The most important lightweight matchup out of four 155-pound fights scheduled for next weekend’s (Sept. 21, 2013) UFC 165 card is a battle between the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov and veteran Pat Healy which will see the winner rocket into title contention. 5Dimes Sportsbook currently lists Nurmagomedov as a -230 betting favorite (bet $230 to win $100) while the comeback on the dog Healy is +190 (bet $100 to win $190). With Nurmagomedov originally opening at -260, it appears as though the public so far is liking the underdog in this matchup. Personally, though, I feel as though the public is on the wrong track. Here’s why. Although Healy is one of the most durable lightweights in the division and perpetually underrated, he has a lot going against him here. For starters, he got pinched for weed following his UFC 159 victory over Jim Miller and has sat out the last three months on suspension. To make matters worse, the UFC rescinded his $130,000 combined Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night bonuses, meaning that Healy is walking into this fight with a chip on his shoulder. And while that sort of pressure to prove everyone wrong may help some fighters, I really don’t like Healy having that burden on his shoulders while going up against an unbeaten beast like Nurmagomedov who won’t be feeling any similar pressure at all. At 20-0, “The Eagle” has one of the longest win streaks in all of mixed martial arts and when betting on fights one very important thing to keep in mind is momentum and Nurmagomedov has a ton of it. In his last fight against Abel Trujilo at UFC 160, Nurmagomedov absolutely dummied his opponent, landing a UFC record 21 takedowns in their three-round fight and showing everyone once again that his grappling is top-shelf. While Healy is also no doubt a savvy grappler himself, I really feel as though Nurmagomedov is going to have a serious strength advantage here and, as we saw in Healy’s fight against Mizuto Hirota, even though he does have solid wrestling he is susceptible to the takedown himself. If Hirota, who is a 145er now, can take down Healy repeatedly, then there is no doubt in my mind that Nurmagomedov can as well. On the feet, I would have to give Nurmagomedov the speed and power edge as well, although Healy is real good at turning fights into dirty brawls. But as long as Nurmagomedov can land his punches from range then I don’t see Healy giving him many problems in the standup, and that’s why I just don’t see where Healy has the advantage anywhere in this fight outside of heart, maybe cardio and probably chin. As much as I like Healy, I really think the only way he can win this fight is by dragging Nurmagomedov into the third round and then finding a miracle submission if the Russian tires as Healy is always dangerous for the full 15 minutes. I think this is going to be an extremely entertaining fight and it has “Fight of the Night” written all over it, but, either by decision or by stoppage, I expect “The Eagle” to be getting his hand raised as he wins his fifth-straight fight in the Octagon and moves into the elite of the UFC lightweight division.
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