Khabib Nurmagomedov had a pretty good night on April 7 in Brooklyn, New York.
The Eagle first had to watch all of the havoc with the UFC trying to find him a new opponent for UFC 223. His scheduled lightweight championship fight against Tony Ferguson was scrapped for the fourth time, before the organisation shocked the MMA community by successfully drafting in featherweight champion Max Holloway to replace El Cucuy.
Weight cutting issues saw Nurmagomedov watch Al Iaquinta, Anthony Pettis and Paul Felder emerge as potential opponents, while reports have suggested even Eddie Alvarez was asked about being the last-minute replacement. In the end, Ragin’ Al got the nod, while you also can’t forget the chaos Conor McGregor caused when he flew from Dublin to New York with his entourage.
Still, the dominant Dagestani kept his composure among all of the distractions to convincingly defeat Iaquinta and stretch his record to 26-0. Despite that, Khabib has still drawn plenty of criticism.
Most of the criticism is stemming from the fact that the UFC made him the undisputed champion while beating a fighter that was ranked 11th, instead of a fighter ranked much higher with several now chasing the unbeaten Russian.
However, he has also faced criticism for his efforts in the five-round decision win against Iaquinta, with many criticising his striking skills, or a lack of skills that he displayed.
Watching from cageside and experienced it inside of the Octagon are two completely different things, though, and that’s why Iaquinta has leapt to Nurmagomedov’s defence by claiming his striking is much better than people assume.
According to Bloody Elbow, the real estate agent said: “His standup was really good.
“I felt like I was a step behind him, just from the first two rounds of trying to get up and stay against the cage, he was kind of wearing on me a little bit. So I felt a little behind, but his jab is good.
“Every time I tried to let some combos go, he’s awkward, he’s got like the Russians - it’s just a different style of boxing. They were saying he’s got his head up. I connect with everybody.
“It was hard to get to him. He’s tough, he’s tough. He’s got his own style. He’s awkward. Maybe it doesn’t look like it from the outside, but, he’s definitely, he’s f***ing tough man.”
It’s interesting to hear this from Iaquinta’s perspective, especially since Khabib has been hammered from his fellow fighters, fans and sections of the media for his striking style and the fact that his lack of skills would be easy work for hard-hitters like Conor McGregor - or anyone else that possesses power.
What do you make of Al Iaquinta defending Khabib Nurmagomedov from his critics? Have YOUR say in the comments section below.