LAS VEGAS — Khabib Nurmagomedov appears to be on the verge of taking over the UFC’s lightweight division. Again.
Nurmagomedov (25-0) remained perfect at UFC 219 on Saturday, as he thoroughly manhandled Edson Barboza (19-5) in a unanimous decision. The 155-pound contest served as the co-main event inside T-Mobile Arena.
Judges appropriately scored the contest 30-24, 30-25 and 30-25. Nurmagomedov, who hadn’t fought in 13 months, said he could have finished it had he chose to.
“Without injury, I can fight with anybody,” Nurmagomedov said. “Now, if UFC gives me, I can fight one more time — Conor [McGregor] or Tony [Ferguson], no problem.
“[Barboza] is one of the best strikers in the UFC. I fight with him for 15 minutes. To be honest, I can finish him, but I wanted to do 15 minutes.”
The narrative on Nurmagomedov, of Dagestan, has long been the same: If he can stay healthy and make weight, he might be the best lightweight in the world.
Saturday was a perfect example of what Nurmagomedov is capable of when active. He rushed through Barboza’s deadly kickboxing skills, pushing the Brazilian up against the fence and taking him down at will.
Barboza, who entered the contest off wins against the likes of Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez, appeared lost on the ground. Nurmagomedov hurt him with elbows and punches, moved into mount and threatened to choke him out on several occasions.
By the end of the onslaught, it felt like a moral victory he survived all three rounds. He connected one desperate flying knee in the last minute, but Nurmagomedov ate it and continued to walk forward.
The obvious names for Nurmagomedov’s next opponent are McGregor, the undisputed 155-pound champion, and Ferguson, who holds the interim title. It is still unclear when McGregor (21-3) will return to the Octagon, after a lucrative boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August.
Nurmagomedov, who trains out of San Jose, has repeatedly stated he wants to face Ferguson (23-3), who is riding a 10-fight win streak. The two have been scheduled to fight multiple times, but the bout has fallen through due to injury or weight mismanagement.
“I don’t think about these two bulls— guys,” Nurmagomedov said. “I think about only me. My next fight is my next fight. If UFC asks me who I want, I’m gonna say Tony Ferguson. He is on a 10-fight win streak in lightweight division.
“Conor, I don’t think. He run for now. He have to spend his money. After he spends his money, I think he’ll come back.”
Magny spoils Condit’s return, takes clear decision
Magny, who fights out of Denver, fought Condit evenly on the feet and took him down in all three rounds. He did not dominate Condit on the floor by any stretch of the imagination, but the versatility in his strategy paid off and all three judges scored it in his favor: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Condit, 33, flirted with the idea of retirement before ultimately returning. The Jackson-Wink MMA welterweight didn’t look bad but wasn’t sharp either. He did outland Magny in total strikes 90-to-75 but struggled to pick up any significant momentum.
Magny rebounds from a disappointing one-round showing against Rafael dos Anjos in September. Condit has now lost three in a row.
Esparza earns upset, Calvillo disputes scorecards
Calvillo, 30, looked good in the opening round, as she easily took Esparza down and landed hard elbows from top position.
Esparza, of Southern California, turned things around as the fight wore on. She weaved her way through Calvillo’s height and reach advantage to land boxing combinations and several leg kicks. She also scored a couple of takedowns but couldn’t keep Calvillo down.
Fighting out of Team Alpha Male, Calvillo was looking to cap off what would have been a five-win year. Instead, she drops to 3-1 in the UFC. She angrily disputed the scores afterward.
Esparza has now won two in a row and three of her past four.