Following his dominance at UFC Vegas 87, what’s next for Umar Nurmagomedov?

MMA: UFC 272 - Kelleher vs Nurmagomedov
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday on the main card of UFC Vegas 87, we saw the return of one of the more exciting prospects in the bantamweight division. Top prospect and undefeated contender Umar Nurmagomedov (17-0) was back as he was taking on promotional newcomer Bekzat Almakhan (11-2).

Last August, Nurmagomedov was supposed to take on Cory Sandhagen in a bout that would’ve put him directly into title contention had he won. However, he had to pull out of the fight and we hadn’t seen him since. It was a little head scratching to see him go from a potential matchup with the former title challenger to promotional newcomer Almakhan.

That said, it’s a testament to how hard it’s been to get Nurmagomedov fights. He was at the back half of the rankings and he’s incredibly dangerous. Nobody has been really itching to fight him and it was tough getting opponents he was ranked behind to take the fight with him.

Almakhan took a chance and went in there against the undefeated sensation on Saturday night. Almakhan is no scrub and had won eight fights in a row leading into UFC Vegas 87. He showed just how dangerous he was dropping Nurmagomedov in the first round.

However, after that point, it was one-way traffic for Nurmagomedov. The undefeated bantamweight from Dagestan looked like his cousin Khabib during the rest of the fight. He took Almakhan down whenever he wanted and largely dominated the fight on the feet to move to a perfect 17-0 and 5-0 in the UFC.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 87?

You learn a lot about a fighter when they go through some adversity and it was nice to see Nurmagomedov go through some adversity. It seems like when top contenders take bouts against these relatively unknown tough contenders, this kind of thing happens. I’m reminded of the short-notice fight between Movsar Evloev and Diego Lopes.

We now know how great Lopes is, but that was a big test for Evloev who now after defeating Arnold Allen looks well positioned to fight for the featherweight title. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Nurmagomedov on the same type of trajectory after Saturday night.

Nurmagomedov is now ranked tenth in the bantamweight division, but I’m expecting him to get top five competition in his next fight. He wants a fight with Cory Sandhagen and I still think that fight makes a ton of sense. Another potential matchup to watch is him facing the winner of Petr Yan – Song Yadong which goes down at UFC 299 this Saturday night.

Either way, I expect a big matchup for Nurmagomedov in his next fight. If he gets that type of opponent and is dominant, we could see him fighting for the title by the end of this year.

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