UFC 229 Predictions: Khabib vs. McGregor

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UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor
UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor

The Octagon travels to their home turf in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend with the highly-anticipated UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor pay-per-view on Saturday evening. The show goes down from the T-Mobile Arena featuring arguably the biggest fight in UFC history, as Khabib Nurmagomedov battles Conor McGregor with the UFC Lightweight Championship on-the-line in the main event.

As is always the case before a big MMA event, MMANews.com has you covered from multiple angles with pre-fight insight, analysis and coverage from several veteran MMA journalists. Included in the UFC 229 Roundtable for Saturday’s PPV will be staff writers Matt Boone, Ed Carbajal and Andrew Ravens.

The fights scheduled for the PPV portion of UFC 229 include the aforementioned Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor headline bout for the 155-pound title, as well as Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis in an important fight for the Lightweight division going forward, Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes, Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov in a very intriguing bout in the Heavyweight division, as well as “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig.

  • Women’s Strawweight: Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig
  • Heavyweight: Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov
  • Light Heavyweight: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes
  • Lightweight: Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis
  • Lightweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) vs. Conor McGregor

MICHELLE WATERSON vs. FELICE HERRIG

Matt Boone: After starting off 2-0 in her UFC run, former Invicta FC Atomweight Champion “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson has hit somewhat of a slump in her last few outings. She comes into the cage this weekend 1-2 in her last three, with the lone victory being a split decision over un-ranked fighter Cortney Casey-Sanchez. Prior to dropping a split decision to former division title-challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz in her last Octagon outing, the “Lil Bulldog” was riding 4-fight win streak and a 5-1 overall record since joining the UFC. The odds for this one are basically a pick’m, with Herrig at -115 and Waterson at -105. The “experts” and gambling freaks are leaning slightly towards Herrig in this one, and I tend to agree. (Prediction: Felice Herrig)

Ed Carbajal: Herrig is coming off of a loss, her seventh by decision which is the only way she has lost. Waterson, has shown she can get caught by a submission even though she carry’s nine submission wins of her own. Herrig is pretty well rounded and has a slight reach advantage but it may not be enough to beat Waterson, unless she can bait her into a grappling match and have Waterson make a mistake she can capitalize on. Hard to call but leaning towards Waterson by decision. (Prediction: Michelle Waterson)

Andrew Ravens: Two different stories with these fighters coming into the fight. On one side we have Herrig, who was on a four-fight winning streak before losing by split decision in a fight that could’ve gone either way. Then, we have Waterson, who is trying to find stability right now in her career. Herrig wins this fight with pure momentum on her side and gets it done in a close split decision victory. (Prediction: Felice Herrig)

CONSENSUS: 2-1, FELICE HERRIG

DERRICK LEWIS vs. ALEXANDER VOLKOV

Matt: The second closest betting odds for the UFC 229 PPV card go to the big boys, as “The Black Beast” and “Drago” aren’t far apart in the minds of the odds makers and the early betting public. Lewis sits at +149, while former Bellator Heavyweight Champion Volkov is favored to win at -169. Both guys are coming off big wins in their last outing, as Lewis defeated former UFC Heavyweight title challenger Francis Ngannou via decision, while Volkov knocked out former UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum. Lewis has the power and tenacity — in spurts, mind you — to finish anyone on planet earth that gets locked into an eight-sided cage with him on a Saturday night in Las Vegas. Both of these guys are being talked about as the most promising young, fresh faces in the UFC’s current Heavyweight landscape. Whoever wins on Saturday, particularly if it is in impressive fashion, will likely be in line for a title shot whenever the Daniel Cormier / Brock Lesnar / Jon Jones mess gets sorted. If I have to pick one, which I do, I’ll go with Volkov. (Prediction: Alexander Volkov)

Ed: Lewis has to erase the fight against Francis Ngannou out of the memory of fight fans. That’s a tough task against someone like Volkov who not only is the younger fighter and a former Bellator heavyweight champion, but is riding a four-fight win streak in the UFC. Lewis certainly has the power in his hands to put Volkov away but he also has a history of back issues that may or may not affect his movement on fight night. Volkov is more likely to take the victory here. (Prediction: Alexander Volkov)

Andrew: Now, this is a heavyweight showdown that is almost guaranteed to be entertaining and potentially a highlight KO. Lewis is fighting someone who could be a future title contender in his own right as he has looked great in his latest outings under the UFC banner. It comes down to one simple factor. Is Lewis still at the top of his game and will the changes in his dealings with back pain and testosterone pay off come fight night? If that’s the case, then Lewis should roll through him. However, I don’t see how Lewis can get past this young buck. Volkov walks away with a third round TKO win. (Prediction: Alexander Volkov)

CONSENSUS: 3-0, ALEXANDER VOLKOV

OVINCE SAINT PREUX vs. DOMINICK REYES

Matt: This is really the only fight I’m kind of “eh” about on the pay-per-view card. I would have preferred the Sergio Pettis vs. Jussier Formiga bout on the PPV card, however I understand they needed a mid-card “main event” level fight for the FOX Sports 1 (FS1) preliminary headline bout. As far as the OSP-Reyes fight is concerned, it’s a solid matchup and one that should get the promising undefeated contender Reyes on the map with casual fans who know OSP as “that guy that Jon Jones looked kind of human against.” Reyes is unbeaten in 9 pro fights and 5 amateur fights, with only two of those combined 14 bouts going the distance. The other 12, Reyes finished by way of KO, TKO or submission. OSP is coming off an impressive submission victory in his last Octagon outing, but there’s a reason he is a two-to-one underdog in this one. (Prediction: Dominick Reyes)

Ed: OSP has shown a vast improvement in his submission game and has experience over Reyes but it may not be enough for a finisher like Reyes. Of his nine wins, eight come by way of knock out or submission and he has yet to taste loss himself. At 35-years of age OSP may have the experience advantage and could be a problem for Reyes but it is more likely Reyes will back up his “Devastator” namesake. (Prediction: Dominick Reyes)

Andrew: This will no doubt be the biggest challenge in the way of this rising prospect as it’s the biggest name that he has yet to fight in the sport. OSP is attempting to get another notch in his winning streak and has all of the motivation right now in his corner. I think Reyes still needs to grow as an overall fighter. Thus, OSP gets it done by unanimous decision. (Prediction: Ovince Saint Preux)

CONSENSUS: 2-1, DOMINICK REYES

TONY FERGUSON vs. ANTHONY PETTIS

Matt: And now we move on to the first of two main events scheduled for Saturday night. I don’t care what anyone says, this is absolutely an additional MAIN EVENT on the PPV lineup. Obviously McGregor-Nurmagomedov will determine the man who has the recognized legitimate UFC Lightweight Championship, but “El Cucuy” certainly has as much of a claim to the title as anyone else right now. Since the weigh-ins are behind us and everything went well with Conor and Khabib, we can forget about a late Ferguson-McGregor or Ferguson-Nurmagomedov replacement bout and what that might’ve done to the already messy upper-echelon spots in what is currently UFC’s standout weight class. Ferguson gets hit in fights, and always eats those shots en route to finding his way to victory. Pettis is someone you simply can’t afford to get hit by. Ask Joe Lauzon. Ask Donald Cerrone. Ask plenty others. Pettis has been doing the opposite, in that he still shows glimpses of greatness en route to finding his way to defeat. He seems to be in good spirits and talking like always about being “back to his old self again.” Meanwhile, “El Cucuy” is doing his unorthodox and, well, let’s just call it what it is — weird — training methods, after recovering from surgery following a freak accident that left him with a badly injured leg and cost him a PPV main event title fight against Nurmagomedov for the fourth straight time. Ferguson also claims he lost TWO zero’s-worth of money from what he was scheduled to be paid in the aforementioned cancelled Khabib fight compared to the check he will receive for his co-main event against former UFC and WEC Champion and one-time Wheeties cover-star Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. Whether or not you can follow everything he says and make sense of it, and regardless of your opinions of his unusual personality and training style, you have to feel for Tony at this point. Hopefully he picks up an impressive win over a former superstar and sets himself up for the winner of the evening’s main event. I’m goin with Ferguson, but do NOT sleep on Pettis. (Prediction: Tony Ferguson)

Ed: Pettis seems to have found his groove again after earning a win over Michael Chiesa last July, but it is after going 2-2 in the previous four fights. Ferguson is coming off of an injury but it is not something that seems obvious considering his posts of recovery he’s put on social media. With his unconventional training methods, his ectomorph body structure and confident attitude it will likely be as if he was never injured. Ferguson wins this however he likes. (Prediction: Tony Ferguson)

Andrew: This is the perfect fight to serve as the co-headliner. We have a more motivated Pettis, who looked like his old self in his latest outing. Then we have Ferguson who has been on fire as of late and could’ve been lightweight champ if he didn’t get injured back in April. I think Ferguson is just at a different level at this stage of his career and although Pettis will bring the fight to him, Ferguson will be just too much. Thus, Ferguson walks away with the unanimous decision win. (Prediction: Tony Ferguson)

CONSENSUS: 3-0, Tony Ferguson

KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV vs. CONOR MCGREGOR

Matt: Fight fans, it’s here. It’s actually here. We’re just 24 hours-and-change away from the baddest 155-pound male from Russia and the baddest 155-pound male from Ireland, who collectively just-so-happen to be the two best fighters in the world at 155-pounds, locking themselves in a cage and fighting with very few rules until their issues are sorted, and until one emerges as the clear-cut best in the world. I’ve never been more nervous for a weigh-in in my life, but thankfully that is in the rear view mirror. When the bell rings, it’s pretty simple from an “on-paper” analytical standpoint — Conor needs to keep this standing and land big shot, Khabib needs to avoid eating big shots while trying to move forward and get Conor on the ground. The real question, which can’t really be analyzed past a couple of isolated in-fight examples mixed with a ton of speculation, is what happens next? Unless Conor pulls a UFC 194 type 13-second performance out of his Irish hat (which he has been wearing all fight week, by the way) it’s going to be a very interesting match to watch unfold. There are so many questions. Can it be as simple as Conor needs to land a single KO shot and if he doesn’t he’s screwed? Is Khabib good enough that he can maul the first-ever simaltaneous two-division UFC World Champion for 25 full minutes without any potential fight-ending danger? Once on the ground, which will undoubtedly happen at some point, can Conor get up? Is he capable of doing anything from the bottom like Ferguson spoke about planning to do against Khabib? It’s a fight full of questions and mystery, and with a whole lot on-the-line. These are the type of fights that pure fight fans completely geek out for, and are the rare pairings of two combat sports athletes that for whatever reason, captures the public’s attention and becomes a pop-culture crossover event that draws in a ton of “casual fans.” It’s expected to be a record-breaking fight and I can’t wait to see what happens. Most betting sites have Khabib slightly favored, although it’s worth noting that the gap has closed more and more between the two as the show draws closer, indicating that the fight weekend money is coming in on Conor. “The Notorious” always proves doubters wrong, and because of his incredibly ambitious approach to fight-selections, he’s always in fights where people doubt him. This will be the last time I doubt a confident Conor McGregor. Well, unless he goes back to boxing again. (Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov)

Ed: The odds have made McGregor less of an underdog as the fight nears and with good reason. While Nurmagomedov has the grappling pedigree to finish McGregor his stand-up has shown he is open to McGregor’s well known straight left hand that has led to him dropping or finishing most of his opponents. However despite the wins folks remember, he does have two losses and both are by submission. The first round will say a lot, if McGregor can do what he does while standing it is his fight to win if he gets a finish early. If Nurmagomedov closes the distance though and drags McGregor into the later rounds, “The Eagle” of Dagestan will likely fatigue McGregor and finish him however he wants. (Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov)

Andrew: First off, how can’t you be hyped about this fight. This fight is actually quite simple when you break it down as there are only a few factors to take into consideration. If Nurmagomedov can get and keep down McGregor, then the former champ is in for a very long night. However, if McGregor can keep the fight standing and either defend the takedowns or just get back to his feet quickly, then it’s gonna be an exciting time for Conor. The other two factors are how does Nurmagomedov react if he loses a round and how does McGregor look considering that he hasn’t fought in a year and has competed in a pro-MMA bout in nearly two years? I think McGregor finds a way to stay upright and puts on a dominating performance that leads to him getting a unanimous decision victory. (Prediction: Conor McGregor)

CONSENSUS: 2-1, KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV

What are your thoughts on the UFC 229 predictions? Who do you think will win the main card fights? Sound off in the Comments section below, and make sure to join us here at MMANews.com and via Twitter @mmanews_com for our UFC 229 Live Coverage all weekend.