Despite hiccips with the lineup, UFC 223 shaped up to be an exciting evening of fights, culminating with Khabib Nurmagomedov claiming UFC’s lightweight title in dominant fashion Saturday (April 7) from Brooklyn, NY’s Barclays Center.
Khabib (26-0) easily took a five-round decision against last minute challenger Al Iaquinta, and while his performance was dominant, some (even the commentators) were taken back that it went to the judges’ scorecards… or that Iaquinta even lasted so long.
In the end, the judges scored the fight 50-43, 50-43 and 50-44 for a unanimous decision.
While Nurmagomedov was crowned the UFC’s new official lightweight champion, the UFC also stripped Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson of their titles.
“Al Iaquinta is the real gangster,” Nurmagomedov said after the fight, before taking a jab at McGregor, who caused havoc on the UFC 223 media day by throwing objects at a bus carrying Khabib and other fights, and injuring two. “This is not about chicken. Where is Conor? He’s going to fight a bus? I want to fight real guys.”
Iaquinta has heart, but never really came close to giving Khabib any trouble. Nurmagomedov took him down in the opening two rounds very easily and reigned down punches on the matt. However, in the third and fourth rounds, Nurmagomedov kept the fight standing — despite how easily he dominanted on the floor — landing his jab over and over again while talking to Iaquinta.
Khabib was originally scheduled to face Tony Ferguson for the undisputed title, but Ferguson withdrew from the bout days earlier due to a knee injury. Featherweight champion Max Holloway stepped up to take Ferguson’s place, but was forced off the card Friday (April 6), after the New York State Athletic Commission ruled him medically unfit to compete during his short-notice weight cut. So, it was Long Island’s Iaquinta (13-4-2) who got the last minute call.
What’s next for Khabib? He says he wants to fight Georges St-Pierre.
In the co-main event, Rose Namajunas proved she’s a true champion and that her upset victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in November was no fluke, as she defended her title and earned a unanimous decision in their anticipated rematch.
In their second meeting, Jedrzejczyk actually outlanded Namajunas in total strikes by a significant margin… but it was “Thug” Rose who landed all the significant shots.
Namajunas stunned Jedrzejczyk with a left hook late in the first round and busted her nose with combinations in the fifth, leaving the former champ busted up. Jedrzejczyk, however, landed continuous leg kicks on Rose that left her lead leg badly bruised.
“I’m just better, man,” Rose said after the fight.