The Severe Spotlight: Umar Nurmagomedov

UFC 272 was a card laden with storylines. The most obvious being written prior, and post, the main event between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. The 305 representatives’ rivalry stemmed from a monetary disagreement between long time striking coach of Masvidal; Paulinho Hernandez, and Colby.

Inside the octagon Covington dominated Masvidal for the majority of the five rounds. A picture perfect Masvidal right hook landed in the fourth frame that momentarily set the T-Mobile afire. The co-main event between Brazilian countrymen Rafael dos Anjos and Renato Moicano deserves its own article. Moicano took a five-round fight on 3 days notice, reportedly cut twenty pounds to make the 160lb catchweight after fighting only a week earlier.

Moicano suffered a landslide beating for 3 rounds. Bloodied, cut and with his left eye swollen shut he was sent back out by his corner and the ringside physician despite the subtle efforts of Marc Goddard. In spite of these adversities he showed his grit and toughness in the final two rounds when he rallied to expend his gas tank and try to finish a RDA, who was seemingly attempting to show mercy to his fellow Brazilian and coast him through the final ten minutes.

Kevin Holland, Jalin Turner, Tim Elliot, Ľudovít Klein and Devonte Smith showed their quality also. Marina Rodriguez and Xiaonan Yan went to war, and Sergey Spivak became the new people’s champion after destroying Greg Hardy.

Whilst this article is going to discuss Umar Nurmagomedov’s outstanding performance, a word to Ukraine’s Maryna Moroz. Moroz’s native Ukraine is embroiled in a brutal conflict with Russia. In an emotional post-fight interview she spoke with duality; with love for her training partners and coaches, but also in fear and anguish for her family and friends still stuck there in Ukraine, unsure as to their safety.

Fighting is a tough sport, a sport that mandates a commitment that is uncommon. All fighters come into fights with niggling injuries, with financial worries, with problems in their personal lives. But, to carry the weight of a suffering country through a fight camp, and into a fist fight is astounding. The conflict began when Moroz was nearing the end of her camp, the most mentally strenuous phase. However, she made the weight, conducted her media responsibilities and went out, with her flag and her shield aloft her and finished a fight with a personal rival of her own.

This is at the end of it all, a sport. It is entertainment for our pleasure; but lest we forget that behind the gloves, the Vaseline and the outfits, are humans. With lives, and pain and baggage and turmoil, we must respect them.

Nestled in the prelims, was a sparkling decimation of Ireland’s adopted son, Brian “Boom” Kelleher. At 15-0, with the Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov’s seal of championship potential nestled in his soul, Umar Nurmagomedov stomped the T-Mobile walkway to the Octagon.

Umar Nurmagomedov’s style is much different to that of his cousin, and soon to be Hall-of-Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov. He offers a kick heavy, light on his feet, accurate striking game to bolster the mandated wrestling acumen and submission threat. With his second strike of the fight, a perfect teep to the mid-section, Umar showed the hip dexterity that allows him to use his front leg as a jab. Hips back, back arched, bend in the leg, stamping the ball of his foot into the chest of Kelleher. That is swiftly followed by a lovely question mark kick from the same leg, glancing along the top of the skull.

The kicks are an interesting facet to Umar’s game. Supreme confidence in his grappling allows him the loose and fluid application of his kicking arsenal. Obliques to the knees, teeps, a variety of high kicks. The confidence in his grappling isn’t naïve either, it has led to 7 finishes.

Kelleher initiated a clinch against the cage but was swiftly reversed and controlled. Umar doing a great job of keeping angle, head position and often splitting the base of his man by driving his knee between the legs of Kelleher, working to double underhooks and landing a knee off the break.

The beginning of the end came shortly after that break; a brief exchange on the feet, Kelleher bites on a feint and looks to level change himself, Umar parries the hands and ducks under for his own level change attempting a head on the outside trip, as Kelleher begins to bring his head inside of his hip line, Umar laces his left leg behind the basing leg of Kelleher, sitting him to the mat. High level stuff. Kelleher to his credit used the whizzer well, but Umar readjusted for hip control, hip height and regained the head height advantage, drove Kelleher to the fence and returned him to the mat with a similar takedown.

The supreme beauty of this finish comes from the nuance of detail in the finishing sequence, as Kelleher gives his back to attempt to stand, his right hip is digging into the cage, meaning that Umar is unable to throw a far side hook in. In response, Umar laces a near side hook, but directs the momentum to the Achilles of Kelleher, which creates a small bump, taking Kelleher’s hips away from the cage. Umar drives his right knee into the gap, whilst climbing his grips toward the neck, and laces his second hook.

Umar begins to threaten a choke with his left hand, Kelleher brings it to his face to protect his neck, but as he circles in to attempt to establish wrist control, Umar slides the hand away and under the neck. That, as they say is all she wrote.

Although this fight was contested at 145lbs due to a late notice change in opponent he was asked in the post-fight interview if it is his intention to continue at 135lb, he confirmed his career will continue at 135lb. With that in mind, I would love to see him fight Ricky Simon.

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