Dagestani bear-wrestler Khabib Nurmagomedov has dominated all he’s faced, and done more than enough to earn a crack at the UFC lightweight belt. But man, getting him to the cage for such a bout has been an impossible task.

More than once, he was supposed to face Tony Ferguson for some kind of belt, with the last go-around slated for tonight’s UFC 223. But… we all know how that’s turned out.

So everyone give a big round of applause to Al Iaquinta, who was supposed to face Paul Felder on this card, but is now set to be the man to take on Nurmagomedov. Can Iaquinta survive the Dagestani’s killer wrestling and ground and pound? Can he score the upset to end all upsets?

Iaquinta comes out for the first wielding all sorts of pressure and with his right hand cocked. That lasts about a minute, at which point Nurmagomedov hits the takedown and makes his life miserable with suffocating wrestler rides and top control. Iaquinta doesn’t wilt though, and makes it to the end of the round.

Ditto for Round 2, with Nurmagomedov wrestling the bejeezus out of him, and Iaquinta surviving to the bell.

Things get a little more interesting in the third, with Iaquinta stuffing a takedown and Nurmagomedov content to jab him into oblivion. Iaquinta is soon bloody, but it’s clear he doesn’t care on bit about that, because now’s his chance to throw leather. He doesn’t score much with his boxing, and Nurmagomedov’s jab is ever present, but… who would’ve thought a fighter who took this bout on a day’s notice would last this long against Nurmagomedov?

Round 4 is a carbon copy of Round 3, with Iaquinta stuffing more and more takedown attempts. However, Nurmagomedov gets him down in the fifth, and once again it’s all about Iaquinta struggling to stay alive.

Which he does.

Nurmagomedov takes the clear-cut decision and earns himself the lightweight championship title, but how the heck did Iaquinta do better against the Dagestani than everyone else?

 

Result: Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Al Iaquinta via Unanimous Decision