Amid all the Bluster and the bullshit that was the Official Press Conference for UFC 229 last week in New York – Something was lost. Conor McGregor let something slip. In fact I think he let his whole game plan slip.
” I believe inside the First…But…I have been wrong before…I will be prepared for 5 Rounds… “
If we leave aside for a moment, that it is the first time I’ve ever heard him admitting to being wrong about anything, The above quote indicates that he is thinking quite hard and preparing for a long fight. He has only once before made a statement similiar to this and that was in his second fight with Nate Diaz. In fact it is almost exactly what he said before the 2nd Diaz fight.
As we all know UFC 202 turned into one of the biggest wars in recent UFC history with the Judges giving a narrow verdict to Mcgregor on the Scorecards 3-2.
What the above quote tells me, is that McGregor is seriously worried about Khabib’s wrestling ability. I also believe we can work out the strategy of how the fight is going to play out.
When McGregor connects with Khabib’s chin ( and he will connect with it I’m sure) he is not planning to follow it up by going to the Ground for the finish. So there will be no Eddie Alvarez like follow up’s to knockdowns of Khabib.
His team have obviously decided that it is too risky. So unless McGregor Knocks out Khabib cold with a combination be prepared for a long night. He’s banking on repeatedly wobbling Khabib in the early rounds and keeping the fight on the feet.
This is a sensible strategy, although McGregor’s Cardio, will need to be better than it’s ever been previously. I am quite confident that Conor can take the first two rounds handy enough but rounds 3-5 will be a war to stay off his back and on his feet.
One thing to note though is that Khabib and Nate Diaz while similarly dangerous on the deck are dangerous for entirely different reasons and because of the differences McGregor is going to adapt the same strategy in the belief it is even more certain to work against Khabib.
So what are the differences you might ask. Nate Diaz is a high level Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Nurmagomedov’s background is predominantly Wrestling with Judo and Sambo thrown in for good measure. It is an important differentiation. Khabib is a two-time world gold medalist in Sambo and has famously said of it
‘If Sambo was easy it would be called BJJ’
To back this up Khabib would point to the successes he has had against Black Belt Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the UFC – most notably against Rafael Dos Anjos. There is no doubt if you look at the list of his recent conquests there is a good mix of all styles of fighter.
For all the people bitching about the quality of the people that Khabib Nurmagomedov has beaten – I consider Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson and Rafael Dos Anjos very high quality opponents. For fucks sake Dos Anjos is a former UFC light-Weight champ.
The point of mentioning all of this is that Conor McGregor only really feels threatened by high, high level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitors as once they get him to the ground they are looking to execute a finish. Conor’s defense on the Ground against Jiu-jitsu opponents is probably his only major weakness as a mixed martial artist.
The McGregor camp will much prefer dealing with Khabib’s ground and pound style, while it will no doubt cause them huge headaches – it will be like an upgraded version of a fight against Chad Mendes. Dangerous for sure but less likely to yield a finish in the Octagon. So it makes perfect sense for them to employ the same strategy they used against Nate Diaz.
In other words McGregor is gambling that when Nurmagomedov takes him to the Canvas he will either find away to get back up or else survive to the end of the round but that he is unlikely to be choked out.
He is also gambling that Nurmagomedov won’t be able to get him down in 3 separate rounds. This is quite an assumption as Chad Mendes is the only opponent to date who found it straight-forward to get McGregor on his back. Nurmagomedov at 5’10” and 20 pounds heavier will legitimately feel he won’t have any problems either.
At the end of the day get your bets on for a full 5 round war.