December 30th, 2017 is when the UFC will host UFC 219 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The end of year event will now see the return of undefeated and #2 lightweight fighter Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov as he steps back into the octagon for the first time since November 12, 2016 to face #3 lightweight Edson ‘Junior’ Barboza.
Nurmagomedov’s most recently booked fight, an interim title fight with Tony Ferguson infamously fell through at the final hour in March, earlier this year. The bout, booked for UFC 209, was not the first time weight cutting or injury issues have forced Nurmagomedov to pull from a fight and this has raised questions about whether or not he should be fighting at 155 lbs.
However, for now, ‘The Eagle’ seems to be staying put at lightweight. Welcoming him back is Edson Barboza, the owner of a 3 fight winning streak and most recently a performance of the night outing against Beneil Dariush. Barboza is no stranger to spectacular KOs and looks to get what would be undoubtedly the biggest win of his career so far on Dec 30th. Interestingly, Barboza’s last loss came against current interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson in Dec of 2015; a fight he took replacing Khabib who dropped out due to a rib injury.
What makes this match-up exciting is the clash of styles. It will be of no surprise that Nurmagomedov will look to take the decorated striker down and use what many consider the best wrestling and ground and pound in MMA to dominate the fight. Barboza, on the other hand, will want to keep this one on the feet and out strike Khabib as he looks for the 12th knockout of his career. Whatever happens this is bound to be an explosive fight between two of the best lightweight fighters on the planet; and, in my opinion, one of the most exciting returns in a long time.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via TKO, Round 2