Don’t forget to check out The Couch Pundit Podcast
In the words of our favourite ring announcer, HERE WE GO!
Fight week excitement is real and is where we sit as we wait for fight night on Saturday, as we wait for the biggest fight in the history of MMA (until the next one) and we wait for Conor McGregor to return to the octagon to take on the monster from Dagestan, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The analysis is flying around the media, opinions are everywhere so let’s break down the fight, look at the strengths and weaknesses of both and let’s be dangerous and make a prediction. To me the fight can be broken down into the normal strengths and weaknesses, fight history and the McGregor circus.
So that is where we start. The McGregor circus and the light that shines on him wherever he goes is so vastly different to any other fighter. Very few fighters in history have had that behind them. Mike Tyson won most of his fights beforehand through intimidation but also because some boxers melted in a Tyson main event. McGregor is like that. We have seen top level fighters completely wilt, leave their game plan behind and fall against him. Jose Aldo was unbeaten for 10 years and fell in 13 seconds because of the McG mind games and atmosphere. Most people don’t understand how great Aldo was coming into that fight. McGregor broke him weeks before the fight and made him make a mistake. Eddie Alvarez is also another veteran with world titles on the mantle piece who wilted. Partly through the circus but also because he got stung early in the fight by the power McGregor has and the entire game plan changed. The circus affect is real, Khabib has never been anywhere near such a huge event. He has never drawn as many eyeballs to his fights and the light has never ben brighter on him. With every lb that is tough to shift it will feel like a stone for him this week. McGregor is the clear winner here.
Now let’s look at the strengths.
Khabib is a monster at 155lbs. He wrestles very different to the stereotypical Olympic wrestler. Instead of shooting in from distance and low, Khabib comes in level and wraps up the opponent. To the point where the opponent obviously struggles to deal with it. The feedback from previous opponents is that they have never felt so helpless than when Khabib gets his hands on them. He has done this to all but his last opponent, the last opponent Al Iaquinta. He was a high level high school wrestler (also an estate agent which shows where he stands in the rankings). Khabib used more strikes in that fight and that could have been down to some nerves with a belt on the line. Instead of sticking to his game plan and wrestling the fight away from Laquinta, he decided to stand with him and every other fighter in the division saw holes in that game. McGregor certainly would have felt confidence watching that fight. Khabib will not fight like this on Saturday, he will try to close the distance quickly and get his hands on McGregor, there will be no surprises from Khabib, but that doesn’t mean he is predictable. He is still a monster and if he gets his hand son Conor it will be a long day for Notorious. His stamina is always top notch when he makes the weight. He has had issues getting to the 155lb limit, even facing hospitalisation. This is a massive headache for Khabib, if he is dropping the weight slightly slower than usual it will be another small cut in his armour. If he makes the weight well, then he is ready to go. Khabib wants to get Conor down and punch him in the face for 5 rounds, he won’t knock out Conor but he may grind him up like mince.
Conor on the other hand is comfortable in the limelight, comfortable in the main event and comfortable taking on monsters. He is always a step ahead in terms of his movement. With the mind games ongoing this week, the open workouts took place this morning and Conor looked very sharp, there is a slight issue that he sounds like he is out of breath all of the time. Word out of camp is that he is sharp, strong, healthy and fit. Conor will march forward, probably quickly. This is what he has done in all fights so far. Even the Mayweather fight, he marched forward and made TBE turn 90 degrees away from centre ring thus winning the very first confrontation of the fight. He will look to do that again here. If Khabib take half a step back early on then that is 1-0 Conor and that is Khabib outside of his comfort zone. Very rarely is the first 4 seconds of a fight so important.
So let’s look at some more stats and then put our necks on the line with a prediction:
|Strikes landed per minute||Strikes absorbed by minute|
|TD’s landed per 15 minute||TD’s conceded per 15 minute|
Khabib has not fought anywhere near the competition McGregor has, he has no main event experience. He is easily hit. In order to implement his game plan, he has to venture into Conor’s strength, that being striking. In order to get his hands on Conor he has to be within arm’s reach, if you are within arm’s reach, you will get hit.
Conor on the other hand does not have to venture into deep water with Khabib, his longer frame means that he can stay out of arms reach of Khabib. Maybe even sting him with a few stiff jabs to make the Dagestani monster think about charging in.
If anyone is going to break with their game plan then it will be Khabib, he can be wound up and rattled and there is no one better at that that McG. BUT McGregor hasn’t been in a position where he knows that if he ends up with his back on the canvas it will take a monumental effort to get back up, some say that with 100mil in the bank it is easy to lie there and take the loss. But McGregor isn’t that kind of animal, the man doesn’t have to fight, he could sip whiskey for the rest of his life and still make more money than he can spend, but he is showing up ready for war. This is what will get him through. I do think Khabib will take Conor down in round 1, maybe late. But Conor will sting him before the end of the round, start the second with a smile and put him asleep before the end of round 2.
We predict Conor McGregor wins by R2 KO.
If the mothers of Ireland don’t like Conor now, just wait until he vanquishes this monster.