While the loss of a UFC 170 bout between Rafael dos Anjos and Rustam Khabilov due to an injury suffered by the Russian is unfortunate news, it has produced a terrific matchup for UFC on FOX 11.
The no. 6-ranked dos Anjos has been shifted from the February 22 event in Las Vegas and will now fight Khabib Nurmagomedov in Orlando in April. The matchup between the surging Brazilian and the unbeaten Russian could conceivably produce a future lightweight title challenger.
Dos Anjos has made a steady climb up the 155-pound ladder thanks to five consecutive victories. His most recent triumph came at Fight Night 27 when he recorded a unanimous decision victory over the always dangerous Donald Cerrone. It was the biggest victory of his UFC career and definitely raised his stock to its highest level yet. While Cerrone was a difficult obstacle to overcome, dos Anjos now gets perhaps an even more difficult assignment in Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov is a competitor that UFC President Dana White had previously claimed no one wants to fight. He’s reeled off 21 straight victories to start his career and has been a dominant force inside the Octagon. Nurmagomedov has employed his Combat Sambo experience to steamroll his five UFC opponents, including most recently recording a dominant decision win at UFC 165 against ultra-tough veteran Pat Healy.
After that fight, Nurmagomedov asked for a title shot and in reality, he’s not too far off in that request. He was to fight Gilbert Melendez in a highly-anticipated matchup at UFC 170, but that fight fell through, and later it was revealed that Nate Diaz turned down a fight against the Russian. Nurmagomedov has already made some history when he took down dangerous striker Abel Trujillo an incredible 21 times in a dominant three-round decision victory at UFC 160.
This is a tremendous matchup in the lightweight division and something will definitely have to give. Dos Anjos can make a serious case for a title opportunity if he can become the first man to hand “The Eagle” a defeat, while Nurmagomedov’s pleas for a title shot will only grow louder if he can end the Brazilian’s winning ways on April 19.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports