Bellator 292 Review: Nurmagomedov vs Henderson

Undefeated Lightweight Champion Usman Nurmagomedov submits Benson Henderson with a Rear Naked Choke in round one. Photo Credit: Lucas Noonen. Bellator MMA

All four fights ended by the finish on the Bellator 292 main card, as Usman Nurmagomeov and Alexandr Shabliy advanced in the Lightweight Grand Prix. Nurmagomedov submitted former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson by Rear Naked Choke in under three minutes. Shabliy defeated dangerous striker Tofiq Musayev after a disputed groin shot rendered him unable to continue. Also, Michael “Venom” Page and Linton Vassell won each of their fights by first-round knockout. Page delivered a damaging leg kick twenty-six seconds into his fight with Goiti Yamauchi that looked to break the leg of his opponent, ending the fight. Vassell viscously knocked out former Interim Bellator Heavyweight Champion Valentin Moldavsky with elbows on the ground.

(C) Usman Nurmagomedov (17-0) Def. Benson Henderson (30-12)

The Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix kicked off this Friday as Champion Usman Nurmagomedov defended his title against MMA legend Benson Henderson. Nurmagomedov is one of the best young fighters in the sport and is an unbelievable prospect that’s world-class in his striking and grappling. At twenty-four years old Nurmagomedov can only get better, receiving some of the best training in the world at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. Here, Nurmagomedov is coached under Javier Mendez and gets to work with training partners such as UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makachev. Henderson was once a dominant champion in the UFC who holds victories over Nate Diaz, Josh Thompson, and Jorge Masvidal.

Usman quickly pressured Henderson at the start of round one controlling the center of the cage. After throwing a few jabs at distance Nurmagomedov landed a body kick that got the attention of Henderson. Immediately following the kick to the body Nurmagomedov followed it up with a devastating head kick that floored his opponent. It seemed as though Henderson expected the second kick to go to the body as well and paid for it dearly. Once knocked down Henderson was hit with vicious elbows and punches from full mount that forced him to roll over and give up his back. When Nurmagomedov got back control he expertly secured a Rear Naked Choke submitting Henderson in under three minutes.

What’s Next?

Nurmagomedov put on a dominant display that should leave MMA fans very excited about his future performances. Now advancing to the semifinals of the Lightweight World Grand Prix, Nurmagomedov will face the winner of Brent Primus vs Mansour Barnaoui. Nurmagomedov entered this fight as a 22-1 favorite but should get tested moving forward in the tournament. Starting on different sides of the bracket, Nurmagomedov may face Bellator superstar A.J. Mckee in the finals. This would be a massive fight that could break many promotional viewing records.

#4 Alexandr Shabliy (23-3) Def. #3 Tofiq Musayev (20-5)

In the Co-main Event Alexandr Shabliy got past Tofiq Musayev in the Lightweight Tournament. Musayev was unable to continue after a disputed groin shot in the third round. Shabliy entered this contest coming off a massive TKO win against Brent Primus in June. Musayev was impressive in his Bellator debut defeating Sidney Outlaw in the first round, but slowed down as his fight with Shabliy went longer. Musayev came out very aggressive in round one looking to end the fight early and may have not conserved enough energy for a five-round fight.

As rounds, two and three passed Shabliy was becoming increasingly confident on the feet. Shabliy avoided most of the powerful punches of Musayev and landed beautiful counter combinations to the body and head of his opponent. As Shabliy threw a kick to the body in round three it looked like his heel may have grazed the cup of Musayev forcing him to stop fighting and fall to a knee. After a replay, the referee was unable to determine if Musayev was actually damaged due to a groin shot or if he was feeling the effects of the body kick Shabliy threw. Musayev was asked if he would like to continue but was in obvious pain and unable to stand.

As a result, Shabliy will advance in the Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix and face the winner of A.J. Mckee and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire.

#2 Linton Vassell (23-8) Def. #1 Valentin Moldavsky (11-3)

Heavyweights Linton Vassell and Valentin Moldavsky met in a title eliminator on the Bellator 292 main card. These two previously met in 2019 with Moldavsky winning by decision. Since that fight, Moldavsky claimed Interim gold before losing to Champion Ryan Bader. Vassell won four in a row knocking out respected veterans Sergei Kharitonov and Timothy Johnson. Moldavsky entered the contest as a (-225) favorite at online sportsbooks.

In round one, Moldavsky looked for a takedown early. Twice Moldavsky rushed in and grabbed Vassell’s legs briefly securing a takedown before Vassell quickly scrambled to his feet. Once back to his Vassell landed a massive right hook while moving backward that landed flush on Moldavsky’s chin. Moldavsky’s mouthpiece flew out as he desperately tried to recover but gave up the full mount. Vassell started throwing ferocious elbows that sent Moldavsky unconscious. Evening the score with Moldavsky at one a piece, Vassell made a massive statement to the rest of the Bellator Heavyweight division. Vassell could very easily find himself in a title fight against Ryan Bader in the near future.

Bellator 292 Prelims:

The Bellator 292 Prelims had fights with ranked contenders and memorable moments. Top five ranked Welterweights Michael “Venom” Page and Goiti Yamauchi competed in a contest that only lasted twenty-six seconds. After a few small exchanges, Page threw a leg kick that looked to shatter the shin of Yamauchi who fell to the ground in pain. This was an anti-climactic ending to a highly anticipated matchup. Yamauchi had to be helped out of the cage by his corner and later went to the hospital. Also, on the Bellator 292 prelims, Laird Anderson defeated Rogelio Luna by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) in the first round at 145 pounds.

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