UFC on FX 7 preview: Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to climb lightweight ladder against Thiago Tavares

Tavares-NurmagomedovThe UFC on FX 7 main card will get underway with a lightweight bout on Saturday night when Khabib Nurmagomedov takes on Thiago Tavares. It’s a classic gatekeeper match for Tavares who has toiled in the UFC lightweight division since 2007. He has a solid record of (7-4-1) but has never quite gotten over the hump to that next level. Nurmagomedov burst on the UFC scene at just 23 years of age and got two wins in 2012. He’ll be looking to keep his undefeated streak in tact and continue to move up the UFC lightweight division.

Thiago Tavares (17-4-1) comes into this bout off the unanimous decision win over Sam Stout at UFC 142. Tavares has won back-to-back fights in the UFC with both wins coming on his home turf in Brazil, and is (4-0-1) since 2009. Tavares has won two fights via TKO/KO and 11 fights via submission. He is also the recipient of the “Fight of the Night” award three times and has also won the “Submission of the Night” award once.

Khabib Nurmagomedov (18-) comes into this bout off the unanimous decision win over Gleison Tibau at UFC 148. Nurmagomedov has six wins via TKO/KO and seven wins via submission. Nurmagomedov won seven fights in 2011 prior to making his UFC debut and stopped all seven opponents either via TKO or submission.

This one has the potential to be “Fight of the Night” as both fighters are usually not passive and like to engage their opponents. Tavares is a submission specialist but has improved his striking over the years, while Nurmagomedov has shown that he is fairly well rounded. He does tend to be wreckless with his striking and lacking in the technical aspects a bit. However, he has been able to overcome those shortcomings by applying constant pressure to his opponents and keeping them on the defensive.

Tavares is of a similar mold as Nurmagomedov’s last opponent Gleison Tibau, but isn’t quite as large. Nurmagomedov wasn’t able to get Tibau on the ground even though he was relentless in his pursuit of the takedown. Tavares will be more susceptible to takedowns because he lacks the size of Tibau and is more willing to play the submission game on the ground. Nurmagomedov is versed on the ground with his background in sambo as well as participation in submission grappling tournaments. He recently made the move over to highly regarded AKA training team and should see some refinements in his overall game there.

I think Murmagomedov will try to push the pace in this fight as he normally does and keep Tavares on the defensive. Tavares does not have great takedowns while Nurmagomedov hasn’t avoided being taken down in the UFC, so if the fight goes to the ground it’ll be because Nurmagomedov decides to take it there. Tavares does has an active guard and could potentially submit Nurmavomedov there, but I think the chances of that happening are fairly small.

Nurmagomedov should take this fight via decision or finish a tired Tavares late in the fight via TKO.

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