Just as you think UFC lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov finally has a fight, the dreaded “injury bug” strikes yet again.
As revealed by Dana White after the UFC Fight Night: Dublin weigh-ins, a freak injury has just canceled a highly-anticipated UFC 178 match between Donald Cerrone and Nurmagomedov. Even worse, the fight was officially ready to go, only for the Avar Dagestani-born Russian to blow out his knee 20 minutes after signing his bout agreement.
Not only is that a terrible loss for Nurmagomedov and Cerrone, but it’s a huge blow for the MMA world in general.
With current UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis shelved during Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, the 155-pound division is in serious need of some solid hierarchy this year. Aside from Gilbert Melendez, there’s no clear-cut line of contenders, and a Cerrone vs. Nurmagomedov bout could have arguably set up the next name in the title hunt. That’s all for naught now, and we can only hope that Nurmagomedov’s knee injury isn’t too serious. Either way, it’s a big setback for the division.
Thankfully, it doesn’t affect UFC 178 that much. Even without two of the UFC’s top-ranked lightweights, the card still looks remarkably strong:
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Dominick Cruz vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero
Cat Zingano vs. Amanda Nunes
John Howard vs. Brian Ebersole
Patrick Cote vs. Stephen Thompson
But now that Nurmagomedov’s injury has canceled such a valuable fight, the UFC basically has no option for keeping Cerrone on the main card of this pay-per-view. Just about every ranked lightweight is either injured or booked for a bout. And despite Cerrone’s insistence that any fighter will do, it seems like a waste to pit him against the likes of Diego Sanchez (2-3 in his last five fights), Gleison Tibau or Rashid Magomedov. None of them have really earned that kind of fight—especially not Sanchez, due to horrible MMA judging.