It’s being touted as the biggest UFC fight of all time, and if fan anticipation is anything to go by Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov might just live up to its billing.
UFC 229 sees McGregor return to the octagon where he made his name. Amongst other exploits during his two-year layoff, the Irishman made a fortune going 10 rounds against the greatest defensive boxer of all time.
But he faces a different kind of challenge in current UFC Lightweight Champion Nurmagomedov. The Russian is yet to taste defeat in the octagon, and his brutal, mauling style seems the perfect kryptonite to McGregor, who has been exposed by similar opponents in the past.
This classic striker vs wrestler match-up has enough layers to make it unmissable for diehards and casual fans alike. We’re going to take a look at the case for each fighter, so you can figure out who to put your money on.
Khabib Nurmagomedov – $1.62
Conor McGregor – $2.30
Why Conor Will Win
18 of McGregor’s 21 wins have come via knockout or TKO and conventional wisdom suggests if he’s going to finish the night with his arm raised he’ll have to do the same again here. But no one does it better than The Notorious One, who’s unorthodox karate stance and rangy kicks perfectly set opponents up for his famous left hand. All his opponents have seen it coming, but few have been able to stop it.
One thing that’s often forgotten in discussions about The Notorious One’s strengths, perhaps due in part to his abrasive attitude, is his fight IQ. When McGregor is taking a fight seriously his game plan is always calculated and hard to beat. The rematch with Nate Diaz illustrates this perfectly, with McGregor making the necessary adjustments after being exposed in the first fight to come out the victor.
The world will be watching McGregor take on Nurmagomedov, and while the latter has certainly earned his belt, he’s never been on a stage quite like this one before. McGregor on the other hand has headlined some of the biggest UFC cards of all time, and when the bright lights are on few fighters react better.
McGregor is the outsider with the bookies, so if you do like his chances you can get $2.30 with Neds.
Why Khabib Will Win
Takedowns & Pressure
Nurmagomedov is arguably the best pound for pound grappler in the UFC and McGregor’s weakness on the ground has been exposed before. The UFC Lightweight Champion has never failed to take his opponent down in a fight and if he can get McGregor on the ground there’s every chance it could be a long night for the Irish superstar. Nurmagomedov’s famed cardio is also expected to play a role, another area where McGregor could be exposed.
Armchair pundits around the world cite Nurmagomedov’s fight against Michael Johnson at Madison Square Garden as a sign the Russian has a suspect chin. But if you look at Nurmagomedov’s other fights it increasingly starts to seem like a lucky shot. Nurmagomedov has a better chin than people think and he will have to be hit perfectly to be put to the ground in this bout.
In the past, McGregor’s mind games and press conference antics have seen him walk into the octagon with a huge advantage over his opponents. But you get the sense it won’t be the same case here. Nurmagomedov has a steely edge which saw him completely disregard McGregor’s taunts at the one and only press conference for this fight and he’ll be walking in with the confidence of an undefeated champion.
So, Who's Going To Win?
The more you look at this fight the more it seems like it’s going to swing the way of Nurmagomedov. Ladbrokes have him as a $1.60 favourite for the bout.
But people have counted McGregor out before, and they’ve been proven wrong time and time again.