurmagomedov deserves a title shot. He's been dominant during his professional career, and at UFC 165, the Russian star proved that he's ready for the main card.
Now, the UFC must push him to the main event with a lightweight title fight.
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