Khabib NurmagomedovUFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov began his career in the UFC with four straight wins over Kamal Shalorus, Gleison Tibau, Thiago Tavares and Abel Trujillo.

That reads as a blueprint on “How to build an MMA star in the modern day UFC.”

At 20-0, and after his most recent win over Trujillo at UFC 160, Nurmagomedov asked for stiffer competition.

On Saturday at UFC 165 in front of a packed house north of the boarder at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, “The Eagle” got his wish as he squared off with ten-year MMA vet Pat Healy.

Healy, riding a seven-fight unbeaten streak of his own, was coming off an upset victory over Jim Miller at UFC 159. However, the decision was ruled a No Contest after Healy failed a post-fight drug test for marijuana metabolites.

Needless to say, both men had plenty to prove entering the Octagon on Saturday night.

Round one saw Healy open with unrelenting pressure.  The Oregonian plodded forward with determination as the decorated Russian Sambo practitioner bided his time looking for counter opportunities.

As Healy pressured, Nurmagomedov began unleashing a bevy of lead uppercuts and wild hooks.  Two minutes into the opening frame and they were exchanging their fair share of leather.

As the horn sounded on the first five minutes, Healy was bloodied from the power counters from the Russian.  With 15 seconds remaining, Nurmagomedov scored an authoritative takedown that had Healy posting against the cage to regain his footing.  As Healy rose to his feet, Nurmagomedov ripped off a hook to the chin that sealed the round and set the pace for the remainder of the fight.

The second frame was more of the same, Healy pressuring with the Russian looking to counter and take it to the ground if need be.  This round was Healy’s most effective as he landed a few select strikes that hurt Nurmagomedov, and briefly had him on the retreat.

However, Nurmagomedov was able to stymie any and all potential offense Healy could muster by employing his all-world grappling prowess at a moment’s notice.  As Healy tired at the end of the second, the third round was looking bleak.

Round three was a culmination of Nurmagomedov’s poise and control from the preceding 10 minutes.  Having done enough on the feet to keep Healy at bay, the Russian took control of the final frame and limited a winded Healy’s attempts at a comeback.

The scorecards read 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, all for Khabib Nurmagomedov.  With his fifth win in a row, and his first over a Top 10 opponent, The Eagle wasted little time in proclaiming his desire for a chance at UFC gold.

“Listen to me UFC and Canada,” said the 25-year-old. “Ladies and gentlemen… 21-0, 5-0 in the UFC… please, UFC, give me a title shot. I’m ready.”

Although title talks may be a tad premature for the young grappler, there is little doubt he is primed for a star-making run in the 155-pound division.  With five quality wins to his credit inside the world’s premier fighting organization, and a steady increase in the difficulty of opposition, he may not be fighting for UFC gold next, but for this 21-0 powerhouse, he’s not far off.

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