Khabilov hype continues to grow

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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.



There was a mountain of hype surrounding Russian import Rustam Khabilov heading into only his third fight in the UFC against veteran lightweight contender Jorge Masvidal, but he did his best to justify the excitement at least for one shining moment turning the mundane into the spectacular.

The first two rounds between Khabilov and Masvidal ended up as a battle of position with both fighters jockeying to get a leg up on the other. Khabilov was content to stand on the outside and uncork a power punch here and there while Masvidal countered with quick punches and kicks concentrated to the body.

To his credit, Masvidal negated Khabilov's notable Sambo game, which garnered him a huge following after he literally tossed Vinc Pichel around the cage via a series of suplexes in his UFC debut. Without his takedowns working effectively, Khabilov returned to his standup in the third round where he unloaded the best move of the fight.

With Masvidal still trying to find his range, Khabilov measured his man in an instant and unloaded a spinning head kick that clipped the former Strikeforce fighter and sent him tumbling to the mat. Khabilov quickly swarmed smelling blood in the water, but to his credit Masvidal scrambled and rolled to stay out of trouble and made it out of the exchange. The tone of the fight was set, however, and Khabilov never looked back after landing the thunderous kick.

When the final horn sounded the two fighters embraced as the scores were all ready in favor of Khabilov by unanimous decision win, all Masvidal could do was put his head down and applaud his opponent's performance.

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