Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated's in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Following an iconic, undefeated career, Khabib has been training and sharpening mixed martial artists on the cusp of seizing control of the sport. One of those breakout talents is Usman (14-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA), Bellator's No. 3 lightweight. At only 24, the Moscow native is quickly becoming one of Bellator's most complete fighters.
"Usman, now he is coming to his own," Khabib says. "He is getting better every fight, and I think he is at 50 percent of his potential and he is going to be the future Bellator champion."
Watching Usman in the cage, it is easy to forget that he has yet to even turn 25. His explosiveness is paired with a rare calmness when grappling. An arrest last November in Russia served as the impetus for his inner circle to remind him that he needs to hold himself to a higher standard as a member of the Nurmagomedov family.
"My family name, it isn't pressure," says Usman, speaking through a translator. "Khabib's always in my corner. I feel good when he's there. It's motivation.
"With my family, I have the strongest corner in the sport. I have to represent our family on the highest level. That is what I plan to do."
Bellator 283 marks the most significant opportunity of his young career. Undefeated in his three Bellator bouts, Usman finished his last two in convincing fashion by defeating Manny Muro with a vicious knee to the body last July before putting away Patrik Pietila in October with a rear-naked choke. Now comes the bout against Gonzalez (7-1 MMA, 6-1 BMMA), a tremendous wrestler quietly pursuing a victory that would instantly place him in the rankings.
"He may have had the better amateur wrestling career, but I have the better amateur MMA career," Usman says. "I feel confident. I know I'm better than him, I know I can beat him. I've fought people similar to him. He hasn't faced anyone like me."
Depending on how the 283 card unfolds, Usman could be the top-ranked lightweight if Tofiq Musayev defeats the No. 1 ranked Sidney Outlaw. Second-ranked Benson Henderson is scheduled to fight this fall at Bellator 285, so there is room for a potential shakeup atop the division. Regardless of what happens with Outlaw and Henderson, the momentum for Usman will continue to build with an impressive showing Friday.
"My goal is to win every fight and become champion," Usman says. "Right now, my goal is to win this fight. I'll be ready to win the fight and get my hand raised."
ONE Championship unveils Prime schedule for remainder of 2022
ONE Championship held a press conference Thursday night at The Novo in Los Angeles, and revealed the full upcoming ONE on Prime Video 2022 schedule.
Prime Video begins its exclusive streaming of ONE events next week on Aug. 26 with ONE on Prime Video 1, which is headlined by reigning flyweight champ Adriano Moraes against Demetrious Johnson. The card will still take place in Singapore, but the main card will now air at 10 p.m. ET.
Following the event on Aug. 26, ONE will run on Prime Video on Sept. 30, Oct. 21, Nov. 18, and Dec. 2 for its 2022 dates. ONE's move to Prime is full of optimism, and ONE Chairman/CEO Chatri Sityodtong touched on that in a press release.
"We are incredibly excited to kick off our new relationship with Prime Video on August 26 and announce the full 2022 event schedule," Sityodtong stated. "The first time that Adriano Moraes and Demetrious Johnson met inside the ONE circle, no fans were allowed in the arena due to COVID-19. This time, the fight will be in a packed arena with millions watching around the world, and there could not be a better way to launch our U.S. primetime events.
"We know that ONE brings an incredible and unique experience for fight fans, something completely different from what American audiences have seen before. We are excited to celebrate the wide range of martial arts disciplines and showcase the world's best competitors on Prime Video."
The benefits for ONE joining the Prime family include a significant increase in brand exposure and becoming a factor in the North American MMA market. ONE will also be a player in the free agent market – a few key signings will help highlight an already deep roster. Expect ONE to put on extremely competitive, recognizable cards, which is extremely positive news for fight fans.
The Pick 'Em Section:
UFC Fight Night 208 main event: Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall
- Pick: Curtis Blaydes
Bellator 283 main event: Douglas Lima vs. Jason Jackson
- Pick: Douglas Lima
ONE 159 main event: Reinier de Ridder vs. Vitaly Bigdash
- Pick: Reinier de Ridder
Bellator 283 lightweight bout: Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Chris Gonzalez
- Pick: Usman Nurmagomedov
Bellator 283 lightweight bout: Sidney Outlaw vs. Tofiq Musayev
- Pick: Tofiq Musayev
Last week: 2–3
2022 record: 79–47
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.