UFC 223 Review: Khabib keeps his cool to set up possible McGregor clash
What a whirlwind UFC 223 was! After an unprecedented build-up in Brooklyn which saw dramatic pull-outs left, right and centre, Khabib Nurmagomedov finally became lightweight champion.
It all began with Tony Ferguson pulling out of the fight with an injury. Featherweight champion Max Holloway stepped in as a late replacement. However, he then was stepped down, deemed “medically unfit” to fight.
Sandwiched in between that drama, Conor McGregor and co. flew across the Atlantic to really throw a spanner in the works.
Videos and stills captured inside the arena reportedly showed the Irishman and his entourage attacking a bus carrying a number of the fighters – including Nurmagomedov – throwing an equipment dolly at it, shattering one of its windows.
That allegedly injured two of the fighters who were then subsequently pulled from the card. Artem Lobov – with McGregor at the time – was due to fight at the Barclays Center but was also pulled by Dana White.
It was a dramatic chain of events that held the global media’s attention for a number of days. But the card still went ahead as Al Iaquinta stepped up to face Khabib, with Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk the co-main event.
Khabib becomes the champ
Despite the massive uncertainty over who he would face, Nurmagomedov kept his cool to put in a dominant display in defeating Iaquinta by unanimous decision.
The bout went the scheduled five rounds with the Brooklyn native putting in a brave showing on home soil against the Russian.
But Khabib has now extended his unbeaten MMA record to a perfect 26-0 and finally becomes the UFC Lightweight champion.
Namajunas performance no fluke
Many felt that Rose Namajunas could be a flash in the pan following her victory over Poland’s Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
But the strawweight champion put in another hardy performance to defend her title. The original bout was a shock first-round stoppage to the American.
However, the rematch went all the way to the scorecards with Namajunas winning by unanimous decision. Weight cuts have been offered as an excuse for Jedrejczyk’s two defeats. So it is unlikely she’ll be seen fighting at 125lbs again.
Can Khabib-Conor be made?
It simply has to be. It’s arguably the biggest fight Dana White and the UFC have on their roster right now.
Whether staged or real, McGregor’s reported bus attack has set the scene for one of the all-time great MMA rivalries. And possibly one of the biggest PPV fights in the UFC’s history.
Of course, it’s not just the only big bout out there. Tony Ferguson will want his shot at Khabib. The Nate Diaz-Conor McGregor trilogy fight is still a possibility. Plus Georges St-Pierre is still hanging around looking for a legacy match-up.
But Nurmagomedov v McGregor is the fight everyone will want to see now. The Russian has taken what McGregor earned.
Can the Irishman find the fiery hunger he had before Floyd Mayweather flashed millions of dollars in front of him?
UFC 223 Card/Results:
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-43, 50-43)
Rose Namajunas (c) def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Renato Moicano def. Calvin Kattar via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Kyle Bochniak via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Chris Gruetzemacher def. Joe Lauzon via second-round TKO (corner stoppage)
Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Felice Herrig via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Evan Dunham via first-round TKO (strikes)
Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Bec Rawlings via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Devin Clark def. Michael Rodriguez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication