The name Nurmagomedov has long been associated with undefeated fight careers and dominant lightweight performances.
Usman Nurmagomedov, cousin of former UFC champion Khabib, continued the family tradition Saturday night in San Diego, successfully defending his Bellator lightweight championship with a one-sided unanimous-decision victory over former champ Brent Primus in the main event of three-title-fight Bellator 300.
The victory by Nurmagomedov, 25, came in a bout that also served as a semifinal of the Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix. In the final, he is slated to face the winner of the Nov. 17 semifinal between Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and Alexander Shabliy. Nurmagomedov dethroned Freire last November.
Unlike Khabib Nurmagomedov, who primarily used smothering wrestling to build a 29-0 record before retiring in 2021, Usman Nurmagomedov (18-0) dominated his fight mainly with striking. His relentless array of kicks to the legs, torso and head damaged Primus and kept him at distance, preventing the challenger from presenting a serious threat at any point during the five rounds.
The first round ended with Nurmagomedov having built a 38-9 margin in strikes landed, and it didn’t get any better for Primus the rest of the way. It was target practice for the champ the whole 25 minutes. Primus (12-4) kept coming forward, but Nurmagomedov eluded nearly all of his attacks and made him pay with counterpunches and takedowns. By the end, Primus’ face was puffy and reddened, showing multiple cuts and bruises.
“I think I did a good job,” Nurmagomedov, a Dagestani who trains in San Jose, California, said after all three judges scored the bout 50-45 in his favor. “It was my night.”
The night also belonged to the other two champions fighting on the card at Pechanga Arena. In the co-main event, women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg showed off why she is one of the greatest fighters in women’s MMA history by mauling Cat Zingano in the first round. And in the main card opener, Liz Carmouche scored a fourth-round TKO of former women’s flyweight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
Cyborg (27-2, 1 NC) had not fought in nearly a year and a half. But the 38-year-old showed no rust in her skills, winning her seventh fight in a row. It was her fifth title defense, the most of any current Bellator champ.
Cyborg, a Brazilian based in Southern California, had an answer for everything Zingano tried, making the 41-year-old pay for every takedown attempt and clinch. The finish came 4:01 into the fight after Cyborg clipped Zingano while defending a takedown shot, then pounced with punches until the referee waved off the fight. It was Cyborg’s 21st career knockout and 12th in the first round.
“I was a little more strong than her,” Cyborg said. “I know she felt that power.”
Zingano (14-5) was making her second bid for a world championship. In 2015, during her run as a UFC bantamweight, Zingano challenged then-champ Ronda Rousey and was submitted in just 14 seconds.
The Carmouche-Macfarlane bout pitted two San Diego-based friends and former training partners against each other, and the mutual respect showed in their minimal engagement. Prior to both Rounds 2 and 3, the referee implored the fighters to deliver “more action.”
In the third, a Carmouche kick to the lead leg buckled Macfarlane’s left knee, which had a preexisting injury. From there, Carmouche devoted all of her offense to leg kicks, and every connection left Macfarlane hobbled. Finally, 17 seconds into the fifth round, the fight ended after Macfarlane absorbed a kick to the knee and fell to the canvas with a yell of pain.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult,” said Carmouche, 39. “Of course it was. It’s a friend.”
Macfarlane missed weight Friday and was ineligible to earn the belt. If she had won, the championship would have been declared vacant.
Bellator 300 was originally scheduled to feature four title bouts, but Ryan Bader‘s heavyweight defense was canceled earlier in the week when Linton Vassell withdrew because of an unspecified illness.