NEW YORK — Khabib Nurmagomedov finally restored order after one of the most chaotic weeks in UFC history.
The undefeated star won the vacant lightweight title with a one-sided unanimous decision over Al Iaquinta in the main event of UFC 223 on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Nurmagomedov has been widely viewed as the top lightweight in the world for some time, and he finally has the belt to show it after five dominant rounds.
Nurmagomedov, a minus 500 favorite, won 50-44, 50-43 and 50-43 on the scorecards.
The week began with Nurmagomedov’s originally scheduled opponent, Tony Ferguson, pulling out of the fight with an injury. Featherweight champion Max Holloway agreed to step in, but was deemed medically unfit to continue cutting weight Friday, setting off a wild few hours of several lightweights lobbying for the fight before Iaquinta was chosen.
That’s not to mention the melee at media day resulting in former champion Conor McGregor’s arrest when he tried to assault Nurmagomedov on a bus and knocked two fighters from the card because of injuries sustained in the attack. It already had been announced that McGregor, who hasn’t fought in the UFC since November 2016, was stripped of the title.
“Where is Conor?” Nurmagomedov said. “He wants to fight with a bus. I want to fight with a Brooklyn gangster. Iaquinta is real gangster for taking this fight.”
“Nothing changed for me,” Nurmagomedov said of the chaos. “Thanks to Al Iaquinta for taking this fight. If you are ready, it doesn’t matter. Give me 30 minutes to rest and I can fight with anybody. Tony, Conor, it doesn’t matter.”
Nurmagomedov indicated he would like to fight one of his idols, former middleweight and welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, in November at Madison Square Garden for his first title defense.
Also on the card, women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas solidified her hold on the belt by winning her rematch against former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision.
Namajunas, who stopped Jedrzejczyk in the first round in November, came out strong early Saturday, but started to tire in the middle of the fight because of Jedrzejczyk’s leg kicks. The champion rallied late and scored a takedown in the closing seconds to put an exclamation mark on her performance.
“I believe her that she had a tough weight cut and it affected her last time, but this one means I’m just better,” Namajunas said.
Until the late takedown, the fight was contested almost entirely on the feet. Namajunas credited her husband, former UFC heavyweight Pat Berry, with helping prepare her for Jedrzejczyk’s elite striking.
“She’s definitely one of the best kickboxers in the world, but I train with one of the best to ever do it: Pat Barry,” Namajunas said.
Namajunas won 49-46 on all three cards, but all three judges gave Jedrzejczyk a different round.
Top featherweight prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov scored his 11th consecutive win and third straight since signing with the UFC with a unanimous decision over Kyle Bochniak.
UFC officials have struggled to match fighters with Magomedsharipov, but Bochniak proved game. He consistently came forward and challenged the flashy and powerful striker.
“I said from the beginning, he is a very tough opponent and I knew this would be a tough fight,” Magomedsharipov said. “I just want to thank him for taking the fight with me because five other opponents refused to fight me.”
Featherweight Renato Moicano won for the fourth time in five UFC fights with a unanimous decision over Calvin Kattar.
Moicano slowed Kattar’s attack by keeping him off-balance and guessing for much of the 15 minutes. Moicano’s only UFC loss came against undefeated top contender Brian Ortega.
Chris Gruetzemacher made use of his late promotion to the main card with a stoppage of lightweight veteran Joe Lauzon.
Lauzon’s corner stopped the fight after the second round because of a large cut near his eye. The loss was Lauzon’s third straight.
Lightweight Olivier Aubin-Mercier scored the only stoppage of the preliminary card when he knocked out Las Vegan Evan Dunham in 53 seconds.
Women’s strawweight contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz moved one step closer to another title shot with a split decision over Felice Herrig.
Ashlee Evans-Smith took all three rounds over Bec Rawlings in a women’s flyweight bout, and light heavyweight Devin Clark won a unanimous decision over Mike Rodriguez.
McGregor manager talks
NEW YORK — Conor McGregor’s longtime manager issued a statement Saturday about the UFC star’s violent rampage Thursday in Brooklyn.
“So much rumor and misinformation about my client, Conor McGregor,” Audie Attar wrote. “The matter is in the hands of law enforcement, and I can not really say more. Conor is a great father, a fiercely loyal friend and one of the best athletes in the world. He looks forward to getting back to fighting as soon as possible.”
McGregor is free on $50,000 bond after spending Thursday night in police custody and appearing in a Brooklyn courtroom Friday. He is due back in court June 14.
Adam Hill Review-Journal