Which UFC Fighters Can Beat Khabib Nurmagomedov?
Now that the dust has settled after UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s dominant UFC 229 title defense against Conor McGregor, many fans are wondering who will be next to challenge the undefeated Russian champ.
There’re plenty of candidates besides the always-viable McGregor, and in this piece, we’ll take a look at who these men are and who can beat Khabib Nurmagomedov in the UFC.
- Tony Ferguson
Tony Ferguson is a well-rounded and highly skillful lightweight contender who picked-up a tremendous win and “Fight of the Night” bonus at UFC 229. In the co-main event of the evening, Ferguson engaged in a back-and-forth brawl against former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis. Ferguson walked Pettis down throughout the match and ultimately secured a TKO victory.
Ferguson can potentially beat Nurmagomedov for a few different reasons.
1) First, he is incredibly tough to take down. Ferguson’s takedown defense is just as good as his formidable takedown offense, and he can dictate where contests play-out.
2) Ferguson knows his stuff on the canvas (he has a wrestling background and BJJ black belt). The BJJ black belt is highly aware on the mat, and he’s finished multiple top-level opponents via submission – D’Arce choke, rear-naked choke, triangle choke.
3) Khabib has a great cardio but Ferguson also has heart and cardio for days. The man always comes prepared to fight for twenty-five minutes, and he seems to find a way to whatever his opponents throw at him.
4) Tony cuts about the same amount of weight as Khabib so Nurmagomedov won’t have an advantage in size like he usually does.
Overall, Ferguson is the most well-rounded fighter Khabib ever fought before. Tony has a professional record 24-3 but he is on an 11-fight winning streak. His one and only UFC loss came from Michael Johnson back in 2012 but it’s worth mentioning that most of the contest Tony fought Johnson with the broken left forearm. Since then, he beat guys like Edson Barboza, Rafael dos Anjos, Kevin Lee, and Anthony Pettis.
According to Khabib’s father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson is a very tough opponent for Khabib – more dangerous than Conor McGregor. “McGregor is only dangerous for Khabib in the first round, Ferguson – throughout the whole fight”. Abdulmanap also mentioned in one of the interviews that Ferguson is dangerous on the distance because of the longer reach but Khabib would have an advantage in exchange stand up striking inside the pocket.
A potential fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson is very much possible as Khabib publicly announced that he wants to finally face Tony before he ends his MMA career. Those two are actually been booked to fight one another about five different times during the last half-decade. There seems to be some “bad mojo” working against the match, however, as both Ferguson and Nurmagomeov have been forced to withdraw from each scheduled bout, the most recent of which was intended to be UFC 223’s main event.
- Georges St. Pierre
Yes, you read that name correctly.
Former UFC Welterweight and Middleweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, who is considered by many to be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, has long voiced his interest in dropping to lightweight; he frequently cites his medium-sized frame and light natural weight as proof that he can make 155 pounds. Now, the French-Canadian icon says that if he does come back, he would like to lock horns with Khabib Nurmagomedov, if only because the Dagestani is undefeated and considered by some to be unbeatable.
GSP vs Nurmagomedov is actually pretty conceivable from all perspectives. Khabib will get a massive payday and a chance to beat one of the best fighters ever, GSP will cash-in while adding to his legacy, and the UFC – well, the UFC will get another huge fight to profit from.
GSP would be a tricky fight for Nurmagomedov. “Rush” has impeccable takedown abilities, and he could very well thwart all of Khabib’s efforts to take the fight to the canvas. Plus, because he’ll be coming down from welterweight or middleweight, more precisely – the size advantage will be his. Throw in solid cardio, precise punching abilities, lots of experience and it’s easy to see why Georges St. Pierre could potentially beat Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov.
- Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje is very much the dark horse in the UFC’s lightweight division, and the UFC could surprise fans and pundits by making Khabib’s second title defense against Justin. This guy is a rare talent.
The former World Series of Fighting Lightweight Champion, Justin Gaethje is a power-punching, all-action, balls-to-the-wall mixed martial artist if ever there was one. Every fight he’s involved in is riveting to watch, and he invariably wins via knockout or gets finished himself.
In the UFC, though, despite a couple setbacks, it’s been more of the former than the latter, for Gaethje. He’s coming off a blistering first-round knockout over James Vick, and he also finished Michael Johnson with strikes; he gave Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez ultra-difficult fights as well. Finally, in just four UFC matches, Gaethje has earned five post-fight bonuses and possesses the highest post-fight bonus ratio in promotional history.
Although fans wouldn’t know it from watching Gaethje fight, the hard-hitting brawler was an elite NCAA Division 1 wrestler. Gaethje always uses his wrestling to keep fights standing, but if he wanted to, he could take other athletes down. Against Nurmagomedov, though, this style and pedigree would be massive advantages; Justin has the cardio and takedown defense to potentially force Khabib to stay standing for twenty-five minutes. He would be the most decorated and skillful wrestler Nurmagomedov has fought in his career, and there’s no telling how their match would end as Gaethje has a chance to win against anybody.
- Tyron Woodley
Tyron Woodley might not be a lightweight, but he’s a smart businessman who’s always looking for a payday, especially when it comes in the form of a super fight.
Stylistically, Woodley has all the tools required to best Khabib. He’s physically large, and his takedown defense is second-to-none. Plus, T-Wood possesses thunderous power in his hands – power that’ll make Khabib think twice about spamming takedowns or leaving his chin up.
And if a Woodley vs Nurmagomedov fight seems unlikely, remember that the UFC is now in the super fight era. Michael Bisping – GSP, Daniel Cormier – Stipe Miocic, Joanna Jędrzejczyk – Valentina Schevchenko, Conor McGregor – Eddie Alvarez, and most recently, TJ Dillashaw – Henry Cejudo serve as proof of the point. Thus, it’s a distinct possibility that Khabib moves up to clash with Woodley in a pay-per-view extravaganza.
All the listed fighters could be Khabib’s next opponent – so as can Conor McGregor if Khabib agrees for a re-match. Similarly, all these men mentioned above have what it takes to potentially defeat Nurmagomedov and give him his first loss in the UFC. Khabib is tough and there is no question about it – he is one of the best lightweights in the history of the sport. But Tony Ferguson, Georges St. Pierre, Justin Gaethje and Tyron Woodley are top-level in their own right and they could be a danger even for a champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.
What comes next for the undefeated Dagestani fighter depends on the result of the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s review of his UFC 229 post-fight crowd-jump and a brawl. If previous NSAC punishments are any indication, it’s possible that Khabib could be issued a light suspension that keeps him shelved until early 2019.
What do you guys think, who else can beat Khabib Nurmagomedov, who you got? You are welcome to share your opinion in the comments!