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FutureStarr@UsmanNurmagomedov Retains @Bellator Lightweight Title
Usman Nurmagomedov retained his Bellator Lightweight title with an emphatic first-round win over Benson Henderson at Bellator 292 on Friday night in San Jose, California. With this win, Nurmagomedov's record was extended to 16-0 as he moves closer towards qualifying for the $1 million grand prix semifinals against Mansour Barnaoui or Brent Primus.
At 2 minutes and 37 seconds in the first round, Usman Nurmagomedov successfully retained his Bellator lightweight title by stopping former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson with a submission (rear-naked choke). This win also guaranteed Russia its place in this weekend's Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix tournament which begins this weekend at Bellator 292.
Nurmagomedov has only been competing in MMA for two years, yet he already boasts 15 finishes to his name - five of them submission victories. A tough and versatile striker who knows all types of techniques from ground-and-pound to uppercuts, Nurmagomedov has demonstrated great promise as an up-and-coming star.
Nurmagomedov is renowned for his long-range weapons, particularly his lead leg kicks. These stutter-switch kicks are an effective way to exert pressure on an opponent and gain the upper hand. The Dagestani fighter can throw these kicks from any distance he desires, often setting up spinning sidekicks from there.
Nurmagomedov's arsenal also includes leg kicks, solid counters at boxing distance and devastating knees in the clinch. He's adept at catching his opponent off balance to set up a series of spinking calf kicks, tumbling body jabs and flurrying punches from all angles inside the cage.
The question mark kick is a Dagestani fighter's go-to move. This low kick variation redirects the force of your kick to hit your opponent's chin, making for an effective stoppage when executed correctly. Although not difficult to master, this technique should always be practiced correctly for maximum effectiveness.
One of the greatest advantages to this kick is its versatility; it can be used against all types of opponents and styles. However, it's especially potent against winging kicks like Nauruz Dzamikhov unleashed against him during their fight at Bellator 292.
Once Omar caught him with some stutter-switch kicks, the fight became a test of Omar's striking game. He managed to keep his opponent guessing and maintain control throughout the three round encounter.
The 24-year-old is a talented, hard-hitting pugilist who strives to challenge opponents and find ways to defeat them. He's also an incredibly tough, resilient, and disciplined striker that has earned the respect of everyone in MMA.
Nurmagomedov's first defense of his Bellator lightweight title was a successful one. He took former UFC champion Benson Henderson down and worked for a submission, which he ultimately secured.
Henderson declared his career a "retirement," with Nurmagomedov winning in two minutes and 37 seconds. With 29 wins under his belt, the Russian will be well-equipped to defend his title in the future.
Judging the winner of this bout was no easy feat, as both men put in impressive performances during the first round of competition. Ultimately, Henderson emerged as the superior overall athlete and earned most of the points for his efforts.
The first round began with Henderson attacking Thomson's body with punches, while Thomson worked towards a takedown. He landed a kick to the back of Henderson's leg and then attempted to take him down using it.
Thankfully for Henderson, the referee intervened quickly to end the fight. The second round was a fast-paced contest which saw both fighters striving for submissions throughout.
Thompson had control of the early minutes of the round, as he began to push Henderson's back and work for submissions all over the mat. He held onto this hold attempt for nearly three minutes, but Henderson never gave in.
Once he got up on his feet again, he sought to establish some top position in the middle of the cage. He moved around on top, shifting from side control to north-south control and back again with an aim of isolating an arm.
He also delivered some devastating ground and pound, but Henderson didn't cave in. Rather than working for his back, Henderson kept moving and eventually fell victim to a standing arm triangle choke.
In the closing minutes of the round, Nurmagomedov continued his ground and pound attack but Henderson was unable to keep up. He attempted a knee to Henderson's head but it proved too little too late.
It will be fascinating to watch how these two battle in this matchup. Jiu-jitsu plays an integral role in determining who wins, but Henderson has the edge there as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who has successfully defended submission attempts throughout most of his MMA fights. As an experienced veteran who hasn't been finished inside the octagon yet in his career, this should be an intensely competitive contest between these two.
Nurmagomedov has always demonstrated an expert grasp on submission techniques, but he recently displayed new facets to his game. In his most recent fight against Benson Henderson, he had to adjust to the veteran's leg kicks which caused him to become more tentative with his strikes.
Nurmagomedov has made an impressive progress, but it won't come naturally to him. He still needs to put in work before he can begin using these strategies against more experienced opponents.
Henderson remains confident in his ability to win this fight. As with past matches, Henderson intends to use a combination of punches and leg kicks in pursuit of victory.
His leg kicks have been the difference in his past two fights, enabling him to take the fight directly to his opponent and secure victories each round. Not only have they caused him to lose balance, but they've also softened up his movement and caused him to hesitate with throws of strikes.
Now, the former UFC lightweight champion is eager to make a name for himself on Bellator and add another title to his collection. This will be his first chance at competing in the lightweight grand prix tournament which will ultimately determine who the organization's top 155-pounder is.
Bellator president Scott Coker believes this competition to be one of the greatest in sport's history, and he hopes Friday's opening event in San Jose will back up this assertion. The eight competitors in this tournament are eager to advance and earn a share of $1 million prize money.
As for the main event, it features a championship fight between undefeated Nurmagomedov and veteran Henderson. If Nurmagomedov wins this matchup, he will become the world's undisputed lightweight champion.
Nurmagomedov has long coveted this title, and this could be his last chance to claim it before retirement from MMA. While he told MMA Junkie that he will likely retire after this three-fight run, he also noted how important winning the Grand Prix is to him; doing so could set him up to capture the belt later this year and leave with both a title and wife.
On Friday night at Bellator 292 in Moscow, Usman Nurmagomedov will defend his lightweight title against Benson Henderson for the ultimate prize: gold! As the unbeaten cousin of MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nurmagomedov has been unstoppable since winning his first belt last December and looks set to become the youngest fighter ever to hold multiple world titles across MMA and Bellator. If successful in retaining his crown, he will become the youngest fighter in history to hold multiple world titles across both disciplines.
Nurmagomedov has earned the reputation as a dominant striker, regularly landing leg kicks on opponents throughout his career. Most notably, in an intense fight with Myles Jury that resulted in bloodied leg for his adversary, Nurmagomedov delivered several leg kicks that left Jury stunned and dazed.
He's an expert of submission fighting, having submitted three opponents in his career. This style has propelled him to the top of the sport and earned him a place on UFC Fight Night's main card this May.
Nurmagomedov not only possesses an impressive striking arsenal, but he also draws upon his Muay-Thai and Combat Sambo background for strength in the cage. This gives him the edge to utilize his ground game effectively during fights.
Nurmagomedov can take Henderson down and place him on the canvas, giving himself a chance to clinch and submit with a rear-naked choke. Doing so would give him victory in the Grand Prix and move closer to reaching that $1 million jackpot at the end of the tournament.
However, this strategy may not be the best approach. Although Henderson is an impressive striker, he lacks the athleticism of Nurmagomedov and could easily get knocked out. This would make him a formidable adversary and put Henderson under immense strain throughout the contest, making it difficult for him to stay on his feet.
On the other hand, if Henderson can land leg kicks during a bout, he has the potential to take his opponent down and put him on the mat, giving himself more room for striking. Plus, as an accomplished grappler who won both UFC and WEC lightweight titles in 2016, Henderson also possesses considerable athleticism.
Henderson has openly discussed the possibility of retiring at some point. He stated that this decision is being made "out of a desire to spend more time with his family," though this doesn't guarantee an immediate departure; rather, Henderson plans on doing so after his current contract with Bellator expires.