Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza
In the co-main event, a pivotal lightweight bout will take place, and at first glance, it appears to be a classic striker vs. grappler match.
Nurmagomedov, an undefeated 24-0 native of Dagestan, Russia, is without question one of the very best wrestlers in all of MMA. He’s a two-time Combat Sambo World Champion and he’s used that background in grappling to run through everyone in his path. He also possesses a strong submission game, as eight of his professional victories have come due to an opponent tapping out.
On the feet, “The Eagle” has been improving his skills at the highly touted American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. He has, however, at times, left himself a bit open, and he is hittable, which could prove to be a problem against a striker the caliber of Barboza.
Nonetheless, Nurmagomedov has implemented his style well into the Octagon. There are some criticisms aimed at the Russian, however, as he’s been quite inactive due to injuries. He’s also had issues with his weight cut at times. When healthy and on point, however, it’s clear that Nurmagomedov is one of the best 155-pounders in the world.
Barboza, on the other hand, is also one of the top fighters competing at lightweight, and he’s been on a roll as of late, as he’s won three consecutive bouts over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez, and Beniel Dariush.
As opposed to Nurmagomedov, Barboza is more of a striker. He’s a lethal Muay Thai tactician with 22 victories by way of T/KO and he owns some of the most emphatic knockout victories mixed martial arts has ever seen. Known most for his brutal kicks, the Brazilian also uses a wide array of punches and knees to land on his opponents.
On the ground, Barboza is no slouch, as he owns a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Ricardo Almeida. He also trains with strong wrestlers like Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez, but it’s safe to say that he’s never faced someone with the wrestling pedigree and top control of Nurmagomedov.
In this bout, I think Nurmagomedov’s inactivity and the fact that he has indeed been hittable in the past raise question marks. If Barboza lands a big shot, the fight could end before the final bell. However, if “The Eagle’s” striking defense is on point, I expect his grappling and control to be too much.
Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Edson Barboza via unanimous decision