Regionals in Russia
Before Nurmagomedov joined the UFC, he dominated in regional MMA organizations in Russia. A lot of fans note that many of his wins were against nobodies, and that’s largely true. Although Nurmagomedov fought in some popular MMA organizations, like M-1, the majority of his first 16 fights were against people who weren’t even close to his skill level. The 30-year-old didn’t just fight nobodies, however. Some of the men he fought proved to be good fighters later in their careers.
For example, Shahbulat Shamhalaev lost to Nurmagomedov in his third professional fight. Then, Shamhalaev won 10 of his next 13 fights. But that’s an exception, as the majority of the first 16 men Nurmagomedov fought just weren’t high-level MMA fighters.
Nurmagomedov joined the UFC in 2012, and he began to face some real competition. For the most part, he passed with flying colors. The fighter had one poor performance at this point in his career — against Gleison Tibau, his second fight in the UFC. Nurmagomedov, a wrestling expert, was unable to use his skills against Tibau, who stopped every single takedown attempt by Nurmagomedov. Despite this, the Russian was able to retain his undefeated streak, as he won the fight by decision.
Nurmagomedov went on to defeat Rafael dos Anjos, the future lightweight champion, by unanimous decision in 2014. This fight not only extended Nurmagomedov’s record to 22 wins, but it also showed the world he wasn’t just beating up nobodies; he could dismantle world-class competition, too.
Then, Nurmagomedov began to face an opponent he could not beat: his own body. The UFC tried to set up fights for the Russian after his win over dos Anjos, but Nurmagomedov got injured and had to pull out of each one. He was hurting his body too much in training, which prevented him from putting it all to good use.
Finally, after an almost two-year layoff, Nurmagomedov returned to face Darrell Horcher. Horcher was a late replacement, and Nurmagomedov just wanted to fight anybody. The Russian easily won, ending his losing streak against his own body.
Finally healthy, Nurmagomedov began fighting high-ranked opponents. First, he faced off against Michael Johnson at UFC 205, easily wrestling and submitting him in the third round. Then, he dominated Edson Barboza in a grueling three-round fight where his impressive wrestling skills smothered Barboza.
Barboza was highly ranked during that fight, and Nurmagomedov’s victory earned him a title shot. He got the shot at UFC 223. However, after a ton of drama, including the infamous incident where McGregor threw a dolly at Nurmagomedov’s bus, the Russian was forced to fight the low-ranked Al Iaquinta for the lightweight belt.
Nurmagomedov unsurprisingly dominated Iaquinta and won the title, pushing his win streak to 26-0. A few months later, in retribution for the bus attack, Nurmagomedov faced McGregor in their much-anticipated fight at UFC 229.
Nurmagomedov took McGregor to the ground and held him there. He also showcased his striking ability, as he was able to surprise McGregor and knock him down with a single punch. Nurmagomedov eventually choked McGregor out in the fourth round, earning his 27th win. Nurmagomedov proves his win streak is no joke. He will put his record on the line when he faces Dustin Poirier at UFC 242.