Main Card (PPV)
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor
After circling each other for several years, Nurmagomedov and McGregor will finally lock horns on Sunday, October 7th (Saturday, October 6th Vegas time) in what’s set to be one of the biggest fights in combat sports history.
Both fighters operate at an elite level in a particular aspect of MMA, with Nurmagomedov having so far proven to be utterly dominant in the wrestling department, while McGregor is a deadly striker with a fearsome finishing record.
We’ve seen something similar to this before when McGregor faced a strong wrestler in Chad Mendes during his featherweight run. On that occasion the Irishman was repeatedly taken down and controlled on the mat, but due to Mendes having been drafted in on short notice he ran out of steam late in the second round and McGregor punished him by getting back to his feet and delivering a TKO stoppage.
Against Nurmagomedov a similar conclusion isn’t likely. The Russian absolutely has the wrestling ability to take McGregor down, but unlike Mendes, the lightweight champion is exceptionally well conditioned and has a full training camp under his belt, so his pace is unlikely to waver at any point in a five round fight.
Nurmagomedov will also be far more active on the mat than Mendes was and has punishing ground and pound that has been seen to take the fight out of his previous opponents in the past and leave them visibly drained.
That’s a real concern for McGregor as he has been shown in the past to have cardio issues and that has led to the likes of Nate Diaz and Floyd Mayweather being able to eventually pick him apart in the Octagon and boxing ring respectively.
That doesn’t mean McGregor doesn’t stand a chance though. McGregor is an exceptional striker and is extremely cool, calm and calculating even during the most high-pressure situations, including having an uncanny knack for being able to pick out the right punch at just the right time in the heat of a battle, while he’s also clinical with his shot selection when he has an opponent hurt.
Even a defensive master like Mayweather was uncharacteristically caught with punches by the relative boxing novice McGregor last year, while Jose Aldo lasted just 13 seconds, and Nurmagomedov will be far more hittable than either of them and could leave himself exposed as he looks to close the distance and initiate takedown attempts.
Still, I favour Nurmagomedov here as his exceptional wrestling, cardio and relentless pressure means that he’s almost certain to get McGregor to the mat multiple times in this fight. Even after just a couple of rounds of roughing up the Irish superstar I’d expect that will drain the striker’s energy reserves and reduce his ability to be as effective on the limited occasions when he has chances to make his mark on the feet.
As such, I think Nurmagomedov will seek to punish McGregor for everything he’s said and done during the build-up to the fight by mauling him for the best part of five rounds with relentless ground and pound, before finally picking up the pace to finish the exhausted star in the closing minutes of the fight.
Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov wins by TKO in Rd5 – BET NOW
Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis
This should be an entertaining fight, particularly given that Pettis actually looked more like his old self last time out, emerging with a second round submission victory over Michael Chiesa.
Whether that’s enough to cope with Ferguson, who has remained unbeaten in his last 10 fights remains to be seen though.
Both fighters are dangerous on the feet, and are creative too – although Pettis has been less so in recent years, whereas Ferguson appears to thrive on his dynamic, unpredictable attacks, while also fighting at an exceptionally high tempo and always in pursuit of a finish, which will put ‘Showtime’ on the backfoot where he is less comfortable.
Ferguson is hittable though, so Pettis will certainly have his opportunities, but what makes Ferguson particularly hard to handle is that he can switch up to going for takedowns, grappling and hunting for submissions seamlessly, which leaves his opponents guessing, and he’s every bit as offensive on the floor as on the feet.
In fact, most of Ferguson’s recent finishes have been on the mat, but Pettis is capable there himself and has never been tapped out via submission, so getting the fight there isn’t a guaranteed win for him.
Nevertheless, I do feel that Ferguson’s pace, offensive pressure and versatility along with being the better overall grappler are going to be key factors here that will allow him to get the better of Pettis and emerge with a decision victory.
Prediction: Tony Ferguson wins by decision – BET NOW
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes
Reyes has quickly established himself as one to watch in the UFC’s 205lb division, wielding an unbeaten 9-0 record that includes three first-round stoppage victories since joining the promotion last year.
OSP represents a sizeable step-up in competition though and he’s coming off a first round submission victory over Tyson Pedro – his fourth win in his last five fights.
Both fighters are very athletic (as evidenced by their former Football backgrounds) as well as being tall, rangey and fairly well-rounded fighters.
I do feel that Reyes has the striking advantage though, having showed some impressive technique, shot selection and finishing power in his fights so far, while OSP tends to lean a little more on his natural athleticism and large frame.
One potential concern for Reyes is that he’s only been outside of the first round once in his career to date, and he’ll also have to watch out for the fact that OSP has proven to be very crafty with submissions on the mat.
Nevertheless, I believe ‘The Devastator’ has shown a great deal of potential to date and with OSP being somewhat inconsistent I favor the younger man here to emerge with a second round TKO victory and firmly put his name on the light-heavyweight map.
Prediction: Dominick Reyes wins by TKO in Rd2 – BET NOW
Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov
Lewis’ last performance against Francis Ngannou was anything but impressive, but nonetheless, he still earned a victory and has now won eight of his last nine fights – an impressive feat in the heavyweight ranks.
Still, this is going to be a tough test for the heavy-handed ‘Black Beast’ as Volkov is also on a long unbeaten run and has consistently looked impressive during his UFC campaign to date.
Volkov holds the height and reach advantage here and most importantly he uses that to his advantage, working very effectively from range, which will be crucial to keep Lewis at bay, while he’s also far more technically sound both offensively and defensively.
Volkov is also well conditioned for his size, whereas Lewis cardio is suspect and he’s also been plagued with back issues that have hampered his performances recently in the Octagon.
Lewis can certainly finish this fight at a moment’s notice with one big home-run hit, but I think Volkov has the tools to dismantle him here, picking him apart from range and then turning up the heat to emerge with a third round TKO stoppage as Lewis runs out of steam.
Prediction: Alexander Volkov wins by TKO in Rd3 – BET NOW
Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig
Waterson is coming into this fight off a narrow win, but while on the other hand Herrig came out on the wrong end of a split decision it still feels like ‘Lil Bulldog’ has more momentum on her side, having compiled a solid four-fight winning streak prior to that, while ‘The Karate Hottie’ has gone 2-2.
In this fight Waterson will hold a technical advantage in the striking department and is the faster of the two as well, but Herrig has been improving her own stand-up, and though she’s still fairly predictable with her combinations she is the bigger, more aggressive fighter here.
Meanwhile, Waterson is capable on the mat too as you’d expect from an MMA veteran, but I do feel Herrig will again prove to be the stronger, more tenacious grappler here and she can be a threat with submissions too.
Overall I expect a competitive fight, but I think Herrig will have the edge on the mat in particular and will make up for the technical deficit on the feet with grit and determination to emerge with a decision victory.
Prediction: Felice Herrig wins by decision – BET NOW
(Predicted winners in bold)
Sean O’Malley vs. Jose Alberto Quinonez
Sergio Pettis vs. Jussier Formiga
Vicente Luque vs. Jalin Turner
Tonya Evinger vs. Aspen Ladd
UFC Fight Pass Prelims
Lina Lansberg vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Scott Holtzman vs. Alan Patrick
Gray Maynard vs. Nik Lentz
Ryan LaFlare vs. Tony Martin