With the biggest UFC fight card of the year and arguably the biggest main event in the promotions 25 year history nearly here, it’s time to give you the final and most important predictions piece before the big show.
Main Card (PPV – 10 p.m. ET)
Lightweight Championship Bout
Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) (26-0) vs. Conor McGregor (21-3)
This is the one you all came for, right? I’d tell you to calm down, but why should you? These are the match ups that we as fans live for.
This is like a Lesnar, Rousey and Anderson Silva card rolled up into one. There’s a completely different fight day feeling and it will all come to a head when these two step into the cage. As all of the potential outcomes that have been running through our collective minds for the past few months finally come to a halt, one final question repeats as the goosebumps appear on our arms and chills run down our spine — is this really happening?
And it happens so fast. Think of Aldo versus McGregor. Think of how we couldn’t blink during Silva-Belfort until we exploded out of our seats when that front kick landed. Think of all of those times you had to explain to people who thought you were crazy for buying a Tyson or Rousey PPV because of the length of their fights. Why can’t they understand it’s all about the moment. Whether it’s 13 seconds or 25 minutes — this is what we get up for.
This fight in particular is one that just sends that poor MMA section of my mind into a frenzy. I love it. Does McGregor create enough space to land that sniper like left hand as Khabib looks to enforce his world-class Sambo stylings? Or will the champ make the challenger miss and enforce his will, thus making it a long night for the multi-millionaire.
One thing we know for sure is that both of these men want to win in the worst way. This is a blood feud for the ages and I truly believe that both competitors are too smart to risk it by doing anything foolish.
The only downfall I’ve noticed with Nurmagomedov going through his library is he does tend to keep his chin straight up in the air. He never has been truly tested on the feet because he knows he can dominate with his takedowns and ground and pound. He can suck the life out of his opponents once it hits the ground. His pace and pressure can quickly put you into survival mode. The man once took down Abel Trujillo 21 times in a 3 round fight! I think the word we’re looking for here is relentless.
We know that Khabib can take McGregor down. What we don’t know is how much punishment he will eat before that first attempt. Can McGregor use his speed and alien like footwork to create that all important separation and land combinations. Will he be confident enough to throw his kicks into the equation. He has the reach advantage and he has one punch knockout power, especially if Khabib does decide to come forward with his chin up. His fight IQ is also out of this world. He’s able to see things that a lot of other fighters simply cannot process in real-time. I trust that Coach Kavanagh and company have him more than ready for those first five minutes of this contest.
I’ve visualized this one going both ways. How can we not? We’re dealing with two men at the very top of their game. It’d be silly to say that we’re 100% sure of the outcome of this fight.
Nurmagomedov has what it takes to maul McGregor (or anyone for that matter) from bell to bell or until he gives up. McGregor has what it takes to light Nurmagomedov up until his lights go out before he can even put his hands on him.
I have a tough time betting against McGregor, who will be closing as a betting underdog for the first time in his career, because he tends to do the unthinkable inside of that cage. Maybe I’m a bit guilty of drinking the Kool-Aid (or should we call it the Proper 12) but it feels like we’re in for another one of those special nights.
Prediction: McGregor via TKO, 1st Round
Lightweight Co-Main Event
Tony Ferguson (23-3) vs. Anthony Pettis (21-7)
Tony Ferguson has won 10 consecutive fights and has not been beaten since 2012 and he competes inside of the toughest division in the sport. Sometimes you have to write that out to fully understand it. In Pettis, he’s facing a former world champion who has dropped 5 of his last 8. There’s a reason why Ferguson is a heavy favorite.
Sound logic aside, I cannot sleep on Anthony Pettis. He has the dynamic striking coupled with a sneaky submission game that can pose a problem for anyone in the division on any given night. It’d be silly to bet your house (or even your toaster) on a Pettis victory. Everyone is ready to put Ferguson against the winner of Khabib-Conor. I’m at least giving ‘Showtime’ a fighting chance here. Scratch that, I’m picking him to win. This is my upset of the night special and I’m sticking to it.
Prediction: Pettis inside the distance
Light Heavyweight Bout
Ovince St. Preux (23-11) vs. Dominick Reyes (9-0)
Dom Reyes is clearly the shot in the arm that the 205 lbs division needs right now. Somehow, this is a division that just cannot create new stars. If Reyes can beat OSP, he puts himself in a really nice spot inside of a division that has never been as shallow as it is now.
There’s a reason why everyone has been treading water at light heavyweight though. It’s because gatekeepers like OSP are absolute killers. Look for the former Volunteer to stymie the undefeated “Devastator” in Vegas tonight.
Prediction: OSP via Von
Flue Preux choke
Derrick Lewis (20-5) vs. Alexander Volkov (30-6)
Who expected this one to get as crazy as it did during last night’s weigh-in? “Drago” threw the first strike (a kick to the body) before the bout even started, giving Lewis something sleep on. If the Russian can land those body kicks at will it’s going to be a tough night for everyone’s favorite Instagram follow.
Lewis needs to get Volkov out of there as soon as possible. I believe he is outmatched here but he does have that “one hitter quitter” style that makes him a beast of a threat. Let’s just hope his back holds up because this could be a classic heavyweight battle. In the end, I like Volkov’s patience and body kicks to create an eventual opening for the finish.
Prediction: Volkov in under 2.5 rounds
Women’s Strawweight Bout
Michelle Waterson (15-6) vs. Felice Herrig (14-7)
This is an awesome PPV opener between two girls who have been at this for years. I have no issue calling them pioneers.
If the UFC created a Atomweight division for the females, Waterson would be the champ. The former Invicta FC title holder is just a little undersized against some of the members of the 115 lbs roster but she’s able to counteract that with her speed and unpredictable striking attack. Her experience and ground savvy also help make her a threat where the fight goes.
I believe that this is a closely contested match between two girls who both would’ve been champ in this division if it was created a few years earlier inside of the UFC. I give Herrig the advantage if it hits the ground but I think it’ll be Waterson who dictates the pace here. That means it stays standing and she takes it via the judges scorecards.
Prediction: Waterson via SD
Preliminary Card (FS1 – 8 p.m. ET)
Sergio Pettis (17-3) > Jussier Formiga (21-5)
Vicente Luque (13-6-1) > Jalin Turner (7-3)
Women’s Bantamweight Bout
Aspen Ladd (6-0) < Tonya Evinger (19-7)
Scott Holtzman (11-2) < Alan Patrick (15-1)
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass – 6:30 p.m. ET)
Women’s Bantamweight Bout
Lina Lansberg (8-3) < Yana Kunitskaya (10-4)
Gray Maynard (13-6-1) > Nik Lentz (28-9-2)
Ryan LaFlare (14-2) < Tony Martin (13-4)