Khabib Nurmagomedov has battled his way to a unanimous decision victory over Al Iaquinta in their lightweight clash at UFC 223 in New York to become Russia's first undisputed UFC champion.
Nurmagomedov takes over as champion from Irishman Conor McGregor, who was stripped of a title he never defended and faces assault and criminal mischief charges for his part in a fracas following Thursday's media day for the event.
With Nurmagomedov's original opponent, Tony Ferguson, pulling out a week ago due to a knee injury and replacement Max Holloway withdrawing for medical reasons during his weight cut, Iaquinta stepped in on Friday and agreed to take the fight.
Nurmagomedov showed his hand early on Saturday night, wrestling the 30-year-old American to the ground and dominating him but after two punishing rounds, Iaquinta began to thwart the undefeated Russian's takedowns.
The 29-year-old Russian looked clumsy in the striking exchanges as Iaquinta found success with his counter right hand and it wasn't until the middle of the fifth and final round that Nurmagomedov managed to get the fight back to the mat.
Iaquinta, who had been preparing for a bout on the undercard and weighed in marginally over the lightweight limit, put on a determined display but was unable to find the killer punch that would turn the fight in his favour.
The judges gave the Russian victory by a huge points margin as Nurmagomedov improved his record to 26-0.
He then took his opportunity in front of the microphone to declare who he wants to fight next, and take a huge swipe at Conor McGregor.
“Conor, like I said before, we’re going to make him humble,” Nurmagomedov said.
“Iaquinta is a real gangster, he took the fight, we fought inside the cage like men.
“He [McGregor] came with a team, and camera guys and broke [the] bus, and ran away.”
And as for his next opponent, it seems like the Russian has bigger fish to fry than his Irish rival.
“Georges St-Pierre said one time, ‘If you’re a black belt, you have to say in your mind [that you’re a] white belt,” Nurmagomedov said.
“But now, I want to fight Georges St-Pierre in New York, maybe Madison Square Garden, November.”
Iaquinta slipped to 13-4-1 with the loss at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
In the women's strawweight title fight, Rose Namajunas won a unanimous decision victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk to retain the belt the American won via knockout the last time the two met in November.
Namajunas stayed light on her feet, bobbing and weaving away from Jedrzejczyk's striking power, and though the Pole wore her down with kicks to her lead leg, the champion finished strongly to seal the win.