UFC 223 Recap: Lightweight King Khabib

It was a great performance from Al Iaquinta, considering he was a literal last-minute replacement, but Khabib Nurmagomedov has finally claimed the UFC Lightweight Title with a unanimous decision win at UFC 223.

It was the first time the championship has been contested for in the UFC since Conor McGregor won the title at UFC 205. Iaquinta was selected as a challenger hours after weigh-ins, following an injury to original opponent Tony Ferguson and several other drop-outs.

“”Iaquinta is a real gangster. Where’s Conor?” Numragomedov said following the fight. “He wants to fight with bus? Iaquinta is real Brooklyn gangster.”

Iaquinta showed brief glimpses of a great fight early in the first, stuffing a takedown and getting out of the first one he fell victim to. But once Nurmagomedov got the fight back to the ground, it was pure dominance by the Russian, as per usual, with a flurry of strikes. The script was similar in the second, with Nurmagomedov nearly scoring a submission multiple times.

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Even with no takedowns in the third, Nurmagomedov took the round on the feet. But in the fourth, Numragomedov seemed to slow down. Iaquinta showed some signs of life, nailing a couple of good shots on Nurmagomedov during the round.

Iaquinta continued to fight back throughout the final round, even rocking Nurmagomedov a bit. But in the end, there was nothing left to be done.

Nurmagomedov outstruck Iaquinta from distance 115-23, on the ground 51-0, and had eight takedowns to Iaquinta’s zero. Nurmagomedov took the decision, 50-44, 50-43, 50-43.

After the fight, Nurmagomedov made a special challenge.

“I want to fight with Georges St-Pierre in New York. Madison Square Garden,” he said.

In the co-main event, Rose Namajunas retained her UFC Women’s Strawweight Title, defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

The two had a scrap in the first, with Namajunas doing better in close range and Jedrzeczyk being patient and finding her range. Namajunas had better fluent movement in the second, though the challenger landed more strikes.

Jedrzejczyk seemed to easily be in control for the third, attacking the left leg of the champion, swelling up her knee. Namajunas came back in the fourth and started the fifth off strong with a hard hook. After the two exchanged hard shots for most of the round, Namajunas scored a takedown with 25 seconds left and the former champion hit a few shots on the ground until the horn.

UFC 223 Main Card (PPV, 10 p.m. ET):
For the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship: Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-43, 50-43)
UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship: (c.) Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Featherweight: Renato Moicano def. Calvin Kattar via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Featherweight: Zabit Magomedshapirov def. Kyle Bochniak via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Lightweight: Chris Gruetzemacher def. Joe Lauzon via TKO (corner stoppage) (Rd. 2, 5:00)

UFC 223 Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET):
Women’s Strawweight: Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Felice Herrig via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Lightweight: Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Evan Dunham via TKO (Rd. 1, 0:53)
Women’s Flyweight: Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Bec Rawlings via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Light Heavyweight: Devin Clark def. Mike Rodriguez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

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