UFC 229

Khabib x McGregor

Picks, Parlays, and Predictions

The Lightweights at the End of the Tunnel

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Four of the best lightweights in the world fight on Saturday night and three of them are technically champions. What are you going to do about it?

Picks

Khabib x McGregor
Ferguson x Pettis
Saint Preux x Reyes
Volkov x Lewis
Herrig x Waterson
Pettis x Formiga
Luque x Turner
Ladd x Evinger
Holtzman x Patrick
Kunitskaya x Lansberg
Lentz x Maynard
LaFlare x Martin

Parlays

“Don’t Come at the King” EDITION
McGregor (+155)
Ferguson (-330)
Saint Preux (+200)
$2.29 to win $20.54

“Just for the Fellas” EDITION
Nurmagomedov (-150)
Lewis (+155)
Lentz (-222)
$5 to win $25.82

“Ladies Night” EDITION
Herrig (-115)
Ladd (-160)
Kunitskaya (-175)
$5 to win $18.87

Predictions

Khabib Nurmagomedov x Conor McGregor

for the Lightweight Championship

When it comes to promotion, selling a fight, and delivering a must-see moment, there’s only one Conor McGregor. He’s the best there ever was and I will argue that until your ears bleed. He’s not too bad at fighting, either. The issue is that once McGregor wins a title, he has no interest in defending it. He moves on to bigger and better things, leaving a swarm of agitated challengers in his wake. There’s a reason lightweight is the hottest division in the UFC right now – because that’s where McGregor is and where McGregor is, eyeballs and dollar signs follow.

It’s been almost two years since we’ve seen Conor inside the Octagon because, to him, it’s all about the paycheck. And rightfully so. The brash Irishman is the biggest PPV draw in UFC history, the first hold a belt in two weight classes, the first to make a major transition to boxing, the first to co-promote with the UFC, and on Saturday he’ll be the first fighter to have his own product plastered all over the mat. Prize fighting should be about the prizes, and he understands that better than anyone else in the sport.

The build up to this fight has been well documented, so I’ll skip over the specifics. There are plenty of promo videos out there that will catch you up and, in a way, you had to be there. It’s all hype, anyways. At the first press conference, McGregor was just as busy hocking his whisky as he was promoting his comeback. Don’t tell the fans, though. This events leading to this fight have inspired some fierce nationalism from supporters of both men. Even if you weren’t interested or don’t care about combat sports, Conor has a way to make everything he does compelling.

Sharing the cage with him on Saturday will be the current UFC lightweight champion – an absolute terror from the North Caucasus mountains. Khabib Nurmagomedov is a hard-nosed Muslim from Dagestan with a championship background in Russian Sambo and an unblemished 26-0 MMA record. It’s hard to intimidate a man who is from a country that has been at war for almost 200 years. Khabib speaks down to his opponents in broken English during fights and doesn’t bat an eye when it comes to inflicting considerable damage. There’s also footage of him wrestling bears as a child. He’s hit a cartoonish Eastern-European bingo.

Not many people stand a chance against Khabib. His striking may not be beautiful, but his boxing is solid enough to close the distance, which is the goal. Once he’s got ahold of you, you’re going to go down. His wrestling is incomparable. Khabib can suplex you backwards through the mat, snap your neck, and feel indifferent about it. As-salamu alaykum, friend. He will be emotionless, you will be sad, and your family will never be able to get revenge. Entering a fight against him without being terrified would be stupid.

McGregor’s boxing stint probably made his hands sharper than ever, but his kicks, and overall variety of strikes, have always been his greatest asset. He uses an arsenal of tricks and mesmerizing footwork to set up big shots and he knows exactly which strike to throw and when to throw it. He loves it when his opponents are over-zealous and dying to get a piece of him because desperation is always detrimental in a fight. Precision and timing are where he shines.

My only prediction is that whoever loses won’t look good doing it. This fight does not have the makings of a back-and-forth slugfest. One man will be obliterated and the other will simply have to live with it. Khabib has holes in his striking that McGregor could jump through and Conor’s grappling and cardio have always been his downfall. It’s a clear game of opposites, both inside and outside of the cage. If I had to make a pick, I side with Khabib. It’s hard to deny that MMA is a wrestler’s game because they have more ways to win. If Conor isn’t able to stop the takedown or land his shot, he will be absolutely mauled. It could last 25 seconds or 25 minutes. Get the eyedrops ready, because you won’t want to blink.

Tony Ferguson x Anthony Pettis

for the Lineal Lightweight Interim Championship Maybe

Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson is the UFC’s most endearing weirdo. Owner of the longest win streak in lightweight history and eight Performance of the Night bonuses, Ferguson looks like he can beat anyone they put across from him. With style points, too. Nothing this man does is predictable. His training is preposterous, his jiu-jitsu is dynamic, and his striking is from another planet. He might also be from another planet. Opponents never know what hit them – elbows, d’arces, salsa dancing, and somersaults are all on the table. “El Cucuy” can tactical roll across the cage, throw a capoeira kick, and ankle pick you before sinking in a choke. It’s all very weird and very fluid. A strong wrestling base keeps him out of trouble and the well-rounded MMA skill set that he’s masterfully assembled is the icing on the cake. That means that if Tony Ferguson was a cake, he’d be a regular cake topped with a different cake made entirely out of icing. There’s nothing like it. He should technically be the interim champion of the division right now, but there was talk of stripping him during a knee injury he had in April. Not sure where we stand with that, but interim titles are made up anyways.

I’ve undervalued Anthony Pettis lately. His last performance against a game, and overweight, Michael Chiesa made it look like it was still “Showtime” somewhere. While the former Wheaties box model is 3-2 in his last five outings, he’s starting to look more like his old self. We’re headed back to the days of his high flying antics and freakishly strong kicks. There was a period of time where he was forced to learn how to wrestle defensively and, while that made him a better overall fighter, I think that it also made him tentative about his striking. Now, my man is back to throwing ‘bows with the best of them. With only a few years left in his career, it appears that he’s decided to throw caution to the wind. Pettis can expose the technical flaws of anyone he stands toe-to-toe with and he’ll make it look pretty. Unfortunately, those opportunities don’t always present themselves against an opponent who has no regard for formal technique.

These two unorthodox strikers are going to put on a show. With Tony coming back from an injury and Pettis on the up-and-up, I think we’re primed for a surprisingly even game of Spinny Spinny Bang Bang. Both men also have a penchant for wild jiu-jitsu finishes, which should make the fight exciting wherever it ends up. If I had to predict a Fight of the Night, this would be it. Get ready for some high-level mixed martial arts. Overall, “El Cucuy” seems like the easy pick because of the unstoppable tear he’s been on for the last five years. He’s slightly better at everything, especially when it comes to being unpredictable. A victory for Ferguson sets him up for either a media circus with Conor McGregor or another shot at the most elusive matchup in UFC history against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Until then, let’s enjoy watching some of the best athletes in the world do what they do best while the rest of us sit on our asses.