On Saturday, Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov will contest the lightweight title in the UFC 229 headliner. The card will emenate from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
There is plenty of bad blood here but what really makes the bout so fascinating, is that there is no underdog. McGregor and Khabib are both the best in the division at their specialist area; both fighters are the underdog and the favourite simultaneously.
This is a complex scenario with no certainties. We can only weigh-up the different factors and possibilities, drawing the most likely conclusion. I am perfectly fine with being wrong.
It is certainly true that Conor’s left could close the show at any time. He has honed his striking down to a fine art and his left hand is the most elegant brush at his disposal. McGregor is incredibly agile, deftly stepping off at a myriad of angles and placing his left hand into the sweet spot.
Khabib moves in straight lines, whether it be shooting for a takedown or hopping forward for that unconventional ‘Eagle punch’. His lack of guard could see him taking big shots. However, Khabib may have the chin to withstand Conor’s shots during that key early period.
Should Khabib outlast that early storm, the likelihood of him winning goes up drastically. Chad Mendes is not Khabib Nurmagomedov but they are both monster grapplers. If Conor struggled to defend Mendes’ takedowns and get back up from under him, he will definitely struggle with Khabib.
Khabib will relentlessly take Conor down if he can figure out his lateral movement. McGregor took a lot of big elbows from Mendes, when he was in top position, in their bout. Khabib’s ground and pound comes in much higher volume.
If Khabib takes Conor down, he will keep him down for a sustained, vicious mauling. The lightweight champion is notorious in his own ways; freakish strength, brutal ground and pound, unmatched conditioning.
I predict that Khabib will win via TKO in the final round. He will continuously take Conor down before wrestling him into a position he cannot advance from. He will be pouring on the strikes with no response.
This is a truely high level fight. It may be a clichè but the fans are the real winners here.