It was announced earlier this week that interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson will meet top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 on April 7, essentially leaving Conor McGregor’s Octagon return further up in the air.
While McGregor’s head coach, John Kavanagh, doesn’t know whether or not the promotion is going to strip “Notorious” of his lightweight championship in order to make Ferguson Vs. Khabib for the undisputed 155-pound title, he explains that a matchup between McGregor and Nurmagomedov is one that has to happen.
“They’re on a path to meet each other, so I’m of course watching everything he does,” Kavangh said of Khabib in a recent Facebook live interview earlier this week to promote Wimp 2 Warrior.
Nurmagomedov, who is already the favorite to defeat “El Cucuy” this April, is coming off a brutal decision victory over veteran striker Edson Barboza back at UFC 219. It was a performance that solidified the Russian’s lightweight worth, but one that didn’t impress Kavangh all that much.
“In his last fight, I just think when you’re facing somebody with the type of stopping power Conor has in his hands, if you just stand very upright and look to walk towards somebody and get a body lock, that’s a risky strategy.
“Now, Barboza is a great kicker, but trying spinning kicks on someone who can close distance quickly like Khabib and has a body lock heavy grappling game, it’s maybe not the best idea.
“For somebody who can make people overextend themselves and who has genuine one punch knockout power – and we’ve seen Khabib get rocked by Michael Johnson for example – I find it hard to envisage anything other than Conor knocking him out.”
As far as an official prediction, Kavanagh is only giving Nurmagomedov two rounds against his star pupil.
“(To cut a) long story short, I think within two rounds Conor would knock him out,” Kavanagh explained. “I think it would be maybe like the Eddie Alvarez fight, and he would stop him in the second.”
While Kavanagh is discrediting Khabib’s striking abilities and strategy on entry, he is well aware that the undefeated Russian offers some of the best grappling in the game today.
“He’s a different level of grappling with that intensity that he brings,” Kavanagh said. “It’s just a dangerous strategy. When I looked at how he closed distance in the Johnson fight compared with the Barboza fight, to me he hadn’t evolved an awful lot.”
If Nurmagomedov is able to extend his UFC win streak to 10 his next time out and capture the lightweight title (whether interim or undisputed) then he may very well meet McGregor inside of the cage this September as UFC plans to host a show in Russia.