Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the greatest fighters to ever grace the confines of the octagon. Debuting in 2012 he arrived undefeated with a 16-0 record. In his six years with the company he has fought eleven times winning all eleven fights. Spanning an impressive 27-0 record, the eagle is rightly one of the most feared competitors and many wonder who can beat this man.
Many believed that McGregor would defeat him (I didn’t!) with McGregor losing in the fourth round due to a neck crank. Khabib dominates his opponents with an amazing ground game and strong wrestling. He will take his opponent down and smother them, he’s used this technique to win nine fights with submission and eight from KO/TKO mainly from ground and pound. The fighter who will eventually (Everyone in MMA must lose at some point, right?) beats Khabib will need to have solid takedown defence, can take a punch and have good wrestling skills. Is it possible that fighter could be Kevin Lee?
Kevin Lee is currently 17-5, with his record in the UFC being 10-5 losing to Al Iaquinta twice, Santos, RDA & Ferguson. Although he lost those five fights he still performed ‘okay-ish’ showing his impressive wrestling skills. His main achilles-heel seems to lie with his cardio, and ability to consistently make the 155lb limit. Throughout college he went 37-0 as a wrestler for Grand Valley State University. It’s clearly evident that Kevin Lee knows how to wrestle well, though he struggled and looked off against RDA, if you watch his fight with Edson Barboza he managed to effortlessly mount and deliver serious damage on Barboza. This tactic employed by Lee is similar to what Khabib did against Barboza when he fought Khabib and as the commentators said, Lee done it better and was delivering more damage.
Many people do not think that Lee could win against a top fighter. He fought Ferguson and lost, however he had a staph infection during fight week. During that fight he landed 55 significant strikes and was winning on the score cards. Ferguson won by submission sinking a triangle choke in the third round. Kevin Lee knocked him down in the first round also managing to pass his guard, transition to side control, and eventually mount and dropping bombs at the end of the first round. His technical ability was shown in the third round where he got out a deep armbar. He also lost out to RDA, despite winning the earlier rounds the 170lb weight limit seemed to radically wreck the gas-tank.
His wrestling and technical abilities are not his only major advantages. He has a solid chin, never being knocked clean out. Another advantage for Lee against a fight with Khabib is his reach. Lee has a reach of 77” while Khabib is 70”. A 7” difference is massive and will only benefit Lee with him using it to keep his distance and hit Khabib without getting hit himself.
Though Kevin Lee hasn’t delivered well in his last couple of fights, he still has elite tier wrestling, and if he managed to get a solid win streak going at lightweight and fixed the holes in his cardio, perhaps a fight with Khabib could be stylistically compelling.