SOUTHPAW versus orthodox, striker versus wrestler, showmanship versus no nonsense, challenger versus champion.
Opposites attract when the biggest star in UFC history returns to fight the Octagon’s biggest bully; a classic battle of styles in a genuinely thrilling throwback to the old-school days of the organisation.
UFC 229 Khabib v McGregor
Watch Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov on Sunday, October 7 on Main Event. ORDER NOW >
Make no mistake; this will not be a modern-day UFC fight where both men delve deep into their bag of MMA tricks.
This is a straight stand-up versus wrestling fight.
If excess bravado, coaching, or lack of composure on the biggest stage sees either guy come out to prove a point by challenging his opponent’s forte, there will be only one result: a loser’s walk back to the dressing room … followed by a trip to the ER.
These are the two most dangerous men in the lightweight division, and potentially the organisation, so here’s how each fighter can win.
CONOR MCGREGOR (THE CHALLENGER)
Two things to remember:
- Every fight begins with both men on their feet.
- If Conor stays on his feet, he will win.
Simple … right?
The idea is simple; the execution is a bit more complicated.
But with a four-inch reach advantage and clear dominance in the stand-up, controlling the distance will be where this fight is won and lost for the Irishman.
McGregor moves about as well as anyone in the UFC, and has exposed far better strikers than Khabib in the Octagon; so he’ll look to establish a comfortable range early.
He has knockout power going forward, and more importantly, backwards — as McGregor showed in his 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo — meaning when Khabib comes flying in for the takedown, he won’t be safe from a Conor counter.
Having fought orthodox fighters throughout his career, the 30-year-old can just about slip a straight right hand and throw a devastating counter left with his eyes closed.
The Notorious' finest moments
And with the fourth highest knockdown rate in UFC history (2.21 per 15 minutes), ‘The Notorious’ is an expert at using his opponent’s momentum to inflict damage; a game plan that is particularly relevant against Khabib.
But forgetting all of that, the aim of the game for McGregor will be to avoid the ground. He has good takedown defence, but it’ll need to be great against a ruthless, untiring Khabib.
No man (or bear) has been able to stop the relentless Khabib onslaught, so the longer the fight goes on, the riskier things get for McGregor.
It’s hard to see a McGregor decision win, so if you’re counting on him reclaiming the 155 lbs belt, expect a stoppage.
KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV (THE CHAMP)
When I called him the Octagon’s biggest bully, I meant it.
Khabib has become a sort of living myth up to this point in his career; a comfortable 26-0 record, where he’s turned grown men into his very own play things.
He fought bears growing up, and now he trains against teams of men as he tries to find a match for his almost inhumane stamina.
‘Ragdoll’ is a word often used to describe what Khabib does to his opponents; the general rule of thumb goes something like, ‘Don’t let him grab you, because he won’t let go.’
And while he hasn’t come up against the level of opposition McGregor has, he’s proven to possess an ability far exceeding anyone he’s faced.
But Khabib will need to close the distance, and get the fight to the canvas as soon as possible.
His stand-up is genuinely average, as we saw when he tried to make a statement against Al Iaquinta at UFC 223.
The very best of Nurmagomedov
Five minutes is a long time, and if the Russian can get Conor to the canvas with most of the round remaining, he’ll eventually do the same to McGregor as he’s done to every man before him.
And it won’t be a submission. Despite his dominance on the ground, Khabib has shown little desire to submit opponents in the past.
He prefers the ‘beat your face into a bloody mess’ approach.
With genuine disdain between these two, expect to see Khabib work his incredible ground and pound, and avoid looking for the submission, unless it presents itself.
The game plan works to break a man’s soul — working at a pace that very few, if any, can match — as Khabib revels in making his opponent want to quit.
If the fight goes to the canvas, or the distance, expect Khabib’s hand to be raised.