Ferguson Overlooked for Title Shot, Nurmagomedov Poised for Alvarez

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

There were many who felt Tony Ferguson’s eight-fight win streak at lightweight would be enough to see him secure a title shot. With his bout with former champion Rafael Dos Anjos being confirmed yesterday, it looks as though Ferguson will have to wait for a date with the championship.

The clash between Dos Anjos and Ferguson has been scheduled for November 5 in Mexico City, with the bout to serve as the main event. The only other bout finalized for the card at the time of publishing is another lightweight contest pitting Beneil Dariush against Rashid Magomedov.

A win over Dos Anjos would surely guarantee ‘El Cucuy’ a shot at the belt. The unorthodox lightweight will certainly fancy his chances after Eddie Alvarez weathered the Brazilian’s early storm to score an emphatic TKO victory last month.

That being said, Ferguson didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his last outing against flashy debutant Lando Vannata. The Jackson’s fighter backed Ferguson up and even looked to have put him in serious trouble on two occasions. Throwing all caution to the wind in the second round with his hands down by his side as he advanced on Ferguson, it wasn’t long before he was on the end of the top ranked lightweight’s patented D’arce choke.

“All my performances are right there to put me in title contention,” said Ferguson at the post-fight press conference following his win.

“If Eddie Alvarez wants to sign that dotted line, or if he wants an easy fight, go ahead and fight Conor, but I’m a hard type fight. I’m not someone to joke around with.”

Nearly the first words out of Eddie Alvarez’s mouth after claiming the title were ‘Conor McGregor’ and as unlikely as it may seem, the Irishman could further obscure Ferguson in the future should he decide to set his sights on the 155 lbs division.

Let’s not forget that after deciding to fight at welterweight on eleven days notice, Dana White claimed that with a victory over Diaz back in March, McGregor could have secured a shot at then-welterweight champion ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler.

However, it appears as though Russian superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov will be the next in line for the time being. ‘The Eagle’ has only competed twice in the last two years, but unlike Ferguson, he put on a one-sided showcase against a resilient Darrell Horcher in his last outing, who stepped in when ‘El Cucuy’ was forced out of their bout due to a lung issue.

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Alas, it seems the UFC do not want to risk Nurmagomedov suffering another knee injury that saw him sidelined for so long. On three occasions the Russian has been forced out of major bouts with serious title implications–twice against Donald Cerrone and once against Ferguson. With his current clean bill of health, the promotion is smart to capitalize on the popularity of the European.

Last night, Nurmagomedov posted about an upcoming clash between him and champion Alvarez. Posing alongside a bear (yes, a bear) in the post, the undefeated lightweight insisted that he is just “waiting for (a) phone call” from UFC to confirm the heavily rumored clash.

Just two days ago, Jason Floyd of the MMA Report tweeted that he had heard rumors that Alvarez and Nurmagomedov would face off in the champion’s backyard in Philadelphia. There is no doubt that Alvarez competing in his hometown would add further interest to the card, but the back and forth between the future opponents should be enough to see the card have success whatever location is chosen to host it.

Nurmagomedov has launched attacks on Alvarez claiming that he has only won one of his four UFC fights, when he stopped Dos Anjos. As far as ‘The Eagle’ is concerned, Alvarez’s bout that went to decisions against Cerrone, Gilbert Melendez, and Anthony Pettis were too close to be deemed victories. Nurmagomedov’s tirade was a reaction to the champion, who claimed that his fellow lightweight has not fought top opposition.

Riding a win streak of seven bouts in the UFC, it’s hard to argue with the promotion’s choice of choosing him for Alvarez’s first defense. Coupled with his ability to sell a fight and the fact that he has a whole nation behind him, it’s the right time for us to see ‘The Eagle’ finally slotted for a championship bout.

The worst-case scenario for UFC would be Nurmagomedov winning his shot against Alvarez only to find out he has injured his knee again. As harsh as it is to say about an athlete, the 27-year-old’s career has been plagued by injuries over the last few years. Further time on the shelf while he holds the title would only see the lightweight division lose a lot of traction.