Following #ConorMcGregor's historic #UFC205 win over #EddieAlvarez, Russian lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov has emerged as a the number-one contender to McGregor's new lightweight belt, looming over the division like an ominous storm cloud.
Even before McGregor vs. Alvarez was announced, Nurmagomedov was approached for a shot at the belt, even given a pair of contracts to fight for the title at #MadisonSquareGarden and at #UFC206. However, the "Notorious" ultimately jumped the line and claimed his second simultaneous UFC title.
And while everyone from #FloydMayweather to #NateDiaz has been mentioned as McGregor's next opponent, Nurmagomedov has distinguished himself at the division's most deserving challenger. Even Snoop Dogg agrees.
Upping his undefeated record to 24 wins and zero losses after toying with, and finishing, #MichaelJohnson at UFC 205, Khabib makes sense as the next lightweight contender. #TonyFerguson, who recently won his ninth-straight bout inside the Octagon, is a definitely another worthy contender, but Khabib's recent performance has pushed him to the front of the queue.
Prior to UFC 205, Nurmagomedov himself was hoping for an Alvarez win at the UFC's New York City debut. He believed that McGregor would avoid his dominant wrestling and sambo prowess at all costs; Alvarez's history of facing any challenger presented would increase Khabib's chances of landing a title shot.
Of course, McGregor claimed the title, and then went on to to dismiss the Russian lightweight as a "habitual pullout merchant."
And now, with McGregor atop the lightweight division, a bout with Nurmagomedov seems more and more unlikely. Khabib's wrestling and ground and pound may just be too good for the Irish champ to want to risk his new distinction as the UFC's first simultaneous two-division champ. It's one of those styles make fights scenarios.
But should they fight, McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov could have a gripping narrative, like Balboa vs. Drago in Rocky IV: the undefeated behemoth from the Eastern Bloc versus the charismatic fan favorite.
McGregor would have a mammoth test to rise up to, and the Irish fans would come out in force. It would be Russia, the global superpower of 150 million nationals, against the tiny-but-passionate Republic of Ireland.
The fight would be fascinating on narrative alone, but it would also be interesting to see from a technical perspective. What adjustments would Conor have to make to deal with Khabib? He is a nightmare for 155 pound fighters.
Khabib has already made his stance clear -- he's fighting for the UFC title, or he's going elsewhere. McGregor, on the other hand, seems to be in no rush to return to action until his financial future with the UFC is cleared up. And while there are a bevvy of viable contenders to face McGregor next, Nurmagomedov leads the pack.
UFC Lightweight Rankings
- Conor McGregor (Champion)
- #1 - Khabib Nurmagomedov
- #2 - Tony Ferguson
- #3 - Eddie Alvarez
- #4 - Rafael dos Anjos
- #5 - Nate Diaz
- #6 - Edson Barboza
- #7 - Michael Johnson
- #8 - Michael Chiesa
- #9 - Beneil Dariush
- #10 - Donald Cerrone
- #11 - Dustin Poirier
- #12 - Gilbert Melendez
- #13 - Francisco Trinaldo
- #14 - Evan Dunham
- #15 - Al Iaquinta