UFC 229 – Khabib vs McGregor: Preview and Predictions

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is gearing up for what could prove to be the biggest pay-per-view event in the company’s history.

Conor McGregor will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon when he faces undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov to try and recapture the UFC lightweight title. The Irishman hasn’t fought in the UFC since November 2016 when he defeated Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden. Instead, he chose to box against Floyd Mayweather while Nurmagomedov won the vacant title by defeating Al Iaquinta a few months ago at UFC 223.

We preview and predict the main card below…

MAIN EVENT – UFC LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

Lightweight – Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov (26-0) (C) vs ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor (21-3)

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Conor McGregor is back and faces the toughest test of his mixed-martial-arts career to date. The Irishman has grown into a global superstar after becoming the first man to hold two belts simultaneously in the UFC. Textbook knockouts of Jose Aldo and Alvarez added to his legend, but his stock rose even further during the defeat to Nate Diaz with McGregor winning the rematch months later; two weight classes above his normal fighting weight. Despite his victories, ending Nurmagomedov’s legendary unbeaten streak could arguably be his greatest achievement to date.

The Russian has steamrolled every one of his opponents during his career and has arguably never even lost a round during competition. His five-round beatdown of Edson Barboza saw Khabib granted his long-awaited title shot against Tony Ferguson before his freak accident saw Iaquinta step in on late notice. The win was ultimately anti-climactic, but finally, the 30-year-old was a UFC champion.

It’s a simple fight to break down with only two real outcomes seemingly possible. McGregor possesses one of the deadliest left hands in MMA history and also knows how to set up the killer shot perfectly. On the other side, Nurmagomedov is one of the best and strongest grapplers ever to compete, and McGregor has never really been tested on the ground other than the Chad Mendes fight where he absorbed a lot of damage. Activity could also play a huge factor, how will McGregor fare after two years away from the sport? It’s an extremely tough fight to call, but I think Mystic Mac can land a clean shot early and end the fight quickly.

PREDICTION: McGregor via first-round knockout

CO-MAIN EVENT

Lightweight – Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson (23-3) vs Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis (21-7)

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In the co-main event of the evening, there is a return to action for former interim lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson, who faces former lightweight champ – Anthony Pettis. Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee to win the strap and was expected to face Khabib before a bizarre injury forced him to go under the knife.

Ferguson is currently riding a ten-fight win streak, but his position in the title picture remains unclear. Naturally, he should be next in line for a title shot with a victory, but the winner of Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier could easily jump ahead in the queue. Nevertheless, a win over Pettis is a must to add weight to his argument.

The stakes are also high for ‘Showtime’ who is looking to regain his UFC gold. After a brief stint at featherweight, Pettis returned to 155lb where he has defeated Jim Miller and most recently Michael Chiesa. Against Chiesa, he looked back to his best, combing excellent kickboxing with slick jiu-jitsu.

It’s difficult to see a route to victory for the ex-champion with Ferguson combing unorthodox striking with a magnificent ground game. In theory, it should be a routine win for ‘El Cucuy’, but no-one knows how his knee has recovered. He is returning to action way ahead of schedule which could play a part in the fight.

PREDICTION: Ferguson via unanimous decision

REST OF THE MAIN CARD

Light Heavyweight – Dominick ‘The Devastator’ Reyes (9-0) vs Ovince ‘OSP’ St. Preux (23-11)

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Despite Sean O’Malley being forced off the card, UFC fans will get to watch one of the company’s hottest prospects as Dominick Reyes puts his undefeated record on the line against the surging Ovince St. Preux.

Reyes arrived at the UFC with a record of 6-0, which included five finishes, and quickly rose up the rankings with victories over Joachim Christensen, Jared Cannonier and Jeremy Kimball. After making short work of his previous UFC foes, Reyes was rewarded with a chance to boost his stock with a win over the former light heavyweight title challenger.

OSP’s three-fight win streak was snapped by Ilir Latifi but bounced straight back with an armbar victory over Tyson Pedro back in June. Reyes represents another tough test for the 35-year-old who is looking for another shot at UFC gold.

This one could go either way with Reyes still unproven in the 205lb UFC division. OSP is definitely his toughest test yet, but I’m backing ‘The Devastator’ to continue his impressive run and stake his claim as a real contender.

PREDICTION: Reyes via first-round knockout

Heavyweight – Alexander ‘Drago’ Volkov (30-6) vs Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis (20-5)

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The only heavyweight fight on the UFC 229 card is between top of the division’s top contenders as Alexander Volkov faces Derrick Lewis. The winner of this fight has a real chance to be next in line for a title shot.

Volkov has quickly climbed the heavyweight rankings and is yet to taste defeat in the UFC. His latest victory came against former champion, Fabricio Werdum, via first-round knockout back in March. Adding Lewis to his list of victims would give the Russian a huge opportunity to get his crack at the UFC belt.

On the other hand, Lewis’ last fight was a bout to forget for fight fans. ‘The Black Beast’ faced Francis Ngannou at UFC 226 in what promised to be one of the most exciting heavyweight fights in recent history. However, there was virtually no damage dealt, and Lewis’ hand was raised simply due to activity. A big performance is needed to remove the taste left by his poor showing.

Volkov is one of the smartest fighters in the heavyweight division, but Lewis possesses knockout power to floor any man. However, constant back problems have troubled him in the past, and his opponent will definitely look to take advantage. I’m backing the former Bellator champion to get his hand raised and continue his winning streak.

PREDICTION: Volkov via unanimous decision

Strawweight – Michelle ‘The Karate Hottie’ Waterson (15-6) vs Felice ‘Lil Bulldog’ Herrig (14-7)

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Kicking off the main card action is a strawweight bout between Michelle Waterson and Felice Herrig. The veterans will go head-to-head looking to improve their impressive records in the 115lb division. Waterson snapped a two-fight losing streak by in April when she took a split decision victory against Courtney Casey while Herrig is looking to return to the winning column after her four-fight win streak was broken by Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the same month.

The former Atomweight will be undersized again during this fight and must try to take this fight to the ground. Despite the size difference, Herrig holds no real advantage over the ‘Karate Hottie’ meaning it could be a fight that is decided on the feet. Waterson must land from the outside while searching for the takedown.

While Waterson works in bursts, Herrig needs to be pressuring for the full 15 minutes. If she can achieve this, she should be able to grind out a decision victory.

PREDICTION: Herrig via unanimous decision

Let us know your predictions down below!

Follow me on Twitter – @MarcusBanks7 – Visit my blog The Beautiful Game for more

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Posted in: MMA

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