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McGregor vs Khabib predictions: MMA media picks ‘Notorious’ to down ‘Eagle’ at UFC 229

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TL;DR: polled more than 20 members of mixed martial arts (MMA) media, as well as its own staff, about who would win UFC 229’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event this weekend between Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and former 145- and 155-pound kingpin, Conor McGregor. Of the 31 responses, 18 favored McGregor and 12 picked Nurmagomedov, with one individual undecided on the outcome. That would mean select MMA media gives “Notorious” a 60 percent chance of winning, while “The Eagle” has a 40 percent chance to retain his world title. Meanwhile, sportsbooks in Las Vegas, Nevada, currently (at the time of this writing) have Nurmagomedov as a slight betting favorite (-150) over the Irishman. But, let’s not bore you with stats and numbers, check out all the reasons folks are so split on this highly-anticipated match up ... the biggest ever, according to UFC President, Dana White.

MMA Mania Predictions

Khabib 6, Conor 3

Jesse Holland (@JesseHollandMMA) - “You don’t need me to tell you that Conor McGregor is a magnificent striker with frightening knockout power, any more than you need me to remind you how great Khabib Nurmagomedov is at taking fighters down and smashing them into pieces. You know the old saying: always bet a horse by its record. “Notorious” has been taken down six times in his UFC career, but I’ve never seen “The Eagle” get knocked down. I’ve also seen McGregor lose rounds and get finished by submission. The only thing I’ve ever seen from Nurmagomedov is victory. “One shot, one kill” might work in those Hollywood sniper movies, but for a lightweight striker who lives and dies on his timing, a two-year layoff against an active ground fighter feels less like a title fight and more like corporal punishment.”

Thomas Myers (@TommyMyers ) - Back in 2006, I predicted that Renato “Babalu” Sobral would avoid the one-punch knockout power of then-Light Heavyweight champion, Chuck Liddell, close the distance, take down “Iceman,” strangle him and then hoist the 205-pound strap into the rafters. In hindsight, it was really, really dumb. But, I figured it was one of the few chances to actually make a logical argument against Liddell winning — he was in his prime and was straight up murdering dudes on the feet at the time (five straight knockouts). I was relatively young at the time, certainly not the brilliant “expert” analyst I have grown to become over time (this is oozing sarcasm). Indeed, I am older now, but not necessarily wiser ... at least when it comes to fight predictions. So, naturally, I’ve decided to potentially repeat a terrible mistake from the past and will pick Nurmagomedov to close the distance, take down “Notorious,” strangle him and then hoist the undisputed 155-pound strap into the rafters this weekend. If McGregor wins, though, I will never bet against him again. Ever. And neither should you.”

Patrick Stumberg - “Conor McGregor is a special fighter, but I’m not sure he’s ‘come back from a two-year layoff against the toughest style match up in the division’ special. Khabib has shown the sort of durability and endless pressure that Conor has struggled with in the past, and the grueling nature of his grappling style means Conor’s gas tank is going to empty in a hurry. Khabib survives a few big shots in the first round to drag Conor to the mat and pound him into the dirt.”

Adam Guillen (@AdamGuillenJr) - “This is the type of fight that wake you up on a Saturday morning. I’m taking Khabib in this one. Conor is in fact one of the best to ever compete in the sport, but he’s never rubbed up against someone like Khabib. I don’t believe in ring rust, BUT, Conor’s stamina and cardio in a potential five-round fight will be tested here, as Khabib will more than likely drag this fight to the ground and smother and beat on “Notorious” for 25 minutes if he can. While I don’t think it will exactly be a repeat of the Edson Barboza beatdown, Khabib will do his thing in the grappling department and on the ground, ultimately getting a technical knockout win (ground-and-pound) over Conor in the 4th round.”

Ryan Harkness (@Ryan_Harkness ) - “I’m expecting this fight to go down similar to the Chad Mendes fight from 2015. Round one will see Khabib take down McGregor repeatedly, bloodying him up in the process. But in round two McGregor catches Khabib coming in sloppy. Maybe it’s a knee. Maybe it’s an elbow or punch. But the shot dazes Khabib and puts him on the defensive. McGregor starts lighting Khabib up on the feet. Khabib lands another takedown, but McGregor manages to stand right back up. McGregor stalks Khabib across the cage and catches him with a body shot that leaves Nurmagomedov hunched against the fence in pain. A big left hand from McGregor follows, landing right on Khabib’s jaw and dropping him unconscious to the mat. McGregor wins via KO in round two.

Daniel Hiergesell (@DH_MMA) - “While so many MMA pundits are convinced this is a bad matchup for McGregor, few are exploring the possibility that this is even a worse matchup for Khabib. The truth is, Khabib is entering unknown territory this weekend at UFC 229. Sure he has an undefeated professional record and has never lost a round in UFC competition, but the Russian “Eagle” has never flown this close to the sun. He has never competed on a grand stage that is likely to push out 2 million PPV buys and he has certainly never faced an opponent quite like McGregor, who possesses such elite spacing and precision on the feet. Will McGregor have trouble keeping Khabib off of him? Absolutely. Could McGregor experience some cage rust having not fought in MMA since his knockout over Eddie Alvarez two years ago? It’s possible. But, at the end of the day, we’ve seen McGregor taken down before only to get back up. We’ve seen him turn a good wrestler and all-around great fighter like Alvarez into a confused champion incapable of landing any offense. We’ve seen him tested by all kinds of different fighters inside of the Octagon and he has come out the other side fairly unscathed. What we haven’t seen is a forward-attacking fighter like Khabib take a punch on the chin from one of the best strikers in the game. We also haven’t seen Khabib consistently finish fights when the opportunity seems to be kicking down the door. More importantly, we haven’t seen how Khabib performs against an opponent he absolutely hates. That sort of added tension and emotional output often leads to uncharacteristic mistakes and depleted gas tanks. All of this paired with McGregor’s mental warfare leads me to believe he’s going to shock Khabib early. I’m leaving the door open for an all out war at UFC 229, but for now I’m expecting a first-round knockout for ‘Mystic Mac.’”

Andrew Pearson (@Vorpality) - “Three words: Khabib, 13 seconds. No, but seriously, probably Khabib. I won’t bet on it because I kinda, sorta want Conor to win, and I never bet against my preference, but I think the odds are ~60/40 in favor of Khabib taking Conor down and roughing him up. I’m not convinced that he will finish McGregor, though, despite the Irishman’s penchant for gassing. Conor seems to have put himself through a very grueling camp in preparation for a very grueling fight, and I do expect him to have a few fleeting moments of success, maybe even in the later rounds until he gets dragged down again. He’ll snap the Russian’s head back a couple of times, giving his fans flashes of hope ... but ultimately, I’m predicting that Nurmy’s large adult skull can absorb that left. Nurmagomedov by decision.”

Steve Juon (@angrymarks) - “Nurmagomedov by decision. McGregor has had too many distractions over the last two years, he’s spent too long away from the Octagon, and we’ve already seen that he’s vulnerable to a takedown. Unless he lands that Jose Aldo punch eight seconds into this fight he’s going to be taken down and mauled on the ground repeatedly just like Khabib has done to everyone else.”

Brian Jeffries (@FlyinBrianJ) - “Each guy possesses the other’s kryptonite. Conor has the touch of death in his left hand, which seemingly spells disaster for Khabib’s rudimentary striking. Khabib is arguably the best takedown and ground and pound specialist in the UFC, plus he has amazing cardio. A combination that Conor has never been up against. Yada yada, we all know the stylistic matchup. I’m rooting for McGregor because he produces clicks for my videos, social media, articles, etc. Conor Bless. As for an official prediction? I’ve got Mystic Mac via left hand shot in the first round.”

MMA Media Predictions

Khabib 6, Conor 15, Undecided 1

Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) - “This is a hard one because either can win and it depends largely on McGregor’s ability to defend takedowns, but in a five-round fight, he should have a chance to get his rhythm standing, and if he does, can finish Nurmagomedov.”

Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) - Sirius XM / “The MMA Hour:” “I’d argue the kind of pre-fight analysis you’re bound to see is totally out of its depth and likely (more than normal) to be inaccurate. Both fighters have known games, but how the two will pair is exceedingly difficult to forecast. Lots of different complexions and outcomes are plausible. There are simply too many variables, known and unknown, that can skew this in a number of directions. Is there one outcome more likely than the plausible others? History would suggest a slight lean toward Nurmagomedov. His capacity for work in a labor intensive style against a fighter known to be severely diminished by fatigue onset probably will matter. That combined with his defensive instincts having never been KO’d or dropped in professional competition is something that stands out. Then again, whatever we think McGregor’s ceiling is, he routinely shows its underestimated on fight night. He is such a strong performer when the stakes are the highest and pressure the most intense. His ability to strike going forward or backing up is nearly peerless. His takedown defense and ground game are criminally underrated. There’s a defensible case for either. Championship material goes a long way. May the best man win.”

Stephie Haynes (@CrooklynMMA) - “I’ve been on the fence about this fight since it was first announced and have gone back and forth no less than 100 times. Now that it’s down to the wire and someone is asking me to make an honest to God choice, my gut is telling me McGregor. Both men are incredibly talented, but I think Conor’s power is going to be the game-changer and will bring an early end to the contest. That said, I would not be surprised in the slightest if it goes all five rounds and sees Nurmagomedov the victor.”

Mark La Monica (@LaMonicaMark) - Newsday: “I’ll start this prediction with a crazy prop bet: Conor McGregor will attempt and successfully complete a takedown of Khabib Nurmagomedov in the first round. Why? It’s the unconventional, unexpected move from McGregor. The best fighters often take the fight to their opponent’s area of strength to surprise them and to attempt to break their will. Jon Jones did it regularly. Takedowns or not, though, Nurmagomedov’s will appears extremely hard to break. Don’t mistake his silence at calm demeanor at public events as weakness or being rattled. He’s a subdued dude. He’s also an undefeated mauler of men (and a slightly kinder grappler of bear cubs). McGregor is something of an underrated striker (in the sense that his fighting ability usually trails his soundbites, personality, attire and whiskey in people’s talking points), yet he may be the best in the business at it. Nurmagomedov overcomes that and the referee stops the bout in the fourth round for the TKO.”

Heidi Fang (@HeidiFang) - Las Vegas Review Journal: “I’m going to pick McGregor based on his striking advantage and pinpoint accuracy. I know Nurmagomedov is undefeated and the favorite based on his superb ground game and ability to suck the will out of his opponents, but the fight starts on the feet. That’s where Conor has the upper hand. McGregor and his team have always produced the right game plan for most of their opponents and I think they will find a way to exploit the holes in Nurmagomedov’s striking. Not only that, should Nurmagomedov make the simplest of mistakes, McGregor will launch a counter that will end Nurmagomedov’s title reign.”

Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) - “It’s tough to pick against an undefeated wrecking machine like Khabib Nurmagomedov but I stopped doubting Conor McGregor a long time ago. I’m going with Conor by TKO inside three rounds.”

Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) - Bleacher Report: “In 2015, after an injured McGregor took everything Chad Mendes had to offer, I told myself that this was a fighter I’d never bet against. A lot of fighters have great physical tools. Just as many have the heart of a champion. But very few have both. Conor is one of them. He’ll weather an early storm and come back to knock Khabib out in the third.”

Hunter Homistek (@HunterAHomistek) - Flo Combat: “We’re well aware of the style matchup here. We know Conor owns the striking advantage. We know Khabib will turn the fight into a snuff film if he can take McGregor down. The only question here is: Which path will the fight actually take? Logic says Khabib should win. When a fighter boasts a “puncher’s chance,” that chance rarely materializes.... But, Saturday night is the exception. Conor will land that left, it will stagger Khabib, and he will follow-up with smart, precise shots to earn the TKO finish. Round 2.”

Andrew Lawrence (@TheClownKid) - “Conor McGregor bounces Khabib’s head off the canvas sometime in the first round. You gotta BELIEVE! Shout out to ‘The Secret.’”

Zane Simon (@TheZaneSimon) - “Gotta take Khabib all the way. While both men have gaps where the other excels, it’s a lot lot easier for me to see Khabib surviving just long enough standing to get McGregor down than it is to see McGregor surviving long enough under Khabib to get back up and start doing damage again. Either is distinctly possible, but if I’m playing the odds on what’s more likely, McGregor’s questionable takedown defense seems like the bigger liability.”

Shawn Bitter (@mmawizzard) - MMA Today News: “In terms of striking, McGregor has a huge advantage as Khabib comes in with a wide stance and is sloppy with his offense output on the feet. Khabib also comes in on a straight line where he doesn’t allow himself to create angles. Against a guy like McGregor who has incredible timing and accuracy he will knock out Khabib if he’s not able to close the distance. McGregor’s takedown isn’t bad but it’s his ability to get back to his feet once he winds up on his back which is the problem. With that said, if Khabib gets the takedowns he will easily win this. It’s a tough fight to predict as it’s who will execute their game play first. I’d have to go with McGregor just because I think he can catch Khabib early coming in and knock the Russian out in round 1 but I’ve literally went back and fourth with the outcome.”

Danny Segura (@dannyseguratv) - “I think we may be in for an awakening. There’s no question Khabib is legit, but he’s been tagged before by fighters with much less power and striking technique than McGregor. I think to take McGregor down you need a blast-double-explosive-wrestling type of guy and that’s just not Khabib. I see McGregor winning by KO.”

Mike Allardyce (@mikedyce) - MMA at Sports Illustrated: “I’ve stopped doubting Conor McGregor because whenever he is faced with an opponent and appears over matched, he comes through in spectacular fashion. Khabib Nurmagomedov is his toughest challenge to date and will test that trend. But McGregor’s advantage is always that the fight starts standing up. Anyone coming in has to close the distance and risk being caught by McGregor’s striking. We’ve seen McGregor’s striking derail wrestler’s plans. We’ve seen McGregor appear emotional in the lead up to a fight but also his ability to leave that in the locker room and focus in the fight. At UFC 202 against Nate Diaz, McGregor was able to stick to a game plan and avoid following Diaz to the mat to put himself in jeopardy. We should expect another smart gameplan from McGregor. I expect a finish in the first three rounds.”

Jed Meshew (@JedKMeshew) - “Conor needs a KO in early rounds and the ring rust with hamper his usual quick start. Plus Khabib is secretly extremely good at not getting hit. Nurmy Smash.”

Nick Baldwin (@NickBaldwinMMA) - “This is a true coin-toss fight. Of course, it comes down to whether Nurmagomedov can get McGregor down and keep him down — and more specifically, the latter. We all know Nurmagomedov will get McGregor down at least once, but perhaps McGregor’s get-up game has improved. Nurmagomedov needs to hold him down to win. On the feet, McGregor is far superior, and probably has just as big an advantage as Nurmagomedov does on the ground. Michael Johnson tested Nurmagomedov’s chin in 2016, and there’s a good chance McGregor tests it even more on Saturday. McGregor has fought the better competition, but usually things like that don’t matter in Nurmagomedov fights because no matter what, he just mauls guys on the ground. Such a tough one to call, and that’s one of the many reasons this is the biggest fight in MMA history. Ultimately, the coin lands on McGregor.”

Justin Golightly (@SecretMovesMMA) - Flo Combat: “Conor McGregor is like a snake that can fire a sniper rifle. He’s elusive, has a PhD in distance, possesses scary reach for a fighter his size, and mutant power. However, all these compliments exist as long as McGregor is vertical. An entire collection of hyperbole could be thrown around to describe Khabib Nurmagomedov once it goes to the ground. It doesn’t take an expert analyst to predict if McGregor gets taken down he’ll look like he got locked in a dryer with a bunch of bricks. On the other hand, if Khabib decides to work on his boxing for a couple of rounds like he did with Al Iaquinta, he’ll be sleeping on top of a Proper Whiskey logo. That’s why this fight is so compelling. Both fighters are so damn good in their specialties that the winner will be decided by who treads water the longest in an unsurvivable storm. Khabib’s a mauler, but he can’t take McGregor out in one shot. McGregor can and Khabib keeps his head straight up in the air. Every round starts standing and if McGregor can defend even a few takedowns, I think he creates a fraction more opportunities to win than Khabib does. I got McGregor via TKO in round two.”

Tony Fagnano (@BigToneMMA) - MMA Today News: “Khabib. But he’s chinny and McGregor has the touch of death you say. Well, maybe not. Hey Jamie pull that up real quick! In the Michael Johnson fight if you rewatch that sequence where the Dagestanian was “rocked” you’ll see a fighter shaken up for a split second after taking one on the chin and quickly regaining his composure. We’re talking about a guy who mauled one of the hardest hitters in the division and then decided mid fight he was going to have a sparring session with him. Can McGregor catch the unbeaten Sambo destroyer? Sure, everyone has a punchers chance and the Irishman’s takedown defense is nothing to scoff at. Nevertheless the most likely outcome is the former champ gasses as he’s done in his last 3 fights inside and out of the cage and is either TKO’d or more likely gives up his neck in the 3rd or 4th round.”

Phoenix Carnevale (@microphonephoen) - AXSTV Cage Side Reporter: “I hate to say this but I have got to go with Conor. It’s obvious to me that he has a plan and I think the superior speed and striking will prevail. He’s a wordsmith and he has me convinced.”

Tim Bissell (@timobiss) - “I’m not a good enough of an analyst to divorce what I want to happen from what I think will happen. What I want from this fight is chaos, both in the moment and for the future of the UFC (with a star whose control over their own career could bring about fundamental - maybe even cataclysmic - change for the promotion). For that reason, I’m picking McGregor by first round KO.”

Alexander Lee (@AlexanderKLee) - “Nurmagomedov is the latest in a long line of McGregor foils who were all set to expose “The Notorious;” with respect to Jose Aldo et al., the difference is that the nigh-unstoppable Nurmagomedov will actually be the one to do it.

Lewis McKeever (@Mckeever89) - “I have this fight 50/50 down the line, although I lean ever so slightly towards Khabib simply for the fact that, historically, the grappler beats the striker. However, Conor is no ordinary striker and Khabib is no ordinary grappler. I will say that I want Conor to win because I find his style much more exciting. Could we see another Miocic vs. Ngannou? Possibly. Maybe. I have no idea.”

Lucas Rezende (@ rezenluc) - “My pick is Khabib. It might come as no surprise, but I’m betting on him taking Conor down every chance he gets and then just pounding him until he finds an opening for a submission, which I think will happen by, say, the third round.”

That’s a wrap! A huge thank you to all the MMA media members and online socialites who contributed to this post — we obviously couldn’t have done this without you. The only thing left to do now is enjoy the biggest, most anticipated UFC fight in recent memory.


Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 229 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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