MMA Ratings Podcast

October 27, 2020

UFC 254: Khabib Nurmagomedov Surpassed Jon Jones As MMA's #1 P4P Fighter, But His Retirement Changes Things

By Adam Martin

With his second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254, UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov overtook Jon Jones as the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA. Nurmagomedov put on an absolute masterclass against Gaethje, as he hung on the feet with a dangerous striker before getting the fight to the ground and implementing a dominant ground game. Not only was Nurmagomedov able to get his hand raised, but he did so in style, locking Gaethje into a tight triangle choke that sent the challenger to la-la land. It was the best "The Eagle" has ever looked.

As soon as Nurmagomedov finished Gaethje, the immediate thoughts of many MMA fans went to the fight that the champ said he wanted next, a superfight against the legend Georges St-Pierre. However, Nurmagomedov put any thoughts of a fight against GSP -- or anyone else anytime soon -- to rest when he announced in his post-fight interview that he is retiring from MMA at age 32. The announcement came as a complete shock to fans, as Nurmagomedov had just improved his record to 29-0 and 13-0 in the UFC with the win over Gaethje. But Nurmagomedov took his gloves off and told fans he was done.

The champion cited a number of reasons for his decision to retire from the sport that he dominates. According to Nurmagomedov, the loss of his father Abdulmanap in July due to COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on him carrying on with his fighting career. Nurmagomedov said that he cannot go on without his father in his corner any longer and that he promised his mother that he would retire after the Gaethje fight. Nurmagomedov also said that he didn't see any challenges in the division, suggesting that the upcoming contender fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier wasn't interesting to him either.

Despite Nurmagomedov's retirement after the Gaethje win, UFC President Dana White said in the post-fight press conference that he has surpassed former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones in the pound-for-pound ranks, and it's hard to disagree. Jones is still one of the best fighters in the world, and even though he vacated his belt at 205 lbs, he still deserves to be near the top of the rankings. But after his amazing showing against Gaethje, at this point, Nurmagomedov is the guy.

Jones is amazing and he hasn't lost in the 11 years since his lone defeat to Matt Hamill by disqualification. He has dominated nearly everyone in his path. But in the last two years, Jones has struggled more than usual, barely scraping by to win decisions over Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes. Coupled with Jones' past issues with performance-enhancing drugs, you can easily make the argument that Nurmagomedov finishing Gaethje, McGregor, and Poirier in his last three fights is a much more impressive recent resume. And that it's at the point now that what Nurmagomedov deserves to be put at #1.

Of course, Nurmagomedov's retirement complicates things, as he could be removed from the UFC rankings if he does officially sign his retirement papers. If that's the case, then Jones will stay in the #1 spot. But I'm not entirely convinced the UFC will remove Nurmagomedov from the rankings just yet. While he did announce his retirement in the Octagon, fighters have been known to change their minds in the past. Plenty of fighters have retired only to return later on, including GSP himself. I still believe that Nurmagomedov will fight again one day, and if I had to guess, it would be a catchweight bout at 165 lbs against GSP.

It was pretty shocking that Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA following his win over Justin Gaethje. He looked outstanding, and I believe it was the kind of quality victory that shows he is the crown jewel of the sport right now. Even with his father's passing, his decision to hang up the gloves was surprising, as I figured he would take the opportunity to call out GSP and look to become the greatest fighter of all time, if he's not there already. Regardless, we witnessed greatness this past weekend in watching Nurmagomedov take out Gaethje the way he did.

UFC 254
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje (UFC Lightweight Championship): Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Justin Gaethje via submission (triangle choke) at 1:34 of Round 2.

UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje (formerly UFC 255: Khabib vs. Gaethje) took place October 24, 2020 at Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 254 Analysis

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