By Daniel Foley – Conor McGregor finally makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon this weekend and once again he’s looking to challenge himself by taking on what could be his most dangerous opponent thus far in his career, the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Conor in the UFC, with his last appearance in the Octagon coming back in November 2016 against Eddie Alvarez where he won the UFC Lightweight championship. Since that night he’s fought Floyd Mayweather in boxing (losing by TKO), so by the time this fight begins it will mark almost 2 years of inactivity from MMA. This could prove to be a decisive factor in this fight, with his opponent fighting 3 times during that period. Certain fighters have been prone to ring rust in the past, so it’ll be interesting to see if Conor is one of those fighters.
Like all McGregor fights, there’s been a lot of controversy leading up to this fight and no doubt it’ll fire up both fighters when they get in the Octagon. While McGregor has been away from the UFC Khabib has proven to be the top lightweight in the division, putting together an impressive 26-0 record and imposing his will on his opponents by taking them down and breaking them with his dominant ground game. The only weakness the Dagastani seems to possess is his stand-up, which has improved a lot since his debut, however, it is still a long way behind his grappling ability. In his fight against Michael Johnson, this seemed particularly evident when he got rocked in an exchange before coming back to dominate the fight. McGregor, on the other hand, excels in the stand-up game, with his weakness seeming to be his ground game although this hasn’t been completely tested by his opponents thus far.
If Khabib closes the distance and gets his hands on McGregor I think it’ll be extremely difficult for Conor to get back to his feet. Therefore Conor will need to make the most of the beginning of each round and try to get his shots off early, this I think will be key to him winning this fight. The longer the fight goes the more I’d favour Khabib, Conor needs to catch him early and take advantage of his superior stand-up.
This is a really tough fight to predict as each fighter is the other’s kryptonite, it could either end very quickly with Conor via TKO or it’s going to be a long brutal decision with Khabib taking the win. If I was forced to choose I’d go with Conor just due to the sudden fight ending power he possesses, all he needs is a little mistake from Khabib and he could put his lights out, therefore, I’m going to go with Conor to win via TKO in the 1st round.