THE rivalry between top Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight fighters Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov and Conor “The Notorious” McGregor takes front and center this weekend as they headline “UFC 229” on Sunday (Manila time) in Las Vegas.
Figured in an off-Octagon altercation early this year in Brooklyn, New York, the two fighters will take on one another with the UFC lightweight title on the line.
Russian champion Khabib (26-0) of Russia makes his debut championship defense after winning the vacant title in April over Al Iaquinta while former champion and now number contender McGregor (21-3) looks to seize the lightweight gold anew after being stripped of it due to inactivity.
He last fought in the UFC in November 2016 and is off his “boxing experiment” when he fought undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year.
Considering the animosity involved in the match between the protagonists and the skills they bring to the table, local combat sports writer and observer Mike Miguel said UFC 229 is the real deal and a must-watch for mixed martial arts fans.
“There’s certainly a lot of hype whenever Conor McGregor gets in the conversation. And putting what has happened in the past with him and Khabib Nurmagomedov, the UFC is surely to benefit from this fight, barring, of course, of another untoward incident before their actual fight,” said Mr. Miguel, who writes for local site RealFight.ph, when asked by BusinessWorld for his thoughts.
“We surely can expect both men to go to their strengths and take it from there. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first two minutes will be quite slow, but this would be key for them on setting where the battle takes place,” he added.
Mr. McGregor coming off a long layoff will have an effect, said Mr. Miguel, but he was quick to say that the Irishman is an intelligent fighter who should able to address such concern.
“Definitely it (layoff) has an effect in one way or the other, but the thing with Conor is his confidence and risk-management. While he may be brash on the mic, he’s an intelligent fighter. He knows when is the best time to keep his distance to frustrate his opponents or unleash his powerful left hand,” he said.
Mr. Miguel pulled back in calling definitely the outcome of the contest, believing that both fighters have what it takes to pull it off.
“It’s going to be tough to call. Again it will boil down to who can set where the fight’s gonna take place. But if Khabib can nullify McGregor’s power and suffocate him with his wrestling just like he did against Al Iaquinta, he has a very good chance of retaining his belt. Likewise for Conor, if he will be able to frustrate Khabib standing and manage his gas tank well before going for the kill,” he said.
Also on tap for UFC 229 at the T-Mobile Arena is the lightweight battle between Tony Ferguson (#2) and Anthony Pettis (#8); light heavyweight Ovince Saint Preux (#7) against Dominick Reyes (#12); heavyweight Derrick Lewis (#2) versus Alexander Volkov (#5); and women’s strawweight Michelle Waterson (#8) opposed to Felice Herrig (#9).
UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor will be shown live on Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. over Hyper Ch. 91 in SD or 261 in HD on Cignal TV with replay at 7 p.m. on the same day. It will also be shown on ESPN5 at 9:30 p.m.
In the Philippines, Cignal TV, the country’s foremost direct-to-home (DTH) company, is the home of the UFC after the two groups agreed to an extensive deal that will see the UFC beamed on various platforms. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo