Khabib Defends UFC Lightweight Title, Improves to 29-0 with Win vs. Gaethje

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2020

Russian UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, speaks after wining against UFC fighter Dustin Poirier, of Lafayette, La., during Lightweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 242, in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday , Sept.7 2019. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Khaled)
Mahmoud Khaled/Associated Press

Khabib Nurmagomedov extended his unbeaten record to 29-0 with a second-round submission win over Justin Gaehtje in the main event of UFC 254 from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

The Eagle utilized a triangle choke to draw the finish to add another impressive win to his unblemished resume.

Those expecting to see Nurmagomedov put his traditional grappling game into practice early were surprised. The first round was predominantly a striking round in which The Eagle didn't attempt a takedown until there was less than a minute remaining in the round.

Instead, Nurmagomedov pressured Gaethje and landed a flying knee that didn't seem to affect the Highlight.

The second round saw his signature grappling unleashed. A much more aggressive edition of Nurmagomedov secured a takedown and went to work. It wasn't long before the triangle was locked in and Gaethje was tapping.

The win was an incredibly emotional one for the champion. It was his first performance since the death of his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. The elder Nurmagomedov was a cornerstone figure in Khabib's MMA career as his trainer.

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Khabib shocked the MMA world in his post-fight interview announcing that he intends to walk away from the sport.

The 32-year-old Nurmagomedov is already among the most dominant champions of all time, and inactivity due to injury is the only thing that could be held against him.

Gaethje joins an already impressive list of names the champion has defeated that includes Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Rafael dos Anjos.

Despite another impressive victory, there are still some new options for the dominant champion in the top five of the division should he decide against his decision to walk away. A long-awaited fight against Tony Ferguson is still possible, while former Bellator champion Michael Chandler could be in the discussion too.