A.J. HOFFMAN

UFC 229 preview: McGregor-Khabib fight highlights stacked card

Connor McGregor is back. Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Well, fight fans, we finally made it. October 6th is the day we have all been waiting for. UFC 229 has arrived, and marks the long awaited return of The Notorious Conor McGregor after a lengthy layoff, facing maybe his toughest opponent to date. Without further ado, let’s preview the card. 

The main event is for the lightweight title, a belt once held by (and still carried by) Conor McGregor (21-3). Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0), however, is the rightful champion and intends on remaining on top of the 155 lb. world. The matchup is fascinating, as these two fighters are about as different as can be in every way. McGregor, of course, is a dynamic striker with serious knockout power. He moves incredibly well, and is difficult to hit. Nurmagomedov is a world class grappler, both in his ability to chain together takedowns and his ability to control on the ground once he has top position. Khabib has never lost a round in his MMA career. He has never been knocked down in his MMA career. The pressure, however, falls squarely on Khabib. A loss here would drop him down the ladder, and would likely exclude him from ever having a matchup of this caliber again. A win, however, launches him to superstardom, and forces the UFC to treat him (and pay him) as an A-side fighter. The odds of McGregor winning a decision are incredibly slim. If he is going to beat Nurmagomedov, he will need to land a big punch that stumbles or starches Khabib. Khabib will want to get the fight to the ground, and he has not failed to do so yet in his MMA career. Neither fighter has ever faced an opponent who presents such danger, which makes this fight a must watch. 

The co-main event features Tony Ferguson (23-3) taking on Anthony Pettis (21-7). Ferguson, who is on a 10-fight winning streak, feels he was the odd man out with the return of McGregor to the division. Ferguson was supposed to get his shot at Khabib at UFC 223, but a knee injury sidelined him until now. Pettis is a former champion who had lost his mojo, but may have rediscovered it in his submission win over Michael Chiesa. Ferguson, a rightful favorite, can not afford to take Pettis lightly. Pettis at his best is extremely dangerous, and Ferguson is likely next in line for a title shot if he survives here. 

A light heavyweight battle between Ovince St. Preux (23-11) and Dominick Reyes (9-0) is particularly intriguing. St. Preux lost “top prospect” status when he lost 4 out of 5 between August 2015 and February 2017. He has been on a tear since, winning 4 of his last 5. Reyes is a wrecking machine. Of his 9 fights, only one has been out of the first round. That said, what he can do when put into deep waters with a higher-level opponent. This fight should let us know what kind of a contender Reyes is, and will tell us if OSP is back in the 205 lb. mix.

Houston’s Derrick Lewis (20-5) will face Alexander Volkov (30-6) in a battle of top heavyweight contenders. Volkov, a former Bellator champion, has quickly worked his way up the UFC ladder. A finish of former champion Fabricio Werdum solidified him as a title contender. Lewis, who at one point had retired from the sport, came back to score a win over Francis Ngannou in a confusing and ugly fight. Lewis claimed that he hurt his back early in the fight, and has now flared up in multiple fights. It remains a concern going forward. Volkov is unlikely to try to wrestle Lewis to avoid a standup battle, so this fight should make for some legit fireworks. 

The prelims feature Sergio Pettis, Jussier da Silva, Vicente Luque, Scott Holtzman, and a battle of veterans between Gray Maynard and Nik Lentz. 

Enjoy the fights! 

PREDICTIONS:

Nurmagomedov by TKO

Ferguson by DEC

Saint Preux by TKO

Lewis by TKO

Waterson by DEC

Da Silva by DEC

Luque by KO

Evinger by DEC

Alves by DEC

Kunitskaya by DEC

Lentz by DEC

LaFlare by DEC

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