A pivotal lightweight war takes place between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Pat “Bam Bam” Healy for UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada this Saturday. This bout has “Fight of the Night” written all over it.
Hailing from Dagestan, the Russian standout Nurmagomedov (20-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), a Judo black belt under Vladimir Nevzorov and two-time World Combat Sambo champion, has been making waves in the UFC adding four consecutive wins to his unblemished record bringing him to 20-0. His opponent, none other than gritty mixed martial arts veteran of 46 fights Healy (29-16-1 MMA, 0-1-1 UFC) is coming off of a marijuana suspension following his overturned underdog victory over top lightweight Jim Miller. If there was ever a fight to make to test each fighter’s relevancy in the UFC’s lightweight division, this is it.
Healy is entering this fight looking to earn his first win inside the octagon, though that shouldn’t be an indication of his skill. “Bam Bam” had one fight in the UFC back in 2006, a time when Healy hadn’t found himself in mixed martial arts having a poor record of 15-12. The majority of his losses came against veterans and top fighters at the time such as Denis Kang, Chris Lytle, Jay Hieron, and Jake Ellenberger. However, despite being new to the sport, Healy was also able to muster up wins over notable names in Dan Hardy, Carlos Condit, and Paul Daley. The inconsistency in his career stopped upon entering the now dissolved Strikeforce where he went on an impressive 7-1 stint.
Healy’s keys to victory are generally the same in every fight. Drag his opponents into a gritty war and put them in deep waters and win by simply being tougher than them. Healy has the well rounded mixed martial arts game backed by experience and time spent as a collegiate wrestler to compliment such a strategy. Healy doesn’t excel greatly at striking or grappling, he is good enough in both departments to at least hang with the best long enough to find a way to win. And while Nurmagomedov appears to have the advantage almost everywhere, Healy possess talents that only experience can teach which could shine should this go on to the later rounds.
On paper, though, Nurmagomedov is better almost everywhere. His Sambo method of grappling has been very successful in his illustrious career, setting the take down record for a three round fight at 21 take downs in 27 attempts against Trujillo. The Russian can take his opponents down in almost any way possible once a clinch is engaged, whether it be by double leg, single leg, or utilizing his judo with a throw or trip. And unfortunately for Healy, the clinch is where “Bam Bam” has had a large portion of his success. Even Nurmagomedov’s striking appears to be a bit better than Healy’s, although their striking methods are quite similar. Both fighters explode forward with looping hooks when they are able to cut off their opponent with the cage, the difference being the younger Nurmagomedov appears to be much faster than the veteran Healy and is backed by a much better chin.
Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Pat Healy via TKO in round 3.
While the experience and savvy nature of Healy will assist him in this fight and assist in shortening the gap in technical skill, Nurmagomedov is simply a terrible match up for him. Every area that Healy usually has success in, Nurmagomedov is better. The clinch, submissions, speed, grappling. Nurmagomedov is a no nonsense fighter and he will not allow Healy to catch him off guard at any point in the fight. Healy is great at striking in the clinch, but when these two engage he will have to worry about the take down too much to be able to land anything significant. On top of his ability to control where the fight takes place, Nurmagomedov also has huge power in his strikes earning himself seven knockouts, his most recent being over Thiago Tavares. While it’s never wise to underestimate the intangible durability of a guy like Healy, the technical prowess and ambition of a young, rising talent like Nurmagomedov will prove victorious likely scoring a third round TKO.