(Props: YouTube.com/fueltv. Skip to the 0:51 mark for the violence.)
Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s first-round knockout of Thiago Tavares at Saturday’s UFC on FX 7: Belfort vs. Bisping immediately joined Melendez vs. Kawajiri and Miocic vs. Del Rosario in the pantheon of vicious elbows-from-above MMA finishes. The win also upped Nurmagomedov’s career record to a remarkable 19-0, and represented his third straight win in the Octagon. It’s clear that the Russian Sambo/Judo ace has the potential to make a serious impact in the UFC’s lightweight division. So who should he face next? Well, he’s got an opinion about that.
After the fight, FUEL TV’s Heidi Androl talked to “The Eagle” about his ball-busting t-shirt at the weigh-ins and his training at American Kickboxing Academy. Nurmagomedov also mentioned that he really wants to face Nate Diaz in his next fight. It was a smart bit of post-fight matchmaking, as a meeting with Diaz could give Nurmagomedov the exposure that he’ll need to break into the title mix.
On the other hand, Diaz might not want to face a relative newcomer without much name value. (As with the frequently-ducked Glover Teixeira, there just isn’t much upside to fighting a dangerous, non-star like Nurmagomedov.) Though I’m sure Diaz vs. Nurmagomedov would be an entertaining scrap, I wouldn’t be surprised if the UFC books Khabib against another mid-level opponent before letting him in the cage with Top 5-caliber competition. Any other ideas on who Nurmagomedov should take on next?