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UFC 219 fight card primer: Edson Barboza vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

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Get the details on the UFC 219 co-main event between lightweight contenders Edson Barboza and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The co-main event of UFC 219 in Las Vegas, Nevada is a lightweight bout between Edson Barboza (19-4 MMA, 13-4 UFC) and the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC). Barboza is currently the #4 ranked contender, whereas Khabib is #2, behind only interim champ Tony Ferguson. UFC 219: Cyborg vs. Holm airs live from Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena this Saturday night, December 30th, with the main card starting at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT on PPV. Four of the five preliminary card matchups will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, while UFC Fight Pass will carry the opening contest of the evening at 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT.

Nurmagomedov is fighting for the first time in 2017, having previously failed to make weight for his interim title bout vs. Ferguson earlier in the year. Meanwhile, Barboza has fought just once this year, but it ended in an absolutely spectacular KO. There’s a lot at stake for both men, as Khabib looks to remain unbeaten and remind everyone that he’s very much a championship-level fighter, while Barboza is aiming for the upset win and a potential title shot, whether that be against Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson.

How do these two stack up?

Barboza: 32 years old | 5’8″ | 68″ reach
Nurmagomedov: 29 years old | 5’10″ | 70″ reach

What have these two done recently?

Barboza: W – Beneil Dariush (KO) | W – Gilbert Melendez (UD) | W – Anthony Pettis (UD)
Nurmagomedov: W – Michael Johnson (SUB) | W – Darrell Horcher (TKO) | W – Rafael dos Anjos (UD)

How did these two get here?

Brazil’s Barboza is a fearsome striker who has the most dangerous kicks in all of MMA. His career highlight is the wheel kick KO of Terry Etim back in 2012, but surprisingly less than half of his UFC wins have come by stoppage. When he does finish you, it’s normally spectacular, just ask Beneil Dariush, whom Barboza struggled with until destroying him with a vicious knee back in March. Perhaps the best win of Edson’s career is his systematic picking apart of former champ Anthony Pettis in May 2016. Barboza is notoriously hard to take to the ground, and he’s really developed a well-rounded technical striking game that can trouble anyone. Whether he can stay upright against Khabib is a different story altogether, and it’s one we’ll soon have an answer to.

Dagestan’s Nurmagomedov has had an injury-plagued UFC career, hence his third-most recent fight was in 2014 against Rafael dos Anjos. Khabib did fight twice in 2016, winning against late-notice replacement Darrell Horcher, before smashing and submitting Michael Johnson at UFC 205. Nurmagomedov was scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson at UFC 209, only to pull out after he was hospitalized for a botched weight cut. Khabib is known for his superb wrestling, top-side grappling, vicious ground-and-pound, and tireless work rate. Having said that, Barboza is the best striker he’s ever faced, and combined with his great takedown defense, this is by no means an easy matchup for “The Eagle.”

Why should you care?

It’s a fascinating clash of styles between two highly skilled lightweights. It’s a must-watch showdown given what’s on the line.

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