Sitting at an undefeated 27-0, many believe Khabib Nurmagomedov is the top-ranked pound-for-pound force in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
The UFC lightweight champion recently rose one spot to No. 2 on the distinguished list after teammate Daniel Cormier’s loss at UFC 241. It could be tough to pass light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. But heading into his pivotal match with interim champion Dustin Poirier at September 7’s UFC 242, an impressive win could help him do just that.
‘The Eagle’ has been nothing short of dominant. It’s hard to find a fight where he lost even a significant portion of a round in recent years. Detractors point to his thin decision win over Gleison Tibau in 2012, but that was seven years ago. Nowadays, Khabib rules 155 pounds with an iron fist. And he doesn’t seem close to relinquishing his grip on the throne. However, multi-time former UFC title contender Kenny Florian still thinks there are three fighters out there who could push ‘The Eagle’ off his perch.
A Shocking Choice
“Ryan Hall. It sounds crazy because he’s a 145-pounder, but you either need to be an absolute ninja on the ground, right? You need someone who can always put you on defense — someone like a Ryan Hall on the ground. Or you need someone who can absolutely keep it on the feet.”
There’s no doubting Hall’s decorated skill on the ground. He truly is a wizard. But Khabib is a big lightweight nonetheless, meaning Hall would have to overcome a significant size disadvantage. He’s also far from Khabib’s level on the feet and would be facing an uphill battle in that area.
A Legend Who Is Now Gone
Florian then moved on to cite a fighter who is actually bigger than Khabib next. And it’s a bout that has been discussed quite often. Nevertheless, it seems to have lost most of its steam in recent months:
“We have Georges St-Pierre. He does have a very high level of wrestling. He’s also very big. That probably not going to happen. GSP it seems is retired for good now. As she should, he absolutely deserves that and has done everything in the sport that you can do.”
Finally, A Beserker
Finally, Florian pulled out somewhat of a wild card in every sense of the term. He pointed to lightweight slugger Justin Gaethje as a third man who could potentially beat Khabib. Florian believes Gaethje’s defensive wrestling is enough to keep the fight standing. If he did, his fearsome knockout power could be enough to finish ‘The Eagle’:
“Justin Gaethje. He comes from a wrestling background and he does hit extremely hard. I think he’s one of the few guys who might be able to give Khabib a tough time. If he does stuff the takedowns he does have the power in the striking to knockout Khabib.”
Do any of Florian’s picks have a legitimate chance at defeating Khabib?