Khabib Nurmagomedov didn’t have to fight Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson — or even Max Holloway — to win the UFC lightweight championship.
But it’s his nonetheless as the Russian crowned a long journey to the gold by defeating late call-up Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision (50-43 x 2, 50-44) at UFC 223 in New York.
Nurmagomedov took his record to 26-0 on a night Rose Namajunas retained the women’s strawweight crown in her rematch against Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
McGregor’s inactivity saw Nurmagomedov scheduled to fight Ferguson for the championship. When Ferguson pulled out with a knee injury, featherweight champ Max Holloway was called in to fill the breach.
But the Hawaiian couldn’t make it to the start line either, which resulted in 11th-ranked contender Iaquinta being handed a Rocky-type opportunity on the main stage.
Check out UFC 223 results below.
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Al Iaquinta via UD (50-43 x3) (live blog)
Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via UD (49-46 x3) (live blog)
Renato Moicano def. Calvin Kattar via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27 x2) (live blog)
Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Kyle Bochniak via UD (29-28, 30-27 x2) (live blog)
Chris Gruetzemacher def. Joe Lauzon via second-round TKO (5:00) (live blog)
Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Felice Herrig via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Evan Dunham via first-round TKO (0:53)
Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Bec Rawlings via unanimous decision (30-27 x3)
Devin Clark def. Mike Rodriguez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27 x2)