UFC superstar Conor McGregor makes his long awaited Octagon return on Saturday, October 6th as he challenges reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at the main event of UFC 229 at the T-Mobile Arena is Las Vegas, Nevada.
McGregor will be making his first appearance since defeating Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016. Since then, McGregor’s only fight has been a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017, a fight which he lost by 11th round TKO. On the other hand, Nurmagomedov won the UFC lightweight belt by defeating Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 last April.
Both men have a combined record of 47-3 overall and 19-1 in the UFC. Nurmagomedov is undefeated in 26 bouts and he looks to keep his slate clean after facing the Notorious King from Ireland.
Let’s take a look at the key fights of UFC 229 and dissect them one by one:
Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
5 RD UFC lightweight championship
Moneyline Odds: McGregor +144, Nurmagomedov -164
Odds from Sportsbetting.ag as of 10/03/18
Conor McGregor enters this fight with a record of 21-3 with 18 knockouts. Known as the Notorious One, McGregor is the biggest star that MMA has ever seen. But the Irishman isn’t just the UFC’s top salesman, but with “a left hand that no one can take”, he is also one of the best strikers in the business.
McGregor lands an average of 5.82 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 4.55 significant strikes per minute. But while he can throw beautiful combinations from his wide, karate stance, his offense begins with that powerful left hand which has knocked out 18 opponents, so far.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is unbeaten in 26 fights with 8 knockouts and 8 submissions. The Dagestani possesses freakish strength for a 155 pounder and he uses relentless pressure to beat down his opponents. Not only is Khabib unbeaten, he has also been dominating.
He averages 5.44 takedowns landed per 15 minutes and he consistently moves forward looking to take his opponents to the mat. Once on the ground, Nurmagomedov has a a brutal ground and pound that forces his opponents to crumble. Khabib averages 4.34 significant strikes per minute and absorbs just 1.55 significant strikes per minute in return. Most of those significant strike came on top position, where he is most dangerous.
But while Khabib is a master on the ground, he is suspect on his feet. In his most recent bout against al Iaquinta, Khabib got tagged 43 times, the most strikes he’s absorbed since 2013. The reason was that Khabib tried to show his improved striking against Iaquinta. Instead, he revealed the one weakness that McGregor can take advantage of.
This is a classic fight between striker and wrestler and it will be interesting to see who gets the fight to where he wants. Every fight starts on its feet so McGregor will look for the opening early. His best chance would be to fight at a distance and utilize his elite striking. When Khabib tries to shoot for the takedown, the champion will leave himself open to getting hit with McGregor’s left hand. The main question here is if Khabib’s chin will hold because if he can take McGregor’s best punches, the Irishman is in for a long night.
The longer this fight goes, the more it is in favor of Khabib. McGregor has always slowed down after a couple of rounds and against someone like Khabib who can fight for 10 rounds, that’s disaster. Ring rust will add to McGregor’s woes so if he can’t land early, he’s going to get tired. All Nurmagomedov will have to do is weather the early storm. If he survives the early onslaught, this is is fight to win. All things considered, I think McGregor’s only chance is a knockout. Sure, he’s got great will power and determination. Bu Khabib has just too many advantages over him in this fight.
Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov -164
Tony Ferguson vs Anthony Pettis
3 RD UFC lightweight bout, co-main event
Moneyline Odds: Ferguson -355, Pettis +290
Odds from Sportsbetting.ag as of 10/03/18
Tony Ferguson was supposed to fight Khabib at UFC 223 for the lightweight title but he suffered a freak accident and was replaced by Al Iaquinta. Now El Cucuy sets his sights at the winner of the main event but he must first defeat former champion Anthony Pettis. Ferguson has a record of 23-3 with 9 knockouts and 9 submissions. He is currently on a lightweight record 10 fight winning streak.
Ferguson has impressive cardio and he pushes a fast pace that leaves his opponents gasping for breath. Whether it’s on his feet or on the mat, Ferguson has elite finishing abilities. The former Ultimate Fighter winner possesses one punch knockout power and has fluid combinations on his feet. On the ground, he has top level submission skills with six wins in his current 10 fight win streak coming via submission. Ferguson averages 5.09 significant strikes per minute and attempts 1.59 submissions per fight so he’s a problem anywhere inside the octagon.
Anthony Pettis comes to UFC 229 with a record of 21-7 with 9 knockouts and 8 submissions. Before the likes of McGregor, Khabib and Ferguson came along, Pettis was the staple at 155 pounds after winning the title from Benson Henderson at UFC 164 in 2013. But after winning the title, Pettis has struggled with a 4-5 record. He made a move to featherweight but eventually came back to lightweight in an attempt to win back his old bet.
Showtime is one of the most dynamic strikers we’ve ever seen inside the octagon. He uses a lot of movement and is very creative with his striking attack. Pettis mixes well his punches with kicks and is perhaps as dangerous with his legs as he is with his hands. Like Ferguson he also has a slick ground game with a million submission moves. Pettis’ averages 2.78 significant strikes per minute and 1.33 submission attempts per 15 minutes as well.
The thing with Pettis is that even at age 31, he may be past his prime. He has struggled for form in the last four years and no longer has the swag and confidence of the man known as Showtime. Pettis has looked like the shadow of his old self in recent years and against a guy oozing with confidence in Ferguson, that could be a problem.
Current form Tony Ferguson versus 2013 Anthony Pettis would have been a dream lightweight bout. It’s interesting because Ferguson is still in peak form at age 34 while Pettis looks like a ghost of his old self at 31. Don’t count out Pettis just because of his recent form. He still has the moves but unless he gets back his old confidence, there is no way he is halting the Tony Ferguson train.
Pettis is going to match Ferguson in the striking game. However, it appears that El Cucuy might have the bigger pop in his punches although Pettis does seem to have the advantage in the kicking game. Defensively, Ferguson is good and Pettis needs to bring his A-Game.
I think this fight will go to the ground after one round and when it goes down and dirty, I will give the advantage to Ferguson whom is the bigger and who I think is the stronger man between the two. Unless he gets careless and gets caught in a submission move, Ferguson will have his way on the ground. Whether it’s ground or pound or submission, I’m going with Tony Ferguson here.
Prediction: Tony Ferguson -355
Derrick Lewis vs Alexander Volkov
3 RD UFC heavyweight bout
Moneyline Odds: Lewis +151, Volkov -176
Odds from Sportsbetting.ag as of 10/03/18
Derrick Lewis is literally one of the biggest fighters in the UFC. The Black Beast enters this match with a record of 20-5 with 17 wins by way of knockout. Lewis’ style is no secret. He loves to slug it out and go for the knockout as he owns genuine one punch knockout power in both hands. If he can’t get you on his feet, Lewis will try to take you down using his weight. When he gets on top, his ground and pound is virtually unstoppable. Lewis has won 8 out of his last 9 fights by knockout. No question he is one of the most powerful men in the UFC. The problem with him though is his health.
Alexander Volkov is a former Bellator Heavyweight champion. Drago has a record of 30-6 with 20 knockouts and 3 submissions. He is currently on a six fight winning streak and has won his first four UFC bouts. Most recently, Volkov defeated former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum.
At 6-7 with a reach of 80 inches, Volkov is tall and long as a heavyweight. He uses his length to strike at a distance and he is one of the best strikers in the heavyweight division right now. He’s won his last two fights by knockout although his first two UFC bouts went the distance. Volkov lands an average of 4.84 significant strikes per minute and absorbs 2.35 significant strikes per minutes.
Volkov is on a good run right now but it will be interesting to see how he fares against one of the heaviest punchers in the business. Volkov has a four inch height advantage but only a one inch reach advantage so if he can keep Lewis at a distance, he has a chance at winning this fight. But if Lewis gets near him, the Black Beast can take him down or can slug it out with him.
Make no mistake, Lewis can be knocked out. He’s been taken out thrice in five losses. But punch for punch, Lewis is the heavier hitter and if he hits first, Volkov is definitely going to sleep. My only concern is Derrick Lewis’ back because Volkov is a mobile heavyweight and if he can’t get to Volkov, Lewis is going to tire out and he’s shown that weakness in previous bouts. I’m not going to risk my money of Derrick Lewis’ health. I think Volkov is too mobile for Lewis.
Prediction: Alexander Volkov -176