- Business Insider analysed who will win the upcoming UFC 229 event, Khabib Nurmagomedov or Conor McGregor – and the answer is clear.
- Conor McGregor will lose, and Khabib Nurmagomedov will retain the UFC lightweight world title.
- There are three reasons why Nurmagomedov will succeed.
- It all comes down to style, strength, and preparation.
Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, the two most high-profile rivals in the UFC today, will throw down in what is expected to be a bloody war at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, October 6.
The UFC 229 main event pits McGregor, the knockout striker with the celebrity appeal, against Nurmagomedov, the wrestler with a violent ground-and-pound game.
UFC 229 could shatter UFC pay-per-view records as company boss Dana White anticipates 2 million purchases in the American television market alone. And those who watch are being told to expect one thing – an early and brutal finish.
The closer we get to fight night, the more we’ll see analysis appear that predicts two outcomes.
On one hand, McGregor could execute an expert knockout, with Nurmagomedov lying concussed on the canvas having been dropped by an Irish left cross. On the other, Nurmagomedov could take McGregor to the floor to gain top position, bounce his knuckles off of his opponent’s nosebone, and then force McGregor to tap because he has him tied up in a triangle choke.
There is no third way this fight could go, and there is no chance this bout lasts the distance. There will be an early finish – that much is clear.
What else is clear is that the fighter who gets that early, conclusive, finish will be Nurmagomedov.
McGregor is going to lose – and there are three reasons why.
‘When Khabib gets you on the ground … you’re not getting up’
Both athletes have one clear advantage in this fight. For McGregor, his striking is his go-to strategy. It is an equaliser, and that game-changing left cross of his is a proven fight-winner – just ask Jose Aldo, whom he knocked out in 13 seconds in 2015.
It was a testament to how highly his power is regarded when Eddie Bravo, founder of 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, praised McGregor for possessing “the heaviest hands in the game, pound for pound, no doubt,” when he was analysing the Nurmagomedov bout on a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Nurmagomedov, in contrast to McGregor, has an elite ground game. While McGregor will look to fight on his feet, Nurmegomedov would prefer to fight off the mat.
What will likely determine this fight, though, is how well each athlete performs when it comes to secondary assets rather than their primary, go-to tactics.
For McGregor, this means enforcing a tight takedown defence, while Nurmagomedov’s punch resistance and evasion will be put to the test against McGregor’s power punches.
When McGregor has fought on the mat against he has experienced danger – against the wrestler Chad Mendes, who he was able to overcome, and against jiu-jitsu expert Nate Diaz, who submitted him.
Nurmagomedov has been troubled by a strike in the past – Michael Johnson is one fighter who has tagged him – but the Russian weathered the storm and shook off the shot. Nurmagomedov has also been able to foil fighters who have a superior takedown defence than McGregor and this means that, eventually, this bout may find its way to the floor – and when that happens, it will be all Nurmagomedov.
If that happens early, in the first round for example, there is one clear outcome. If Nurmagomedov can “grab him early, ragdoll, boom, side control, elbows, knee on belly… punch! punch! punch!,” Rogan himself said we could “just see a mauling.”
Even John Danaher, the renowned coach for former two-weight UFC world champion Georges St-Pierre, told Joe Rogan on a separate podcast that, “When Khabib gets you on the ground … you’re not getting up.”
McGregor’s unstoppable run at the start of his UFC career was largely fought at featherweight. His first bout in UFC, a first round technical knockout win over Marcus Brimage in 2013, was fought at lightweight, as was his famous 13-second drilling of Jose Aldo two years later.
It was only when McGregor jumped up to welterweight to fight Nate Diaz, where he suffered his third career loss and his first in UFC, that the impact of his punches had less of an effect, and where his strength was out-matched by Nate Diaz, who submitted him with a rear-naked choke at UFC 196 in 2016.
McGregor won the rematch six months later with an improved performance, and even knocked out Eddie Alvarez when he dropped down to lightweight for a UFC title match in 2016 – but in Nurmagomedov, he is fighting a man who is big at 155 pounds.
Nurmagomedov has been a career lightweight in UFC, but before he campaigned in America, he fought at welterweight in Russia. He is a naturally big and strong lightweight.
“He’s shockingly big for his weight division,” Danaher said, adding that he’s in what is “probably the best wrestling programme in the world” with “a tough, tough, group of people.”
“His wrestling is extremely good,” he added.
McGregor has too many distractions
McGregor has not fought a UFC fight in almost two years, so it is to his credit that he’s coming back to the sport with no mid-level tune-up bout, but instead straight into a bear-pit title fight against an unbeaten beast.
McGregor was involved in the second-best-selling pay-per-view fight (US audience only) when he lost in the 10th round to Floyd Mayweather last year.
But 2018 has served him multiple distractions. McGregor was seen on video throwing guard rails at a bus carrying UFC fighters (an extraordinary attack that hospitalised two athletes in an incident earlier this year). UFC boss Dana White later claimed McGregor was motivated to confront Nurmagomedov, who had slapped McGregor’s close friend Artem Lobov and was on the bus at the time of the attack.
McGregor was arrested. He was charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief, and was later charged with menacing and reckless endangerment, according to the BBC.
The matter was cleared up when McGregor pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, and was slapped with five days of community service and told to attend anger-management classes. However, there is still fallout as Michael Chiesa, a fighter on the bus at the time of the attack, announced a lawsuit against the Irishman, a suit that still lingers over McGregor’s head.
Meanwhile, McGregor has also been investing in his personal brand. In the two years since his last UFC appearance, he has been working on his Proper No. Twelve whiskey, which he launched this month. He was even seen slugging the drink at the UFC 229 prefight press conference earlier this month, just two weeks before fight night – hardly optimum preparation.
On Friday, McGregor also dropped the first collection of his clothing line August McGregor, which includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats.
Fighting is a full-time occupation – and for every hour McGregor has worked on his own brand, that is an hour he has not been training.
He may have been able to get away with this had he booked a tune-up bout against a lesser combatant, but against Nurmagomedov in a five-round title fight, he’ll quickly find out that part-time fighters get put to sleep.
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