UFC 229 Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov Analysis, Insight and Preview

The stage is set, the date is 4 days away and injuries are non-existent this time around, 1000’s of Irish/Russian blooded fight fans are heading out to Las Vegas, Hotels across Vegas are sold out until Sunday, Dana White is panicking in some sort of fashion, Ariel Helwani is drooling at the mouth, Conor haters are ecstatic at the thought of the Irishmen being mauled, Conor fans are just happy to see him back inside the Octagon, but one thing we all have in common as fight fans coming into this week is that we all overly excited as arguably the biggest fight in UFC/MMA/Combat Sports history is about to go DOWN!

Neither of these fighters needs an introduction, but if you’re relatively new to the sport let me give you a brief insight into their career, early life, background & anything in-between.

Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0 record) (10-0 UFC) is the only undefeated fighter in the UFC to hold the Lightweight Championship. The Dagestan, Russia native has been on an absolute tear since his arrival to the UFC in 2012, dominating the majority of his fights whilst showing little to no emotion is quite a scary fight proposition for any fighter matched up with ‘The Eagle’.

He specializes in Sambo, Judo, Pankration & Freestyle Wrestling with two world championships to his name in Combat Sambo and just like many children who grow up in Dagestan, wrestling from an early age was the norm for Khabib whether it be with boys, men or bears… no seriously, click HERE to see a young Khabib wrestle a bear (breakdown courtesy of Robin Black).

The first Muslim and the first Russian to ever win a UFC title with a record-breaking win streak of 26-0, Not only is he undefeated but Khabib has never lost a round on the judges scorecard. Khabib Nurmagomedov will be the toughest test to date for Conor McGregor.

Conor McGregor (21-3 record) (9-1 UFC) is arguably the most celebrated athlete in combat sports history, future hall of fame and the first fighter in the UFC to hold both Featherweight & Lightweight titles consecutively. Not only did Conor win the Featherweight title but he ended an 11-year streak of fan favorite Jose Aldo within 15 seconds of the first round.  

Conor’s high-level striking is some of the best counter fighters we’ve ever witnessed inside the Octagon, holding a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu many forget Conor also possesses some great groundwork which we saw more of in his earlier UFC fights.  

The Dublin born Irishmen is no stranger to big money PPV events, constantly in the spotlight inside or outside the octagon this Saturday will be nothing but familiar ground. Plumber turned MMA fighter, Conor became the first double champion in two weight divisions for Cage Warriors promotion before signing with the UFC in 2015, and since then Conor has used his witty personality, somewhat arrogant approach to other fighters and constant TKO finishes to propel himself into the mainstream media becoming the highest-earning athlete in UFC history and once again earning himself championship’s in multiple weight classes.

The martial artist, the showman, the whiskey brand and proud countrymen with devastating hands will return home in four days, This Saturday Khabib will face the most elite striker he has ever come across.

The Beef

Earlier this year, Artem Lobov from team SBG Ireland (McGregors Gym) who is a long time training partner and friend of ‘The Notorious One’ found himself in an altercation with Khabib Nurmagomedov where Khabib cornered Artem and apparently raised his hand or lightly slapped Artem.

In a retaliation attack during a promotional press conference, McGregor and near enough 20 other members of his team were allowed into the Barclays Centre running riot in the arena. Obviously, wanting to confront Khabib and his team to seek some sort of revenge for the Artem cornering.

Whilst on a bus full of other fighters making appearances for the conference, McGregor allegedly confronted Khabib in the craziest fashion by picking up a steel barrier known as a ‘dolly’ and throwing it at the bus. This attack shattered the glass leaving a couple of fighters injured instantly becoming unavailable for the upcoming fights which led to Connor’s arrest and a whole pile of lawsuits to deal with.  

Since both dramas, fans have been itching for the Lightweight Title fight to be made between the two and sure enough, we finally got what we wanted. This is not just Khabib defending his legacy or Conor taking back his Lightweight Title, this fight ladies and gentlemen is personal.

The Matchup

No secrets or surprises when talking game plan with this fight, Khabib will want to maul Conor with his Sambo/Wrestling skills and eventually hope to finish the fight on the floor and on the other hand, Conor will want to keep the fight standing and outstrike or potentially KO Khabib with his elite striking skill.

The question remains, is Conor’s takedown defense good enough to escape the heavy pressure style wrestling that Khabib brings into every fight he has? Nobody has managed to escape the bear-like grip of Khabib in all of his UFC stints, so if you look at the numbers you would automatically assume it’s a long night for Conor.

We’ve heard it with Chad Mendes and Eddie Alvarez, two of the UFC’s strongest wrestling base fighters, “Conor has no chance against a wrestler”, only to prove his doubters wrong time and time again.

Yes Chad Mendes managed to take Conor down and maintain top control for a longer period than anybody else has managed but Conor was unleashing offense from his back constantly whilst waiting for the moment he could escape, finally ending the fight with another KO Conor had the doubters stunned.

Khabib might give Conor a gas tank he can’t keep up with, we all know Khabib loves to spam the takedown and drain the battery in his opponents leading to an eventual takedown without fail. We saw Conor lose gas in both his lengthy bouts against Nate Diaz. It’s been two years, has Conor focussed on that part of his game, I think it’s safe to say of course he has but watching Khabib walk out in round 3 the same as he did in round 1 is not the type of cardio you want to play with.

Conor will have to do what he does best, read the distance quick whilst keeping his opponent at the end of his strikes, wait for the impatient rush and counter strike them until unconsciousness. If Conor can avoid the takedown he is sure to raise the gold belt once again, but if he doesn’t finish early and eventually becomes tired it will be a long and painful night for the ‘Notorious One’ dealing with body locks, ground and pound, with some chained takedowns if you think about trying to get up. Khabib will beat Conor for 5 rounds, finish him with ground and pound or until he gives up a submission opportunity if the Irishmen can’t find a way to keep it standing.  

Khabib will also need to find his range quick but not the long distance range, the close one. He needs to keep away from any sort of stand up war with Conor otherwise the Russian will be in serious danger. Spamming Conor with the takedown, constant ground and pound from the moment the bell rings utilizing his cardio is all that Khabib needs to do.  If he can take Conor into deep waters his confidence will only grow and Khabibs legacy will stay intact, but if McGregor can sprawl Khabib there’s a chance that confidence might drop and his fists will raise leaving the opening Conor will be hunting for giving the Irish fans what they want which is a first or second round KO.

Final Thoughts

With everything said, I have absolutely no idea how this fight is going to pan out. Two of the highest level fighters in the entire company go face to face in a personal war which will go down in the history books. My advice to you, put your money in your pocket, tune in Saturday and enjoy the fight for what it is.

Scheduled to be the biggest fight in UFC history, tune into UFC229 live at 3 AM BST on BT Sport. 

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