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Khabib Nurmagomedov: Now that he's been smashed, Anthony Pettis can ‘go to the prelims’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Just call him Nostradamus, because nobody believed Khabib Nurmagomedov when he predicted the stunning outcome of UFC 185's main event. Weeks before Anthony Pettis ever forfeited his lightweight title to Rafael dos Anjos in a five-round rout, Nurmagomedov went on record saying that dos Anjos would "smash" Pettis in striking and "smash" Pettis on the ground.

At the time, Nurmagomedov's forecast seemed to be another round of trash talk against the former UFC champion, especially considering it was Nurmagomedov himself who embarrassed dos Anjos in a lopsided decision last at UFC on FOX 11 last April. But in retrospect, the Dagestani's words proved to be prophetic, and he explained the logic for his pick on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.

"Because I feel Rafael dos Anjos when I fight with him," Nurmagomedov said. "Before fight with me, he smash five- win streak. He smash a lot of guys, smash Cowboy Cerrone too. And after me he have very good win streak, three win streak, knock out Benson Henderson. When I fight with Rafael dos Anjos, I feel he's very strong guy, but when I say he smash Anthony Pettis, a lot of people say, ‘Khabib says trash talk.'

"But I feel this. I feel this because -- you remember after UFC 181, I told you I want fight with Anthony Pettis? And you say, ‘What plan you have for Anthony Pettis?' I told you, move forward, push him, take him down. Take him down easy, I told you. Give him hard punch. I told you better. Rafael dos Anjos make my plan with Anthony Pettis, and now I think a lot of people understand now, I am no trash talking. I say truth."

Indeed it was the forward pressure of dos Anjos that proved to be Pettis' undoing, as dos Anjos battered "Showtime" with strikes and seemingly took the American down at will, imposing his will and capturing the UFC lightweight title in one of the most spectacular and dominant upsets in recent title fight history.

Leading into Saturday night, a majority of the talk surrounded around Pettis' hype and his potential to make the leap into superstardom. But Nurmagomedov believes the MMA community was blinded by the former champ's flash, and as a result, unwittingly ignored Pettis' most glaring weakness.

"I think he's no bad fighter. But his ground, his grappling and wrestling, is zero," Nurmagomedov said. "This is my mind. I think he's maybe top-10. Maybe. Maybe. I think a lot of people in lightweight can beat this guy.

"You remember, I told you he's no true champion. I told you before, Rafael dos Anjos can beat him, I can beat him, and a lot of fighters can beat him. But all the time, Dana White say he's pound-for-pound king, he's one of the greatest. His coaches say he's Mayweather in MMA. I think it's joke, you understand? Now everybody understands who is who. Rafael dos Anjos, I, and Cowboy, and Michael Johnson -- these guys are top-four in lightweight division. Now Anthony Pettis go to the prelims."

Nurmagomedov is currently slated to meet Donald Cerrone later this spring in a No. 1 contender match at UFC 187. The winner will get the first crack at dos Anjos' belt, and Nurmagomedov hasn't been shy about telling Cerrone exactly what will happen when the two lightweights meet on May 23.

His social media chatter over the past several months has often been directed at Pettis, too, but now that "Showtime" has been toppled off the throne, Nurmagomedov says he's moving on to bigger and better targets.

"You know, I very much wanted this fight," he said. "When UFC gives [Pettis] Rafael dos Anjos, I understand. I understand. But no more. I understand Rafael dos Anjos smash him, and for me, I need fight versus Rafael dos Anjos. No more Anthony Pettis. Now I forget Anthony Pettis."