The biggest fight in UFC history is finally upon us, as the Dagestani mauler Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to defend his Lightweight title against the biggest star in combat sports, Conor McGregor. Nurmagomedov heads into this fight with a perfect professional record of 26-0. He’s stepped inside that octagon ten times, finishing four foes and dominating the other six via decision. In fact, over those six decision wins, Nurmagomedov has never lost a single round on any judges scorecard. A feat that is unmatched and unprecedented by any fighter in mixed martial arts period. The level of domination demonstrated is literally utter madness.
As for McGregor, it’s been nearly two years since he last fought in the UFC. A mega boxing fight against Floyd Mayweather and a legal issue prompting this rivalry and fight with Nurmagomedov kept him outside the octagon. However, the Irish superstar is back and stylistically is taking on the hardest fight of his career. Only once has McGregor truly been tested against a standout wrestler. That was against short notice replacement Chad Mendes. In the end, McGregor triumphed, but he was taken down, controlled and hit with a few good ground strikes. That was over three years ago though. And in that span, McGregor slept Aldo in 13 seconds to become the Featherweight Champion, avenged a loss to Nate Diaz in a classic and slept Eddie Alvarez to become the Lightweight Champion and first ever simultaneous belt holder.
Anyways, enough talk, Predictions!
UFC 229 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor – The motherload! The greatest fight in UFC history has finally arrived and boy is it tough call. It’s no secret how everyone and their mother view this fight. If it goes into the later rounds, Nurmagomedov will have succeeded in weathering the early storm and implementing a heavy takedown and top control approach. If it ends earlier rounds, McGregor most likely knocked Nurmagomedov out with his signature left hand.
The one thing I hate people say is, Nurmagomedov might be chinny. He got rocked one time in his career and that was to Michael Johnson. The same guy who knocked out Dustin Poirier. And not to pick on Poirier, but I believe McGregor knocked him out too. So, if Nurmagomedov can take several Michael Johnson punches and stay upright, I believe he can withstand some of McGregor’s power shots. However, I will admit that if McGregor can keep this upright and more importantly get up on takedown’s, the accumulation of his strikes will be too much to withstand.
For whatever reason, despite the stylistically bad matchup, I have McGregor. Nurmagomedov doesn’t quite have the killer instinct too put away foes, which means McGregor will have plenty of chances to crack him. So with that, I have McGregor via knockout.
155 lbs.: Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis – I’m loving the resurgence of Pettis, but at the same time I don’t think he has a chance against any of the top Lightweights. That includes Ferguson, who is the most well rounded fighter in the division. His pace and cardio are going to break Pettis and ultimately finish him. Ferguson might just be the toughest matchup for anyone, as he can literally take advantage wherever the fight goes. So with that, I have Ferguson winning via submission.
205 lbs.: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes – I love OSP, but Reyes is the future. He’s a good wrestler and striker, having legit power in his hands and kicks. OSP is tough, but he’s so inconsistent. His gas tank is also a huge question mark in every fight. If you set any kind of pace, by the third round his hands are on his knees. So, with that, I have Reyes winning via knockout.
265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov – If this stays standing, Volkov should be able to technically pick apart Lewis and potentially finish him. However, I don’t think this fight will be the slugfest people think. I see Lewis taking down Volkov, who notoriously has terrible takedown defense. From there, it’s night night, as Lewis practically throws haymakers from the top. One of them is going to land, earn Lewis the knockout victory and put him seriously in title contention.
115 lbs.: Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig – This is going to be a close fight, as Herrig will look to use her strength and bully Waterson down to the mat. If she does, then her top control might reign supreme. If Herrig fails to takedown Waterson, then she’s going to get technically out pointed on the feet. Ughh, I’ll go with the latter. So with that, I have Waterson via split decision.
UFC 229 FOX Sports 1 Prelims (8 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Jussier Formiga vs. Sergio Pettis – I’m so back and forth with this fight, but I got Pettis. I think Formiga is an excellent fighter, but he’s always dropped the ball in essentially title eliminators. For whatever reason, he can’t win the big one. The same can’t be said about Pettis though, as his most recent fight resulted in a big victory over perennial contender Joseph Benavidez. Pettis showed excellent takedown defense and made Benavidez pay for every attempt with hard power punches. I believe we see a similar game-plan, as Formiga will look to put Pettis on his back. However, I believe Pettis shrugs off the grappling exchanges and out points Formiga on the feet en route to a decision victory.
170 lbs.: Vincente Luque vs. Jalin Turner – I think Turner could have a future in the UFC based off his massive frame, but this is a short notice fight against a rising powerhouse in Luque. In the end, Luque is just too powerful on the feet. I believe he’ll drop Turner at some point and finish him via submission.
135 lbs.: Aspen Ladd vs. Tonya Evinger – This is a tough fight to call. On one end, I believe Ladd is the better fighter. On the other end, Evinger is a legit veteran, who’s got excellent grappling and submissions. She also proved that she can take several Cyborg punches and roll with them. As for the prediction, I lean Ladd because I think she is physically stronger and her grappling is getting better by the fight. So with that, I have Ladd via decision.
155 lbs.: Scott Holtzman vs. Alan Patrick – While I think Holtzman is capable of knocking out Patrick, I don’t think he’ll get much of a chance too. Patrick is a takedown artist and when he has you down, he keeps you down for the entire round. It’s not the the most entertaining style, but it’s been extremely effective. So with that, I have Patrick grinding out his sixth UFC win via decision.
UFC 229 Fight Pass Prelims (6:30 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Yana Kunitskaya vs. Lina Lansberg – I like Lansberg, but her gas tank is just not good. She puts every opponent against the cage, puts immense pressure on them and hits them solid elbows. However, the pace she sets seemingly puts her in quicksand in the third round. Kunitskaya is a solid grappler with really slick submissions. If anything, she should be able to put Lansberg on her back and control her. So with that, I have Kunitskaya via decision.
155 lbs.: Gray Maynard vs. Nik Lentz – This is a tough fight to call, as Maynard is clearly past his prime, but his wrestling is superior. Lentz is a solid grappler himself, but it’s more based towards submissions. In what should be an absolute grind of a fight, it’s Maynard who I think grits it out via split decision.
170 lbs.: Ryan LaFlare vs. Tony Martin – This should be a fairly competitive bout, as both men are well rounded. However, I believe LaFlare is slightly better in both striking and grappling. In what most likely will end decision, LaFlare’s volume striking will carry him in the victory.