Although he has competed twenty-eight times as a professional mixed martial artist, it is still difficult to find any chink in the armor of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The UFC’s undefeated lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov, has seemingly dominated every fighter that has been put in front of him on route to his incredible 28-0 record.
In his most recent effort at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, ‘The Eagle’ mauled Dustin Poirier for the better part of twelve minutes before ending the fight with a rear-naked choke.
Having finished the likes of Conor McGregor, Michael Johnson, Thiago Tavares and the aforementioned Dustin Poirier, this while scoring dominant decision wins over Rafael dos Anjos and Edson Barboza, fight fans are left to ponder if there is anyone capable of dethroning Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Perennial UFC lightweight contender Dan Hooker was recently asked that same question and came back with three ranked fighters he believes are capable of giving ‘The Eagle’ immense problems.
While I agree with Hooker that Justin Gaethje and Kevin Lee possess styles that could give Khabib Nurmagomedov problems, I honestly believe the Russian’s biggest challenge lies in the form of a currently unranked lightweight fighter.
That fighter is 39-years-old and goes by the name of Leonardo Santos (17-3-1 MMA).
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 2 winner, Santos, returned to the Octagon for the first time in almost three years at June’s event in Stockholm, where he scored a sensational first round knockout victory over Stevie Ray.
That victory extended Leo’s current win streak to five in a row, and improved his overall record to 11-0-1 over his past twelve contests.
The product of Nova Uniao, Leonardo Santos, not only possesses one-punch knockout power, but also some of the best jiu-jitsu on the planet.
The Brazilian has scored nine submission victories in his seventeen career wins and has stopped twelve of his opponents overall.
In his third most recent Octagon appearance at UFC 194, Leonardo Santos scored a first round TKO victory over Kevin Lee which earned him performance of the night honors.
I recently went back and watched that fight from December of 2015 (Lee vs Santos), and that is when it dawned on me that ‘Lamparao’ possesses a skillset that could very well give Khabib Nurmagomedov a lot of trouble.
Interestingly, I interviewed Leo Santos last summer at the Nova Uniao Training Seminar in Toronto, Canada and asked him who he thought would give Khabib Nurmagomedov his biggest challenge.
“Kevin Lee would be tough challenge for Khabib.” Santos replied. “But I would beat both.”
Leonardo Santos is currently waiting on his next assignment from UFC officials. Having only competed five times in the past five years it is unlikely that the Brazilian will be receiving a title shot any time soon.
However, if he could get another win under his belt in 2019, a future title shot in the late stages of 2020 is not out of the question.
Santos’ biggest hurdle will come in the form of his health. The former TUF winner has been dealing with back and shoulder problems for the better portion of the past three years which has kept him from actively competing.
Who do you believe poses the biggest threat to current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov? Sound off in the comments section PENN Nation!
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com September 21, 2019