UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor Pick

MMA Fight: UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor
Key Matches: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor
When: Saturday, October 6. 2018
Time: 11PM EST
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: PPV

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Khabib Nurmagomedov, (-160), 26-0 (8 KOs, 8 Submissions) vs. Conor McGregor, (+130), 21-3 (18 KOs, 1 Submission)

Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC Lightweight Championship against ex-champion Conor McGregor in the main event of UFC 229 in Las Vegas on October 6. It is the fight of the year and a matchup that promises to deliver fireworks. In the champion, you have a dominant and unbeaten force in mixed martial arts—a fighter who has delivered a lopsided winning performance every time out. Giving some pause is the fact that on the opposite side of the equation is a two-division champion who is a superstar in the sport for a reason. With Conor, it isn’t just hype. Will we see McGregor regain his spot among the elite? Or is Khabib too much of a force and too tall of a mountain for Conor to climb?

The odds are interesting in this match. On one hand, they suggest a fight that is difficult to call in many respects. There’s a lot to like on both sides. Then again, with Conor’s star-power, the fact that he’s an underdog speaks volumes. Just in terms of fan-support, you wouldn’t think Conor supporters would need much prodding to back their man. In any event, some might perceive there to be better betting value on Khabib. If there were no such thing as hype, Khabib could at least be justified as a 2-1 favorite. That’s not to impugn Conor’s chances. The odds are close for a reason.

One could be justified in thinking that Khabib is too much for Conor. That’s a legitimate stance. Khabib isn’t just strong—he’s on a completely different level. He throws top fighters around with complete ease. He wins fights with nary any resistance. His foes end up exhibiting an overall level of defeat that is beyond what you typically see with other fighters. They aren’t merely defeated. It’s more like they’ve had the life and fighting spirit sucked from their beings. And on a somewhat-basic level, one is entitled in thinking his package of skills is too much for Conor.

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After all, McGregor hasn’t always fared well against opponents who can perform on the ground, as seen by his fights with Chad Mendes, Nate Diaz, and others. This fight has the look of being potentially dominant in one way or the other. Either Khabib tosses the Irish superstar around and beats him up or McGregor pops him with a fight-ending shot. Both seem feasible. We’ve seen Nurmagomedov hurt before, namely by Michael Johnson. And we’ve seen what Khabib does well bother Conor before. Overall, Khabib would appear to be more-dependable. He has certainly been more-dominant. His stamina appears to be better and he has less Kryptonite than Conor.

As with most big fights, there is a flip-side to almost every point or observation. Khabib has been more dominant and dependable. But other than a 2014 decision win over former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos, he has never really tangled with the top dogs in the sport. Conor has been in combat with the best in the business time and again en route to winning two titles and becoming one of the biggest names in combat sports. Khabib won the title with a good win over Al Iaquinta, but he’s still unproven at a level where he is now favored to beat a fighter who has shown he can pull off the clutch wins when the lights are shining at their brightest.

Khabib has fought ten times in the UFC and won all his fights, which says a lot. It’s a fool’s game to take a ten-fight UFC winning streak and an overall 26-0 record and try to poke holes in it. But in his ten UFC fights, he has gone the distance six times. And that wasn’t against fighters with the credentials of McGregor. Granted, Conor is hardly a marvel in the art of ground-fighting. Still, he may be underrated in the sense that he can be cagey. He finds ways to reverse the tide. He did it against Mendes and he found the answers against Diaz in the rematch. That doesn’t mean Khabib isn’t going to have his way with Conor on the ground and possibly in a big way, but McGregor could have larger windows to do what he does well than some imagine. And not to belabor the point, but Conor has shown he can do what he does well against the top guys in the biggest spots. If you took the seven best combined wins between both men, McGregor would have six of them.

Again, it’s understandable for those who picture Conor trying in vain to land a big shot, before getting swarmed, controlled, and manhandled by Khabib. One can see why a person would like the chances of the one doing the manhandling. For those who envision such a scenario, you’re not alone. It’s a fight that has been percolating for a long time. People have been afforded some time to reflect on the myriad of different possible scenarios. And for a lot of folks, that scenario includes Khabib getting a hold of Conor and making it look like a mismatch. So far, that’s what it has looked like in Khabib’s career, Why would one think otherwise?

The answer to that question lies in the magic of the Irish superstar. He won two titles. He took a legendary featherweight champion in Jose Aldo and dethroned him in 13 seconds. He KO’d Alvarez for his second belt and beat the bigger man in Diaz in the rematch. He hung in there and actually gave Floyd Mayweather problems as a debuting pro boxer taking on a 49-0 legend. The point is that he is not one of those smoke-and-mirror fighting stars who made it on glitz and glamour. He’s the real deal.

The path to a win for Conor seems reasonable enough. Khabib likely can’t finish him, either with a KO or a submission. That gives rise to the belief that Conor will get the chance to showcase his superior stand-up and dynamic striking skills. But it’s also hard to imagine Khabib not taking Conor down, keeping him there, and doing damage. If one were to be completely fair and apply a level-headed appraisal of this matchup, each man has a reasonable path to victory. I see Khabib’s recipe for success as being the more-dependable formula in this matchup. I’m taking the champion.

Loot’s Pick to Win the Match: I’m betting on Khabib Nurmagomedov at -160 betting odds. Bet this fight for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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