It is being coined the biggest fight in UFC history between Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov and Conor “The Notorious” McGregor at UFC 229 in Las Vegas. This is a classic wrestler vs striker matchup and it will be the wrestler who comes out on top.

Khabib has wreaked havoc in the UFC lightweight division since his debut in 2012, rattling off 10 straight victories with his punishing ground and pound and exceptional grappling. On the other hand, McGregor has already competed in three different weight divisions, claiming belts in two weight classes, and has been running his mouth all the way to the bank. 

Nurmagomedov is the favorite to hold on to his lightweight belt with -160 odds. Meanwhile, The Notorious McGregor has only closed once as the underdog but is at +130 just two weeks out from this fight. I think it’ll be The Eagle who gets his hand raised in this scrap and here are my reasons why.

Outstanding Wrestling Game

Nurmagomedov has an all-out seek-the-takedown approach to his fights. The Eagle has landed 49 total takedowns over his 10 career UFC fights, including a record 21 takedowns against Abel Trujillo at UFC 160 in 2013. That’s not just a record in a three-round fight, which was 12 at the time, that’s a record in any fight, including a championship five-round fight where the record was 16 takedowns.

Yes, McGregor has only been taken down twice in his last four fights, both by Nate Diaz, but that’s a shaky stat, as one of those fights was a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo and the more recent fight was with Eddie Alvarez, who was defeated early in the second round. Prior to that, he was taken down four times by Chad Mendes in just two rounds.

Khabib has dragged his opponents to the mat at least two times in eight of his 10 bouts inside the Octagon and once the fight gets to the floor, the Russian pours on an incredible ground and pound that has seen him outstrike his opponents by double digits in nine of his 10 UFC fights.

The Russian also trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy with the likes of former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold and two-division champ and Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier. Battling day after day with these bigger and experienced fighters has just made Nurmagomedov a machine when he steps inside the cage.

Mental Strength

One of the keys to victory for McGregor has always been his mental warfare and winning the fight before it even begins. However, it appears the shoe may be on the other foot for this scrap as it was Khabib taking the first shot at McGregor ahead of UFC 223. The Eagle, along with his posse, cornered McGregor’s friend and teammate Artem Lobov in the hotel lobby in an aggressive manner. Video of this altercation was leaked and that’s what enraged McGregor to make him to to Brooklyn that week.

It is well documented what happened at the Barclays Center on the media day with McGregor storming the bowels of the stadium, looking to fight with Khabib and throwing a dolly through a bus window, injuring several fighters. With all this chaos going on with an incensed McGregor, Nurmagomedov was as cool as a cucumber, seen texting on his phone and saying he was willing to meet the Irishman anywhere at any time. With Conor seemingly off his game, this could be a massive advantage for Khabib.

Exceptional Cardio

Nurmagomedov is an extremely well-rounded fighter, earning eight wins by T/KO, eight wins by submission and 10 victories by decision. The Russian has gone to the judges in six of his UFC fights, including his last two, and he can keep up his pace from the moment the ref claps them until the final airhorn goes 15 or 25 minutes later. This was on full display in his fight with Edson Barboza when he was standing over him raining down blows while telling Barboza to give up and that he was destined to be champion.

Meanwhile, McGregor has shown a vulnerability with his gas tank, which was directly responsible for his loss to Nate Diaz in their first fight when McGregor was submitted. Additionally, the cardio was in question in the rematch with Diaz, but the judges handed him the majority decision in that bout. The most obvious example of Conor running out of steam was in his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. last August. He looked quite tired in the sixth round and continued to spiral downward until the inevitable 10th-round T/KO victory by Mayweather.

The Eagle can push a pace that McGregor simply can’t and eventually when he tires out and can’t dance out of the way from Nurmagomedov, the fight hits the mat and Khabib is in his comfort zone where he can work for the win.

Click here to see why Iain MacMillan thinks Conor will win this fight

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