Nurmagomedov stood in the early portions of each round and performed well against the power striking and improvisational kicks from Brazil's Barboza (19-5), who was so badly beaten up on the canvas, he needed help to reach his stool after the first round.
"He's one of the best strikers in the UFC. I fought him for 15 minutes," Nurmagomedov said.
It's Nurmagomedov's world-class wrestling that makes him so menacing, however, and he flexed that skill by remaining atop Barboza for the final three minutes of the first round, landing hard punches and elbows to the head and body.
The pattern repeated in the next two rounds, a merciless attack that makes him such a fearsome presence in the talented division.
In an especially celebratory mood following the birth of his son hours earlier, Nurmagomedov told the crowd, "I can fight with anybody -- Conor or Tony."
After missing his shot at Ferguson in March because he fell ill trying to make weight, Nurmagomedov said, "I don't think about these (two) guys. I only think about me.
"I don't worry about Conor. He only thinks about money right now. After he spends his money, he will come back."
Earlier, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza of Redondo Beach edged Cynthia Calvillo by three scores of 29-28 to move closer toward a rematch with champion Rose Namajunas.
The No. 9-rated Esparza (14-4) nearly applied a deciding arm bar on the previously unbeaten, sixth-ranked Calvillo (6-1) in the first round. After Calvillo answered with flush punches in the second, Esparza fought the third with more urgency and landed hurtful punches in a flurry to close the bout.
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