Billed as the biggest fight in UFC history, Conor McGregor (21-3) returns to the Octagon to take on the current undefeated UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0) in a matchup that has the whole of the UFC foaming at the mouth.
The brash, charismatic, Dubliner showed he will accept any challenge when he met boxing’s pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather last August, but despite a promising start, McGregor’s lack of boxing experience was exposed when he was stopped in the 10th round.
While the Irishman made his millions for what could be perceived as a glorified exhibition fight, Khabib was winning “Performance of the Night” against Edson Barboza, before claiming the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship after defeating Al Iaquinta with another dominant display.
The Khabib-McGregor matchup is the UFC’s equivalent to GGG vs Canelo; the two best going toe-to-toe. But will it live up to the hype?
Both fighters are specialists in different disciplines: McGregor is an elite striker with a background in kickboxing, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Tae Kwon Do; Khabib is a take-down/ground and pound specialist built on foundations of wrestling, Judo and Sambo.
In simpler terms, if both fighters stay on their feet and trade, McGregor has a huge advantage. If Khabib can take the fight to the mat, the Notorious one will be in deep trouble.
The Russian Eagle showed he is susceptible to being tagged in his fight with Michael Johnson, yet his record for the most takedowns (21 from 27 attempts) in his fourth UFC fight demonstrated his relentless nature.
McGregor’s stunning knockout of José Aldo in 13 seconds showcased his elite timing; moving backwards the Irishman connected with a left hook that landed on Aldo’s chin and rendered him unconscious. His three loses in UFC, however, all came by submission on the mat.
Eddie Alvarez – the last man to face McGregor in the Octagon, where he was stopped in the second round and lost his UFC Lightweight Championship – gives the edge to the Russian champion:
“I think if Khabib does not correct the mistake of sitting back with his chin back and going to the side, Conor’s going to put his lights out with that left hand pretty bad, pretty quickly,” Alvarez said.
“I don’t think Conor has a strong enough spirit to be able to withstand Khabib’s ground attack over and over. So I’d have to give the edge to Khabib because I feel like there will be takedowns and Conor will not get up and I don’t know if he has the spirit to stay in the fight with a ground fight.”
McGregor has an excellent ability of avoiding being taken to the mat. If he can prevent the takedowns from the undefeated Russian, it is likely that he will go on and win. But that is no easy feat.