The stakes of the UFC 229 main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor reach beyond the lightweight belt.
Greatest of All Time stands as one of the vaguest terms in the sport of MMA. MMA being for a young sport has shown insane growth in the past two decades. This dynamic nature of the sport has resulted in the term Greatest of All Time changing definition almost every day. Under such circumstances, it isn’t surprising that almost every time a fighter manages to pull off something great, MMA fans don’t hesitate in putting him on the seat of one of the greatest ever. So at UFC 229, when Khabib Nurgomedov takes on Conor McGregor, the MMA world will yet again bring up the topic of whether or not the winner of the fight should go down as the Greatest of All Time.
Khabib enters the fight with a record of 26-0. While Khabib’s record does look thin, for someone who has fought 26 fights it must be noted that at various points in his career he was scheduled to face the likes of Donald Cerrone, Gilbert Melendez, Max Holloway, and Tony Ferguson. However, because of injuries and withdrawals, the fights could never take place. Now, what does this establish? It means that Khabib never avoided any form of competitive fights. Khabib has also been dominant in nearly all his past fights. Whether it’s tearing apart Michael Johnson at UFC 205 or dismantling Edson Barbosa at UFC 229, Khabib has defeated his opponents in ways none could have imagined. His Sambo skills make him an unstoppable takedown machine who has outclassed the likes of former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos.
Conor McGregor, on the other hand, enters the fight with a record of 21-3. A record which includes wins over current featherweight champion Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, former featherweight champ Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, and former lightweight title challenger Nate Diaz. His PPV buys have been record-breaking, including UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor 2, which is the most bought UFC PPV ever. Not only that, McGregor, barring Diaz, has dominated all of his opponents. Even exceptionally experienced fighters like Eddie Alvarez have been outclassed in the most brutal fashion imaginable by the Notorious one. The accuracy and power of his left hand is incredible and has brought down the likes of Jose Aldo under half a minute.
When the two collide, they create an equation which doesn’t give a specific answer. Where Khabib does have amazing takedowns, he also gets hit a lot. A single McGregor left hand is not something many can survive, and getting hit multiple times by it should be game over for any normal human being. On the other hand, McGregor doesn’t have a great wrestling game. Khabib has a great chin, given how he easily sailed past Barboza’s kicks. If he manages to get the fight to the ground, it’s game over for McGregor. The way the two complement each other is something not many seem to realize.
This storyline of McGregor entering the fight to defend the honor of his friend, Artem Lobov, and Khabib fighting for his recognition as champion has made the environment even more exciting. When the fight ends, the winner will walk out not only as the lightweight world champion, he will also walk out as a champion of his people. This air, this unpredictable mixture of styles, and simply the larger than life size of the stage ensures that the history books remember the winner as one of the greatest of all time.
UFC 229 takes place Saturday, October 6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The card airs exclusively on PPV in North America after televised and online prelims, and on BT Sport in the UK. In India the card airs on Sunday October 7 live on SONY ESPN and SONY ESPN HD.