Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight rivals Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor will clash TONIGHT (Oct. 6, 2018) at UFC 229 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I am writing this on on Thursday, October 4th. With any luck, you’ll be reading an unchanged version on the morning of the fight in two days. We’re down to a pivotal 48 hours left until this fantastic main event, and I do believe the entire MMA world will have its collective fingers crossed that nothing awful happens.
It’s almost too good to be true.
Everyone already knows the story of this fight. On one hand, we have the Russian wrestler Khabib, who has dominated just about everyone he’s ever faced and hardly lost a single round. Returning to the cage opposite him is Conor McGregor, the sport’s biggest star and an undeniable talent in his own right.
Let’s hurry up to the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on FOX 11), Edson Barboza (UFC 219), Michael Johnson (UFC 205), Al Iaquinta (UFC 223)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: If you understand exactly what Khabib Nurmagomedov intends to do when the cage door shuts but cannot stop him, does it matter? “The Eagle” has never hid his intentions: he distracts opponents with his looping punches and flying knees, but the end game of driving into a takedown and crushing opponents from top position is always there.
For Nurmagomedov, the question of this fight is how to safely get McGregor to the mat. Once there, he can dominate, but getting close to McGregor is a dangerous task. Does Nurmagomedov just charge at him like he did Edson Barboza, or is a more measured approach necessary?
Opposite McGregor’s counter left, patience definitely seems key. At range, Nurmagomedov should be kicking McGregor and throwing non-committal jabs — enough that McGregor feels the need to answer, but not enough that Nurmagomedov leaves his chin exposed. Once Nurmagomedov finds an opening to shoot or drive McGregor to the fence, he should immediately take it.
As an aside, Nurmagomedov should definitely be willing to bust out the weird stuff. If McGregor is landing and giving him no openings, shoot that ugly low single! His entry doesn’t have to be pretty, as Nurmagomedov only needs a to get his hands on his foe to begin chain wrestling.
Key Wins: Jose Aldo (UFC 194), Nate Diaz (UFC 202), Eddie Alvarez (UFC 205), Chad Mendes (UFC 189), Dustin Poirier (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Nate Diaz (UFC 196)
Keys to Victory: McGregor is one of the sport’s finest kickboxers, a rangy counter striker with a truly special left hand. Just as important to this match up is McGregor’s grappling, and it’s promising that the Irishman has been able to stuff the majority of his opponent’s shots.
There are two adjustments I’d like to see McGregor make against the best grinder he’s ever faced. First and foremost, McGregor’s movement needs to be unpredictable. “Notorious” should be switching stance and direction often, making it more difficult for Nurmagomedov to know precisely where his legs will be.
Making shots miss is easier than defending them.
In addition, strikes up the middle should be the Southpaw’s focus. Snap kicks, uppercuts, and knees up the middle should be the bulk of McGregor’s arsenal. If he’s touching Nurmagomedov and denying him an entry to the takedown, the left hand will eventually find its home.
Bottom Line: It’s the biggest fight of the year!
Three men have strong claims to the title of best Lightweight in the world: Nurmagomedov, McGregor, and Tony Ferguson. Others, like Dustin Poirier and Kevin Lee, are very close to that conversation as well. First and foremost though, the big three at 155 lbs. need to start fighting each other.
Thankfully, it’s still set to happen tonight. This bout is the first time any of those three will finally fight each other, and that means the victor will clearly have the best claim to be the best: it’s a victory that’s worth more than the belt itself. This is a legendary time for the Lightweight division, and each man wants to be viewed as at the top of this highest peak.
Both combatants are masters of their martial arts and highly motivated to make their mark. Even aside from all that, it’s nearly guaranteed to be an amazing fight. For once, the hype is really justified.
At UFC 229, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor will duel for the Lightweight crown. Which man will leave strapped with gold?