The Nurmagomedov name has become synonymous with dominance in MMA. But thus far, that name has been all but exclusive to the UFC. On Friday at Bellator 255, all that changed, as Usman Nurmagomedov, cousin of former UFC lightweight champ Khabib, made his promotional debut.
Taking on Mike Hamel, Usman’s coming out was a chance to display a more well-rounded game than his more famous cousin. With a Muay Thai and kickboxing background in addition to wrestling, Usman has at times seemed the odd man out among the Dagestani family. Mike Hamel, meanwhile, entered the night off a loss to Adam Borics last August.
Hamel was certainly game, standing toe-to-toe with Nurmagomedov and at times leading the attack. But Nurmagomedov’s kicks were on fire, including a spinning back kick that landed hard and put Hamel on his backfoot. The pair continued to trade back and forth throughout the opening round, with Hamel actually pointing to the canvas, asking for a pure throwdown — which Nurmagomedov declined. No surprise there, since the debuting Russian had found success with body shots, and a jab that had bloodied the nose of Hamel.
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The second round saw Nurmagomedov finding his rhythm, and finding more success with his kicks. Hamel was swinging, but missing more often then not. Game, but losing the fight, and falling further behind as the round progressed. Moral victories, like proving to have a granite chin, don’t win fights after all. Nurmagomedov’s stance switches, movement, and crisp striking were giving him the edge. His jab continued to do damage.
Round three opened with the realization that Hamel needed a finish to win the fight. Instead, he continued to eat a healthy serving of Usman Nurmagomedov’s jab. Hamel’s face was a bloody mess, while Nurmagomedov’s performance was bloody brilliant. Hamel would look for a desperation takedown just to make something happen towards the second half of the final round, but Nurmagomedov easily fought it off. Hamel ate a heavy body shot, which led to Nurmagomedov turning up the heat. Hamel would finally manage to control the back off a takedown attempt, but with just 90 seconds remaining, he didn’t have enough left in the tank. No Hail Mary finishes in this one — just a solid debut performance by Usman Nurmagomedov, improving to 12-0 on the night.
Official Result: Usman Nurmagomedov def. Mike Hamel by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)