On October 6, 2018 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas comes Conor McGregor’s return to the octagon against the undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. The martial arts universe is buzzing about this spectacle which experts believe will set pay-per-view records for UFC fights.

Since the matchup was originally announced on August 3, analysts have chimed in with their opinions and predictions. Vegas has also set an official line, listing Khabib as the favorite at -185 and McGregor at +150.

I will break down each of these fighters and discuss their strengths, weaknesses, tactics, and chances in this epic bout. Use this preview as the foundation of your research and you just may find yourself holding the winning ticket on fight night.

Conor McGregor

Pre-Fight Background

Although easily the most recognizable name in the sport, it is safe to say that McGregor is no longer considered the man to beat after a string of events resulted in a long hiatus from the octagon.

McGregor’s last MMA fight was back on November 12, 2016 in UFC 205 against Eddie Alvarez. He then took some time off to prepare for the birth of his child while also promoting the idea of a fight against the legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Negotiations on the terms of fight lasted for much of 2017 until the date was finally set for August 26 of that year. After McGregor lost to Mayweather by technical knockout, rumors swirled of a rematch while UFC fans longed for the Irishman’s return to the octagon.

This return was set back several months after a violent incident the following April in which McGregor attacked a bus carrying Khabib and was charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief.

McGregor was upset that his lightweight title was stripped for inactivity and given to Khabib. A combination of this transfer and the bus incident created a rivalry which led to this fight being scheduled.

Tactics and Strategy

McGregor is 21-3 in his career with 16 victories via knockout by punch and all 3 of his losses via submission. McGregor is much better on his feet than on the mat. A southpaw, the Irishman is known for possessing a lethal left-handed counter punch.

Coming back from a two-year layoff, fatigue has to be a main concern in the McGregor camp. Title bouts are fought at an increased intensity that cannot be easily replicated in training. Khabib’s style is extremely physical and can exhaust even the fittest of opponents.

Khabib loves to get his opponents on the ground and wrestle, a situation that McGregor normally works to avoid. The fear is that McGregor will focus all of his energy and concentration on takedown defense and will not come out with the aggressive fists that he is famous for.

Knocking Khabib out with a strong punch will be McGregor’s best chance to win. McGregor believes that “precision beats power, [and] timing beats speed,” but both of these skills require much repetition to keep sharp. If McGregor’s absence does not affect his stamina, it may throw his timing and precision off, greatly reducing his chances to score a knockout and win the fight.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Pre-Fight Background

Khabib also fought at UFC 205 but, unlike McGregor, has fought twice since that night, most recently on April 7, 2018 immediately following the bus incident.

Because of McGregor’s long absence from the sport, his lightweight title was vacated and Khabib’s April 7 fight against Al Iaquinta became a title fight, with Khabib claiming the belt on unanimous decision.

Khabib will now defend his title for the first time against McGregor, who still believes he rightfully deserves it.

Tactics and Strategy

A perfect 26-0 in his MMA career, Khabib possesses a completely different style than McGregor. With only 7 knockouts by punch, Khabib’s game plan is to use his physicality to wear out his opponent and get him to the ground.

From the opening bell, Khabib will be working to takedown McGregor because he knows he will surely lose an upright boxing match. Consensus opinion is that if McGregor goes down, he is done.

Khabib will need to be careful to not expose himself while closing in to attempt a takedown. McGregor knows he is in trouble if he winds up on the floor but he can also end the fight with one blow from his left hand.

Khabib will want to get physical with the Irishman but needs to keep his head defended. The last man to beat McGregor, Nate Diaz, did an excellent job of avoiding or absorbing blows before taking McGregor to the ground for the submission.

If Khabib can mimic this, he should not have a problem defending his title. If he allows McGregor to get a clear shot in, however, it could be over very quickly.


Conor McGregor used to be the favorite in any fight but a long hiatus has caused oddsmakers to lose confidence. He now finds himself taking on the role of underdog to win back a title he believes still belongs to him.

McGregor feels slighted having been stripped of his title and is eager to get back in the octagon. These emotions have fueled his preparations for the Khabib fight and could elevate his performance if channelled efficiently.

On the flip side, his long layoff could have adverse effects on the timing and precision that he so dearly relies on. McGregor will probably need to knock Khabib out to win, but his ability to do so is in question after the two-year break.

At 26-0, this is Khabib’s first opportunity to earn mainstream respect. Khabib is defending his lightweight title, but McGregor is defending the right to be called the face of UFC. Defeating an icon like McGregor would cement Khabib as a legitimate MMA top-talent.

McGregor’s opponents realize that if they can avoid the knockout punch, they can win with what they are good at. Floyd Mayweather beat McGregor by wearing him down with superior technique. Likewise, Khabib can tire and defeat McGregor with takedowns, provided he avoids the death punch. The intrigue is whether McGregor will be able to land his one shot.


Khabib is not an elite defender and opponents can land their fair share of punches. Thus, I like McGregor’s chances of delivering a knockout blow. If he does not, he will lose. In my opinion, however, McGregor has too good a chance in this fight to resist backing him at +150 odds.

Betting Prediction

We’re picking McGregor to defeat Khabib on 10/06/18.

Place Your Bet Here

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