Should Khabib Nurmagomedov need to win another fight before getting the winner of Rafael dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez, or should he be the next in line given his past win over dos Anjos? Why?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Booking Khabib Nurmagomedov for the next title shot is a no-brainer. Let’s start with the reason that, aside from him, there isn’t another obvious contender at the moment. Does Anthony Pettis leapfrog him with a win over Edson Barboza? Pettis has lost his last two prior to this weekend’s fight, and one was against the current champion Rafael dos Anjos, a factor which works against Pettis in the event that RDA holds onto his belt. The other guy he lost to was Eddie Alvarez, a factor that works against Pettis in the event that Alvarez takes the belt. Pettis is going to have to get at least one more win against a ranked opponent or hope someone else gets a hold of the strap before he’s back challenging for the title.
How about Tony Ferguson? Ferguson’s been on a heck of a run, but it’s more his seven wins in a row than who he’s won against that is putting him in talks as the next man up. Wins against a washed up Josh Thomson and a never-going-to-fight-for-a-title Edson Barboza don’t exactly scream elite competition. In a world where Pettis demolishes Barboza, Ferguson’s next fight might be against the pride of Milwaukee if he’s hoping to get that crack at a belt.
Running down the rankings, how about Donald Cerrone? Lost to the champ and is currently fighting in a different weight class. Michael Johnson? Lost to Beneil Dariush and Nate Diaz in his last two and his best win is against Edson Barboza (man this guy’s name keeps coming up). Edson Barboza? Of course not, I’m just going down the list. The only other possibility I could see would be the UFC trying to capitalize on Nate Diaz’s popularity and throwing him in against the winner of dos Anjos and Alvarez. He doesn’t deserve it over Nurmagomedov, but it’s not like McGregor deserved it against dos Anjos either. Either way, this is unlikely.
After all of that, we haven’t even gone over the Eagle’s credentials. He’s 23-0. Were it not for his injury, he would have already fought for the title. While you can lose your place in line due to getting hurt and missing time, in a pool of less than obvious candidates, I’ll take the guy who’s come back, won, and decisively beat the current champion. Now let’s just hope he doesn’t get hurt again.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I would still like to see Nurmagomedov fight Tony Ferguson with the winner getting the next title shot, but Nurmagomedov’s win over RDA does make for a nice buildup to a rematch. Given the injury history and the seemingly brittle nature of both Nurmagomedov and RDA, I would put together a title fight between the two of them and have Ferguson on standby in case either guy has to pull out due to injury. This is assuming that dos Anjos beats Alvarez, but even if Alvarez wins I would still have the same setup. Nurmagomedov gets the champion, with Ferguson as the backup in case of injury.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This is a hell of a tricky question. I’d like to see Nurmagomedov pick up a win over an actual contender before he receives a title shot, but even more than that I want to see the division continue to move as it has been stagnant more than I’d like thanks to injuries to our current champ dos Anjos and the dude that he took the belt from in Anthony Pettis. So rather than risk having Nurmagomedov potentially getting hurt in another fight as he has been especially injury prone, I’m fine with letting him rest on his laurels and waiting for dos Anjos and Alvarez to take care of business before receiving his shot and potentially allowing someone else less deserving receiving an opportunity.
I can see the narrative potentially changing if Alvarez wins and Tony Ferguson picks up a victory against a top flight opponent in the meantime as Ferguson vs. Alvarez would be a barnburner that would be hard to say no to. But like most others, I see dos Anjos hanging onto his belt which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as a rematch between him and Nurmagomedov is a very easy sell, thought potentially a grinding snoozer. Those of you who remember their first fight know what I’m talking about.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I’m fine with Khabib Nurmagomedov getting the next shot after Eddie Alvarez. In no particular order, I’m fine with Nate Diaz, Donald Cerrone, Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis, B.J. Penn, Michael Johnson, Michael Chiesa, Rashid Magomedov, Justin Gaethje, Will Brooks, or Shinya Aoki getting the next shot. The one guy who doesn’t get a shot in my universe is Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson. Why? Because of this:
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) April 17, 2016
What? Why would this hat tip to Darrell Horcher (pronounced Hor-SHAY in honour of the Stanley Cup Playoffs) preclude someone from a title shot? Because Ferguson, after publicly praising Hor-SHAY for his short notice performance against Nurmagomedov, couldn’t help himself and had to hashtag HIMSELF on the tweet, just to make sure that anyone with so much time on their hands that they are scanning for the #ElCucuy hashtag would stumble upon his over the top, oh so gracious praise of the ballsy Darrell Hor-SHAY. Screw you Ferguson. I see you. You’re now my second favorite Ferguson in MMA, behind the scurrilous Kevin.
Sorry. That had little or nothing to do with the question at hand. It just needed to be said. Give Nurmagomedov the shot, or give him either Michael Chiesa or the winner of Anthony Pettis vs. Edson Barboza. The timing for a non-title fight is actually kind of horrible, as Nurmagomedov is going to take the summer off to practice his religion. He will be ready in time for October which syncs with dos Anjos-Alvarez, but might be too far out for Pettis or Barboza. Regardless, as long as Ferguson’s pious nature doesn’t get rewarded, give it to Jason Reinhardt for all I care.
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