Co-Main Event: Edson Barboza versus Khabib Nurmagomedov
The UFC lightweight division is perhaps the most competitive and fast-changing in all of MMA; the last five men to claim the crown will have, at the time of UFC 219, not defended the belt more than a single time before being defeated. And few fighters better convey just how cutthroat the competition is in the UFC’s lightweight class than Edson Barboza and Khabib Nurmagomedov—two men who could very well fight for the title soon.
Bluntly put, Edson Barboza has no weakness inside the Octagon. The well-versed Brazilian can just as quickly smash an opponent with a spinning wheel kick while striking as he can trap his competitor with a guillotine choke on the mat. However, if pressed, most fans will probably admit that Barboza’s real specialty is his stand-up. He possesses a unique combination of flexibility, power, and accuracy that is seldom seen, and that has resulted in a highlight reel jam-packed with blistering finishes. Barboza has earned victories over Evan Dunham, Bobby Green, Paul Felder, Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez, Beneil Dariush, and many others.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, a hard-nosed Dagestani and American Kickboxing Academy product, rarely wastes his time striking, but instead relies on his well-known wrestling specialty to power opponents to the mat and overwhelm them once there. Nurmagomedov is accordingly a rare, rare fighter, much in the same way Cyborg is, in that all his opponents know what he’ll try to do, but are unable to stop him from doing so. To date, Nurmagomedov is undefeated as a professional—including twenty-four total fights and eight UFC bouts. He’s bested the likes of Michael Johnson, Rafael dos Anjos, Gleison Tibau, and many others, and he’s the last and most successful example of a pure grappler in MMA.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Nurmagomedov will probably shoot in for takedowns against Barboza, and Edson will try to counter these attempts with his outstanding flying strikes. It’s very tough to predict whether or not Barboza will clip Khabib outright, but the undefeated Russian does have a couple of critical factors besides his opponent working against him: a grueling weight cut and ring rust. Nurmagomedov suffered a debilitating knee injury in late 2014, and more recently, had a scheduled fight against Tony Ferguson for the lightweight title canceled because of complications that arose while he (Nurmagomedov) was cutting weight. Khabib, therefore, hasn’t fought since November 2016. Given these other pertinent elements surrounding this match, it’s a distinct possibility that Barboza will catch Nurmagomedov early and win via TKO. However, the longer the fight goes, the more it favors Nurmagomedov.
Official Prediction: Edson Barboza def. Khabib Nurmagomedov via TKO, Round 1
Verbatim: Just in case it still isn’t clear, UFC 219 is a fantastic fight card that every MMA follower should be sure to watch; the bouts described in this piece comprise only some of those that’ll go down at the event, and there’s no telling how all these matches will play out (seriously—take the fight predictions with a grain of salt!). The action once again goes down on 30 December 2017, from Las Vegas, Nevada, and will be broadcasted on Fight Pass at 6:30 EST (3:30 PST), and then Fox Sports 1 at 8:00 PM EST (5:00 PM PST), and finally, on pay-per-view at 10:00 PM EST (7:00 PM PST).
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