Dagestan native Nurmagomedov stepped inside the for the first time since November 2016 in the main event of UFC 219, which took place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in the early hours of the morning.
The man tasked with the job of welcoming Nurmagomedov back to the Octagon was Edson Barboza, the fighter regarded by many to be the deadliest striker in the 155lbs division.
Nurmagomedov saw off the challenge of the Brazilian by registering a unanimous decision victory, the 25th of his mixed martial arts career.
Victory over Barboza saw Nurmagomedov re-establish himself as one of the top contenders for Conor McGregor’s lightweight title, which the Irishman has yet to defend.
Nurmagomedov started the bout light on his feet but soon found himself on the receiving end of Barboza’s trademark inside leg kicks.
Barboza’s kicks visibly stunned Nurmagomedov, but ‘The Eagle’, who was fighting for the first time since his UFC 205 victory over Michael Johnson, took them with ease.
Nurmagomedov sought out a takedown two minutes into the round and was successful in bringing the fight to his domain.
The most-feared man in the lightweight division promptly rained down punishment on Barboza, who struggled to shake off his opponent.
Barboza tried his hardest to wall walk back to his feet but found himself on the receiving end of more vicious shots from Nurmagomedov, who had well and truly found his rhythm.
Barboza was a shell of the man he was in the first round in the second stanza, circling away from Nurmagomedov in an attempt to recover from the beating he took minutes before.
Nurmagomedov brought the fight back to the ground shortly after the three-minute mark and once again began to punish his Brazilian foe, who was a bloody mess.
The third and final round saw Barboza catch a second win and mount a better offence that he did in the previous round.
However, he soon found himself on his back again taking more shots, much to the frustration of his corner.
Barboza managed to work his way back to his feet moments before the final buzzer but was unable to land the KO blow he needed to steal victory from Nurmagomedov’s hands.
All three judges saw the contest the same way, scoring the bout 30-25, 30-25, 30-24.