Former Bellator lightweight champion and perennial contender Michael Chandler may not compete in the UFC’s lightweight division, but that doesn’t stop him from keeping an eye out on their talent.
Chandler specifically spoke about newly-minted UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s performance at UFC 223 and how it exposed his perceived weaknesses during a recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast (via Bloody Elbow):
“If all he has is wrestling, how do you beat a man that can’t be taken down?”
“(UFC 223) showed chinks in (Khabib’s) armor, and showed what happens when Khabib can’t take you down. It’s tough whenever the one thing that you’ve always been used to dominating with isn’t working, and then you’re stuck throwing punches.”
Nurmagomedov took on Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 after his original opponent Tony Ferguson was forced to pull out with an injury the week of the fight. Iaquinta’s wrestling, while strong, isn’t on par with Nurmagomedov but he was still able to stuff several takedowns and keep the fight on the feet, especially in the later rounds.
Because of that fact, Khabib was forced to exercise his striking for much of the fight, so Chandler stated that he was a little behind in that aspect. But he stopped his criticism short to note that ‘The Eagle’ has often appeared unbeatable as well:
“He’s a little bit behind in the striking aspect,” he continued. “I’ve got a ton of respect for the guy, (he’s a) mauler. At certain times, he looks unbeatable. He has looked unbeatable where I’ve looked at it, and other people looked at it, and people that have fought him that I’ve talked to.”
Chandler (18-4) then compared his style to Nurmagomedov’s in how both men make their opponents quit and that unspoken quality that has made both men champions of their respective promotions:
“It’s a battle of wills, man. I knew I could outpace people, I knew I could out-cardio them, I could out-tough them. Certain people get to that breaking point, and they break and they concede, and they go into their shell, and they say ‘I did a good job.’”
Does the former Bellator champion have a point about Khabib’s performance at UFC 223?