Sunday, December 31, 2017

Khabib Nurmagomedov Is the Ideal Fighter

Khabib Nurmagomedov had another dominant performance this past weekend, this time against Edson Barboza, who is known for finishing opponents with some of the most brutal kicks in all of mixed martial arts. Although Barboza was able to land some hard leg and body kicks early on, Khabib just kept walking through them. In the third round, Barboza nailed Khabib with a spinning back kick to the head, and Nurmagomedov just kept walking forward. At this point, you could see the defeat in Barboza's eyes, and he dutifully took his punishment for the remainder of the fight.

This is why Khabib Nurmagomedov is the ideal fighter. And when I saw that, maybe I should clarify that he is my ideal fighter, but honestly, I don't see how he is not a top-5 favorite fighter for anyone who watches mixed martial arts.

My favorite all-time fighter, and a huge reason I fell in love with the sport, was Wanderlei Silva. Silva's wrestling was absolute shit, but all the dude did was charge forward and try to separate his opponent from consciousness as quickly and violently as possible.

He did this with no concern for his own safety as he was willing to take some punishment in order to get what he wanted. It is not an intelligent way to fight, but it damn sure is entertaining.

But as anyone who frequents this blog knows, I love the sport of wrestling. I believe that it is not only the best fighting background, but it is also just beautiful to watch. Although most people would agree on the first part, the latter usually gets some raised eyebrows. It may be more psychological than physiological, but it is damn near impossible for me to watch someone go out and remove a person from their feet against their will. Ben Askren is the poster child for this in mixed martial arts as he used his Olympic-level background in wrestling to physically dominate every opponent he faced and retire with an undefeated record.

And it's not like I don't enjoy the striking side of mixed martial arts. I just prefer for it to be on a grounded opponent. I think all males, and possibly a good portion of females (I really can't speak for them) have imagined what it would be like to get in a fight. You can imagine yourself standing and trading blows. You can imagine yourself winning, and if you're realistic, you can probably imagine what it's like to be losing a fight on your feet; it's not ideal, but you can at least imagine the scenario.

What nobody imagines is the feeling of getting in a fight and being on the ground as strikes rain down. The feeling of being trapped where your only two options are to take punishment and hang on. There is no escape. I have trained those scenarios in safe environments, and it still makes me a little ill to my stomach thinking about it. Although it is forgotten due to his fighting style later on in his career, Fedor Emelianenko was a monster at this in his prime, as he would get on top of guys and brutally pound through their defense. His opponents' only escape was if the ref decided to show mercy and restart the fight on their feet.

That's why Khabib is so much fun to watch. He combines aggression, wrestling, and a physically dominant style. There are only three things on his mind: Pressure, pressure, and pressure. He will take some punishment from good strikers, but it never deters him. He refuses to give his opponent room to breathe, because he knows that eventually he is going to get a hold of his opponent, and once he does, they are going to be in a world of hurt.

Khabib has ridden this strategy to an undefeated record in his career, and maybe the craziest thing is that everybody knows the strategy to beat him. Be able to strike at range and have excellent movement in the cage. It's easy to say but incredibly difficult to do. Barboza was able to do this for about half a round before he let Nurmagomedov get to him, and then he took a beating for the rest of the round and never looked the same the rest of the fight. After the fight, Khabib said that he could have finished the fight but wanted to fight longer to give himself more time in the cage. He finishes opponents as he pleases.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is the ideal fighter, and if he's not already your favorite fighter, just know that you are wrong, and you need to remedy that situation immediately.

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