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McGregor's reign as UFC champion officially ended by rival Nurmagomedov

Khabib dominated Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 to win the title that McGregor had held since November 2016.

UFC 223 Mixed Martial Arts Khabib Nurmagomedov celebrates after defeating Al Iaquinta. Source: Frank Franklin II

OVER SEVENTEEN MONTHS since he claimed the title, Conor McGregor’s spell as champion in the UFC’s lightweight division came to an end in the early hours of this morning.

The undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0) succeeded McGregor as the title-holder in the organisation’s 155-pound weight class by scoring a unanimous-decision victory over Al Iaquinta (13-4-1) in the headline bout at UFC 223 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The belt has been stripped from McGregor as a result of his failure to defend it since he dethroned Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in November 2016. The Dubliner hasn’t competed in the octagon since.

Nurmagomedov was originally scheduled to face Tony Ferguson in UFC 223′s main event, before Max Holloway was drafted in instead. But with Ferguson forced to withdraw last Sunday due to an injury, and Holloway declared medically unfit on Friday, a new opponent was required on 24 hours’ notice to take on the 30-year-old Russian.

Enter Al Iaquinta. Ranked 11th in the lightweight division, the New York native was due to face Paul Felder in a three-round fight until he was promoted to the top of the bill to tackle Nurmagomedov. The caveat was that only Nurmagomedov was eligible to win the belt as Iaquinta had already weighed in a fifth-of-a-pound over the lightweight championship limit before the card was reshuffled on Friday.

UFC 223 Mixed Martial Arts Nurmagomedov scores a takedown. Source: AP/PA Images

Nevertheless, the gutsy Iaquinta — a 30-year-old real estate agent — enhanced his reputation by taking Nurmagomedov right to the final buzzer, although the result wasn’t in doubt even before announcer Bruce Buffer confirmed scorecards of 50-44, 50-43, 50-43. Afterwards, Nurmagomedov called for a bout against former welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre.

The fight was the culmination of a bizarre week for the UFC. Following a media event at the Barclays Center on Thursday, Conor McGregor and several associates attacked a bus which was carrying UFC fighters, including Nurmagomedov.

It’s understood that McGregor was attempting to exact retribution over an incident that occurred in a hotel earlier in the week, when a verbal altercation ensued as Artem Lobov — McGregor’s friend and team-mate — was cornered by Nurmagomedov and members of his team.

Video footage appeared to show McGregor throwing a hand truck through the window of the bus. His immediate future is uncertain after he appeared in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Friday to face charges of criminal mischief, misdemeanor assault and menacing and reckless endangerment. He was released on bail but must return for a hearing on 14 June.

The show must go on in McGregor’s absence and Khabib Nurmagomedov is now the man to beat in the lightweight division. It was vintage Nurmagomedov in the opening two rounds of his clash with Iaquinta, as he used his powerful wrestling to drag his opponent to the mat, where he dished out severe punishment.

However, Iaquinta’s takedown defence was particularly effective in rounds three and four. Nurmagomedov, in spite of the limitations of his striking game, seemed relatively content to keep the fight standing. While Iaquinta had some success with his punches, he was unable to put together combinations to cause his opponent major concern.

At the midway point of the fifth round, Nurmagomedov finally managed to secure his first successful takedown since the second frame. It capped a win which was certainly comfortable on the scorecards, but the overall performance was perhaps not quite as convincing as many anticipated. Nevertheless, his status as the best lightweight in the UFC is now undisputed.

Meanwhile, in the penultimate bout of the night, Rose Namajunas (8-3) cemented her place at the summit of the women’s strawweight division by proving that her first-round TKO of Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2) last November was no fluke.

UFC 223 Mixed Martial Arts Rose Namajunas lands a shot on Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 223. Source: Frank Franklin II

Jedrzejczyk, who was undefeated prior to her title defence against Namajunas at UFC 217, has now dropped two consecutive losses. Namajunas emerged victorious from their rematch after delivering a superb performance over the full distance.

All three judges determined that the 25-year-old American got the better of four of the five rounds against the 30-year-old Pole, as she made a successful first defence of her belt.

UFC 223

  • Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision (50-44, 50-43, 50-43)
  • Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
  • Renato Moicano def. Calvin Kattar via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27,30-27)
  • Zabit Magomedsharipov def. Kyle Bochniak via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Chris Gruetzemacher def. Joe Lauzon via TKO (corner stoppage) after 5:00 of round two
  • Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Felice Herrig via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Evan Dunham via TKO (knees to the body and punches) after 0:53 of round one
  • Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Bec Rawlings via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Devin Clark def. Mike Rodriguez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

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Paul Dollery

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