Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight elites Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor went to war last night (Oct. 6, 2018) at UFC 229 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The most dominate top position grappler in the sport squared off last night with his division’s nastiest kickboxer, and absolutely nobody could be certain which man’s style would dominate the other. Beyond the technical aspect, it was also the return of a man who never physically lost the title against an unbeaten champion. Then, there’s the whole personal nature of the bout — from the infamous dolly to Nuragomedov’s questionable ties back in Russia.
Whatever narrative appeals to you most is personal taste, but the fight was undeniably intriguing from all angles.
It took less than 30 seconds for Nurmagomedov to shoot for the first time, an awkward single leg. McGregor defended well and delayed for a while, but the Dagestani’s chain wrestling would not be denied forever. Once on top, Nurmagomedov began to work towards his favorite leg triangle, and McGregor tried to counter by wall-walking.
Once on top, Nurmagomedov was conservative. Inch by inch, “The Eagle” worked to advance into better position. Again, McGregor was able to delay for quite a long time, but Nurmagomedov worked his way into a strong half guard and finished the round with some decent shots.
It wasn’t violent work, but it was grinding.
Shockingly, Nurmagomedov opened the second round with a massive overhand that briefly planted McGregor on the mat. He was a bit overzealous in chasing for the knockout, but Nurmagomedov soon settled down and landed a takedown along the fence. This time around, Nurmagomedov settled into guard and went to work. McGregor mostly just held on his back.
At first, Nurmagomedov just picked his openings and landed thudding blows. Before long, however, Nurmagomedov was standing above the Irishman and dropping hard shots. He did real damage, eventually passing guard and working for the kimura as well. To his credit, “Notorious” hung tough and kept moving, even standing up in the final seconds of the round.
McGregor was deep in the hole, but there was still plenty of fight left.
McGregor opened the third round by targeting the body with both crosses and kicks. He also managed to deny the takedown for the first time, but Nurmagomedov backed him up with some hard shots and drove him into the fence. After denying another takedown, the two went back to trading shots on the feet, with both men landing reasonably well. Nurmagomedov finished the closest round yet by driving McGregor into the fence, only scoring a brief takedown.
McGregor opened the fourth round with some snap kicks to the mid-section, keeping his distance. However, Nurmagomedov was able to drive McGregor into the fence and shoot in, securing another takedown along the fence. Immediately, Nurmagomedov transitioned into his leg triangle, forcing McGregor to turn his back and give up the mount.
The Irishman worked to recover guard, but Nurmagomedov flattened him back into mount. McGregor bucked in an attempt to escape, allowing Nurmagomedov to advance into back mount. There would be escape for “Notorious,” as Nurmagomedov latched onto his jaw and cranked his way to a submission.
This was a pretty standard Khabib Nurmagomedov fight. Time and time again, the Dagestani has proven himself able to land the takedown just about whenever he truly commits to it. McGregor did some things well to defend the shot, but he simply could not stop the takedown.
Once on top, Nurmagomedov’s chain wrestling and positional control are suffocating.
“The Eagle” did take some time to recover from his wrestling assault, taking the third round to pick and move. He probably lost that frame, but it allowed him to come out very hard in the fourth. It makes sense, especially since his opponent is usually very worn down as well and not in a great position to knock him out.
McGregor didn’t do terribly. On the mat, he defended himself far better than past opponents — McGregor was never abused quite like Edson Barboza or Michael Johnson. However, he was worn down quickly, which left him unable to capitalize when he did exchange with the Dagestani athlete.
McGregor needed a picture-perfect shot early on, but it did not land.
After the bout, Nurmagomedov ran out of the cage to go punch Dillon Danis (watch the madness unfold here). As understandable a desire as that may be, it was a terrible move for Nurmagomedov, shifting the spotlight away from his dominant victory. Worse still, it ignited a major brawl that’s going to have long-lasting consequences. It will ultimately end up as UFC promotional footage like the McGregor dolly incident, but it’s another black mark on the sport.
Last night, Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his title with a vengeance. Is Nurmagomedov and Ferguson the next fight to make?
For complete UFC 229: “Khabib vs. McGregor” results and play-by-play, click HERE!