UFC 223: Ferguson vs. Khabib Picks

MMA Fight: UFC 223: Ferguson vs. Khabib
Key Matches: Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
When: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Time: 10:00PM EST
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Tony Ferguson, (+205), 23-3 (9 KOs, 9 Submissions) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, (-245), 25-0 (8 KOs, 8 Submissions)

Top lightweights Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will do battle in the main event of UFC 223 in Brooklyn on April 7. This bout is for the interim lightweight belt, with the winner being next in line for a lucrative match with Conor McGregor, who is still technically the champion as of press time. Title concerns aside, this is a massive bout for 155-pound supremacy between the two clear top dogs in the division. Nurmagomedov has won all 25 of his bouts and is on a dominant run of wins in the UFC, including an important December win over Edson Barboza that saw Khabib his typically-dominant self. Ferguson, meanwhile, is coming off his tenth straight win, a September stoppage of highly-rated Kevin Lee. Who will get the upper hand in this one?

Both men have been able to distinguish themselves in this division and are on long winning streaks. Nurmagomedov, 29, is a monster who has been dominant to the point where he is becoming an all-time great before even winning a belt. After a bad weight cut led to this fight getting cancelled, he was able to make weight with ease for his last fight, dominating a good fighter in Barboza and once again demonstrating his dominance in the octagon. It was an important win to show he can still make weight and that changes in how he approaches making 155 pounds have worked. In nine UFC outings, he has been mostly dominant and tremendous.

Ferguson is 34 and really in a nice groove in his career with the ten straight wins. After being out for nearly a year following a 2016 over former champ Rafael dos Anjos, he was able to get the better of rising Kevin Lee, applying yet another choke to earn the big win in September. While Nurmagomedov has been dominant, Ferguson has shown he is a cut above. Sure, Ferguson has never faced someone like Khabib before, but the same can be said for his opponent. It’s not that hard to make a case for either man.


There is no questioning Khabib’s mastery of grappling, which he does on another level. Time and again, capable fighters are rag-dolled when tangling with the talented lightweight. Nurmagomedov is a nearly-irresistible force in the octagon. It’s like a predator dragging down its prey. He is as strong as they come and his technique is above reproach. He mauls people seemingly effortlessly. There is a certain level of dominance in which he employs these tactics that is really beyond anything ever seen in this sport. When you see him throwing around the likes of the massively-accomplished and talented Rafael do Anjos, it shows he’s not your ordinary fighter.

That doesn’t mean Ferguson is without hope. Getting rocked by Michael Johnson shows Khabib isn’t above being hurt and Ferguson offers exponentially more firepower than Johnson. Ferguson stops a lot of fighters and has been in with better guys overall. His stamina is deep and unlike Khabib, he is proven over a 5-round distance. Ferguson can wrestle, as well, and his BJJ is deep. One could figure that he will be on his back, where his submission acumen could serve him well. He can really snake in those choke-holds and that has been responsible for 5 of his last 7 wins. It’s a viable move that he can apply even on his back, where he is a lot more-dangerous than any of Khabib’s recent foes.

Ferguson is a better finisher than Khabib. He has infinitely better stand-up and can end fights in a multitude of ways. He has also been highly-seasoned for this bout. Both men have and it’s long-overdue that fighters on such long unbeaten streaks are in their first title fight, even it is an interim bout. While Nurmagomedov drags opponents into the swamp and drowns them, Ferguson is more of an assassin. It’s a nice clash of styles, with a path to victory being visible for both men.

Ferguson is tremendous and one can’t discount him or his chances at pulling off the big win. I just see the ground-game of Khabib being the most-dominant asset in this fight. There is something so pure and indisputable about how he applies what he does well. There’s a difference in how he goes about it, with a level of savagery and mastery that is hard to deny. It’s a slow death as Khabib drowns his opponents and renders them helpless in his grasp. Ferguson is as tough as they come—good on his back and dangerous with those d’arce chokes. And Khabib isn’t wonderful on his feet, never went five rounds, and is fighting his toughest opponent ever. I just see him being a little too dominant with what he does well and I see him grinding out a five-round decision win over Ferguson.

Loot’s Pick to Win the Match: I’m betting on Khabib Nurmagomedov to win at -245 betting odds.

Rose Namajunas, (+140), 7-3 (1 KO, 5 Submissions) vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, (-160), 14-1 (4 KOs, 1 Submission)

Rose Namajunas takes on former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the co-feature of UFC 223 in a rematch of a November bout, where Namajunas scored a first-round upset KO to win the UFC Women’s Strawweight Title. It was a massive upset, with Joanna undefeated and expected to once again make mincemeat out of a challenger. But she lost her undefeated record and belt to the unheralded Namajunas, who was only 6-3 entering the fight. Can Namajunas pull it off again or will “Joanna Champion” once again rise to the top?

It’s hard to pin down exactly what happened in November. It’s a combination of things—Namajunas peaking, Jedrzejczyk getting a little big-headed, and possibly even getting a bit worn-down. It was embarrassing for Joanna, as she was so over-the-top in her intimidation tactics, which completely backfired in her first fight with Namajunas. The new champion was composed as her opponent mocked her and used intimidation in the build-up to the fight. She showed great composure and improvement.

Namajunas, 25, looks to have hit her stride. After a 2-1 run in Invicta, she took part in the Ultimate Fighter, making it to the finale before losing to Carla Esparza. She earned a shot to fight in the UFC nonetheless and distinguished herself by scoring three straight wins, including a high-profile stoppage of division golden-girl Paige Van Zant. A split decision loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz slowed her rise, but after beating Michelle Waterson, she earned the shot at Joanna and made the most of it, winning the fight in 3:03 of the first round.


Jedrzejczyk, 30, had been one of the UFC’s more-dependable champions—unbeaten and with five title defenses leading up to the upset loss to Namajunas. Her last win, a dominant showing of Jessica Andrade, showed her to be in fine form, but it didn’t matter against Namajunas. I think it’s time to start asking some tough questions about Jedrzejczyk. In a sport with such rapid turnover, it’s only right. She is 30, a time when things can start to head downhill. You take all the kickboxing and muay-Thai fights she has had and add that to a demanding MMA career where she usually has to go the full five rounds and mileage starts to become a concern. Fighters can grow stale overnight and it’s only fair to wonder if Joanna’s best fighting is in her rearview-mirror at this point.

Losing could awaken the monster in Joanna. Maybe she had just grown a bit complacent. Her run had been rather dominant and perhaps she grew over-confident and overlooked Namajunas. Or perhaps the loss will register badly, with her bully-vibe really backfiring in the first fight with Namajunas. Fighters like that who rely on intimidation can often become a reduced version of their former selves after losing. A Humpty-Dumpty dynamic can occur to fighters like that, as putting the pieces back together isn’t as easy as it is for more even-tempered fighters who suffer the same fate. I won’t deny that the idea of Joanna being in a better headspace and taking this more-seriously could have a major impact on this result. But I can’t help but think that Rose is on the way up, while Joanna is on the way down. And when getting an underdog price on a fighter who scored a KO 1 over the same opponent, it’s hard to pass up. I’m taking Namajunas.

Loot’s Prediction to Win the Fight: I’m betting on Rose Namajunas at +140 betting odds.

Quit wasting your hard earned money! Make the switch from -110 to -105 odds today
You'll be so glad that you did! Click Here!

MMA Betting

GTBets – Pad your bankroll before even placing your first bet! Deposit $100-$500 and get a 100% matching bonus!

BetOnline – Bet on UFC and MMA fights using your credit card from the comfort of your own home! Receive a generous signup bonus too!


UFC Weight Classes – The UFC is broken down by 8 weight class divisions with heavyweights being the biggest fighters (Maximum weight 265 pounds) and flyweights (125lb Max.) being the smallest fighters. Check out the other 6 classes of mixed martial artists including analysis for each division right here!

Famous MMA Fighters – Biographies of mixed martial arts fighters who have graced the octagon and become shining stars of the sport.

Famous MMA Quotes and Sayings – Testosterone runs high when fights take place. This creates a slew of memorable verbage from all involved including the fighters, their trainers and the announcers. Oh, and Dana White!