Conor McGregor enters his UFC 229 fight against lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov as a betting underdog – and it’s well deserved.
Nurmagomedov is undefeated, yet to lose a round in the UFC, and is perfectly equipped to take advantage of McGregor’s most glaring weaknesses. That being said, McGregor has reasons to be confident heading into their UFC 229 fight on Oct. 6.
Khabib is far from an above average striker, in fact, he often takes punches to close the distance and take down his opponent. There is also a discrepancy in the level of opponents the two men have faced thus far in their careers. McGregor has wins over the likes of Jose Aldo, Dustin Poirier, and Max Holloway. Khabib’s best victory came against former UFC champion Rafael dos Anjos in 2014.
Another advantage many people may overlook is the ability for Conor McGregor to study the gameplan of a long and rangy fighter (Jon Jones) against an elite wrestler and clinch fighter (Daniel Cormier).
Cormier trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, the very same gym as Khabib. That is why it comes as no surprise that Cormier and Khabib have a lot of similar characteristics.
Cormier uses short and precise strikes to close the distance on his opponents and often backs them up to the cage to wear on them or land takedowns. There are a few glaring differences though, Cormier has shown legit knockout power in both of his hands and implores kicks at a higher clip. Those two skills keep his opponents honest and allow him to set up wrestling takedowns better than Khabib.
We also have to mention that Jon Jones is a much more accomplished wrestler than McGregor, so that’ll obviously come into as well.
From a striking standpoint, Jones showcased a lot of small techniques that’ll help McGregor keep the distance and limit the time he will be within Khabib’s wrestling range. Limiting the opportunities for Khabib to expose his weakness.
Let’s get back to Jon Jones.
In his second fight against Cormier, he used small push kicks and quick punches to the body to control the distance and keep DC away from the clinch. This allowed him to switch stances and use power punches when Cormier got overly aggressive. It often looked as though Jones was running from Cormier, but what he was doing is circling the cage and frustrating him. This eventually opened up the left head kick that ended the fight.
Should you expect McGregor to kick Khabib’s head smooth off? No. But he can use the same strategy to have Khabib shooting for takedowns from long distances. Those lunging shots are no different from the long looping blows Cormier threw when frustrated. Forcing over-extension is key to opening a fighter like Khabib up to a counter punch or knockout blow.
Jones’ head kick landed in the same spot McGregor loves to aim his devastating left-hand punch. Like Cormier, Khabib will drop the right hand that he often keeps tucked close to his ear when threatened to the body or rushing into the clinch. That’ll be where McGregor will have to capitalize on a mistake.
If it happens and McGregor wins by knockout, people will say that McGregor made it look easy. At that time remember this article and pay close attention to the body punches/kicks and push kicks to Khabib’s knees that ultimately opened up the knockout blow.