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Khabib’s Unparalleled Greatness and Other Things We Learned from UFC 254

| October 26, 2020 12:57 pm PDT
5 Things We Learned UFC 254

The king is dead. Long live the king! 

The question is, which one? There are five potential kings in the UFC lightweight division all vying for the throne that has been vacated by all-time great, Khabib Nurmagomedov, at UFC 254.

Khabib’s retirement came as a shock, even though some of us had expected it could happen with a loss. However, to settle on a record of 29-0? It just doesn’t seem right. But hey, the eternal champion does what he wants.

UFC 254 was an excellent night for me. I predicted 11 of the 12 winners on the night, with Da Un Jung’s contentious draw with Sam Alvey preventing me from landing a clean sweep. 

But enough about me. What else did we learn at UFC 254? Let’s start with Khabib and I’ll fill you on the other major points made on the night.

Khabib is the Most Dominant Fighter of All Time

Saturday was the day that many mixed martial arts fans across the globe had feared. Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement. 

It was an emotional night for the Dagestani, who collapsed into tears following his submission victory over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. It was the first fight that Nurmagomedov fought without help from his father, Abdulmanap, who passed away this summer in Russia.

Khabib announced his shock retirement in his post-fight interview, claiming that he had promised his mother not to fight on without his father. Seemingly, his record will remain at 29-0 and his legend will forever burn brightly among fans.

Just how good was Khabib? This question was doing the rounds on social media all weekend, with fans having their say. Unsurprisingly, there were differences of opinion when it came to where “The Eagle” ranks among the best to ever do it. Even UFC pound for pound number 1, Jon Jones, put his oar in, having initially congratulated him on his win.

Jones is one of the greatest to ever do it, but his career has been steeped in controversy. He has also looked far from great in his past couple of fights, which has seen his aura of invincibility diminish.

Khabib, however, has officially lost just two rounds in his career. One against Conor McGregor and the other to Gaethje on Saturday night. He has never looked close to being beaten and will go down as one of the most dominant fighters in combat sports history.

If you ask me, Khabib is the greatest to ever do it. That’s above George St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones.

Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 Has to Happen

Robert Whittaker looked his very best against the dangerous Jared Cannonier in the co-main event.

Moving with fluidity behind a metronomic jab, the former UFC middleweight champion outfoxed Cannonier in an excellent display of dominance. The first thing on my mind after the fight was that we have to see Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 has to happen.

According to “The Last Stylebender,” Cannonier was a win over Whittaker away from a shot at his middleweight strap. Now that Whittaker has taken out the boogieman, he surely deserves a chance at getting his title back.

Hopefully, the UFC agrees. Given Sheikh Khaled’s praise of Fight Island, let’s hope they can book it here soon. This has been one of the best things to happen to the UFC in years.

But how about one of the worst?

Let’s Not Have Another Malkoun Situation

I was worried about Jacob Malkoun ahead of his fight with Phil Hawes on Saturday night.

I predicted a stoppage win for Hawes, and he came through with a blistering TKO in his UFC debut. The win was a long time coming for the American, who must have been delighted to draw such an inexperienced opponent on the main card of the fight.

Malkoun was just 4-0 ahead of his UFC debut. I spoke about being a little confused as to why he was thrown in against a guy as dangerous as Hawes, and the result speaks for itself. He was stopped in 18 seconds and looked well out of his depth.

I can’t think of any rational reason for Malkoun getting his shot here other than his association with Whittaker. And that’s just not good enough. 

Let’s hope we don’t see a similar situation further down the line.

Shavkat Rakhmonov is One to Watch

I told everyone within earshot to watch out for Rakhmonov, and even suggested his odds to submit Alex Oliveira (+900) made him the biggest value bet of the night. 

And what does he go and do? Not only does he stand up and take the fight to “Cowboy” from the first horn, but he submits him in style. It was a tremendous performance by the Kazakh welterweight, and I think he has what it takes to go very far in the promotion.

Rakhmonov has called out another “Cowboy” in Donald Cerrone. A win over Cerrone would certainly announce him to the wider MMA community as someone not to fudge with.

Gaethje Will Be Back and Even Better

Although he was billed as the man to dethrone Khabib, Gaethje ultimately failed to get the job done. 

I discussed how Gaethje’s NCAA Division I wrestling background would give him a slight advantage when it came to defending takedowns, but that ultimately, Khabib would be too much for him to handle.

Unfortunately, it seemed as though Gaethje was up against one of the very best versions of the Dagestani that we have ever seen. It is difficult to explain what I mean by that, without it sounding a bit corny or mystical. But the energy that Nurmagomedov emanated in the fight was almost tangible.

The way he took Gaethje’s shots and kept pressing forward was insane. The transition into the submission was just sublime.

Gaethje will probably look back at the fight as an opportunity missed, sure, but he will come back stronger. In fact, I would be very surprised if he doesn’t fight next for the title. With Khabib gone, the 155-pound division is going to get a lot more exciting, especially as, well, Khabib has proven to be pretty much unbeatable.

Aside from Gaethje, we have the winner of the McGregor vs. Poirier rematch — you can find my betting guide for McGregor vs. Poirier 2 while we are on that subject — as well as Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler all hunting a shot at glory.

Any combination of those five fighters above makes for an incredible fight. Perhaps Gaethje vs. Ferguson is the one that people might not be too stoked for, but everything else is gold.

Gaethje for the 155-pound championship? He’s going to take some stopping, that’s for sure. 

Wrap Up

So, we consign UFC 254 to the mouths of the history books and look forward to what is next to come.

Of course, we have some spectacular events coming up soon. Check out my links below to find out more!

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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