Edson Barboza believed his explosive striking skills would present a difficult challenge for lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov when they met on the main card of UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.
He never really got a chance to find out.
Nurmagomedov remained undefeated in 25 professional fights by swarming Barboza from the opening bell, chasing him around the cage and consistently driving him to the mat.
The judges scorecards told of the dominance as Nurmagomedov won 30-25, 30-25 and 30-24.
Nurmagomedov, who has won nine fights since signing with the UFC, almost certainly clinched a shot against either lightweight champion Conor McGregor or interim champ Tony Ferguson.
He believes it will be Ferguson.
“Conor has lot of money now so now he has to spend it,” Nurmagomedov said. “When the money is gone, then he’ll fight.”
Former women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza handed contender Cynthia Calvillo the first loss of her career by taking the final two rounds on all three scorecards after Calvillo controlled the opening five minutes.
It was the second straight win and third in four fights for Esparza since losing the belt. She landed several takedowns over the final 10 minutes with effective leg kicks that neutralized Calvillo’s movement and slowed down her aggression.
“Everyone thinks of me more as a wrestler but it was the gameplan to beat her on the feet tonight,” she said. “I’ve been working with my team on striking for a while now and I think the low kick was really effective in this fight. There was a lot of hype around Cynthia coming into the fight but that just served more as a motivator for me.”
Neil Magny kicked off the main card with a unanimous-decision win over former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit.
Condit, who was returning to action after a 16-month flirtation with retirement, got off to a slow start and Magny took advantage with consistent forward pressure and several takedowns.
“This was a big fight and I knew I had to be ready for it,” Magny said. “Carlos Condit is one of the best ever and a former champion so I knew how tough he would be. I worked hard in camp and made the most of my opportunities in the cage tonight.”
It was the third straight loss for Condit and fourth in his last five fights.
— Dan Hooker locked in a guillotine choke on Marc Diakiese early in the third round to finish a lightweight bout and hand Diakiese his second-consecutive loss after a 12-0 start to his career.
— Tim Elliott’s emotional win over bantamweight Mark de la Rosa highlighted the preliminary card.
Elliott spoiled de la Rosa’s UFC debut by locking in an anaconda choke midway through the second down before breaking down in tears in the corner just two weeks after his coach Robert Follis committed suicide in Las Vegas.
“I love you, Robert Follis,” Elliott said. “Thank you for everything.”
— Las Vegan Khalil Rountree dropped a unanimous decision to newcomer Michal Oleksiejczuk in a light heavyweight bout. Rountree landed several big shots early, but faded as the fight progressed and was done in by Oleksiejczuk’s volume.
— After missing all of 2016, Myles Jury finished off this year 2-0 by winning all three rounds of a featherweight bout against Rick Glenn.
— Flyweight Matheus Nicolau dropped Louis Smolka three times in the first round and controlled the rest of the fight on his way to a dominant unanimous-decision victory over Louis Smolka. It was the fourth straight loss for Smolka, who has tumbled out of title contention.
— Middleweight Marvin Vettori rallied with a big third round to earn a 10-8 on two scorecards that salvaged a draw against Omari Akhmedov.