- Conor McGregor is an underdog to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229.
- Coming back from a two-year layoff, can the brash Irishman hand Khabib his first career loss?
- Get the full odds and betting advice for the fight, including prop bets on number of rounds and method of victory.
The biggest fight in UFC history is set for this Saturday (Oct. 6) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, as former lightweight champion Conor McGregor (21-3) makes his long awaited return against current title holder Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0).
McGregor was one of the most feared mixed-martial artists in the UFC when he stepped away to try his hand at boxing. Now, with two years of ring rust on his 4-ounce gloves, he’s a modest underdog against the undefeated Russian.
Khabib vs McGregor: Comparison
|Khabib Nurmagomedov||Statistic||Conor McGregor|
|8||Wins by KO||18|
|8||Wins by Submission||3|
|70 in.||Reach||74 in.|
|Apr. 7, 2018 (UD over Al Iaquinta)||Last Fight||Nov. 12, 2016 (TKO over Eddie Alvarez)|
Khabib vs McGregor Value Bet: Take the Russian
The first step to finding value on an MMA fight is figuring out the percentages. The current odds available at Bovada.lv (above, as of Oct. 1) carry an implied probability of 60.8% for Khabib and 44.4% for McGregor.
That 60.8% number pops off the page to me. Looking at the specifics of this matchup, Khabib wins more than three out of every five times. Why?
First, McGregor hasn’t stepped in the octagon in almost two years. His only fight in that span (the boxing spectacle that was McGregor vs Mayweather) was over a year ago. His opponent, on the other hand, just dominated Al Iaquinta for five rounds in April in what amounted to a perfect tune-up fight. Iaquinta, like McGregor, comes from something of a kickboxing background, but he was only able to land 41 strikes over five rounds, compared to 134 for Khabib, who also landed six takedowns.
Second, Khabib is not going to stand and trade with McGregor, and the Russian is a takedown machine who’s far superior to McGregor in the clinch. In matchups between strikers and grapplers, it’s usually the grapplers who dictate where the fight takes place.
The most talented wrestler McGregor has faced, to date, was Chad Mendes, and Mendes took him down four times in two rounds before being TKOed late in the second.
Mendes pales in comparison to the strength and power of Khabib. McGregor’s own ground game and takedown defense have improved since the Mendes fight in 2015, but not enough to stifle the Russian.
Obviously, in order to initiate the clinch or shoot for the takedown, Khabib is going to have to enter McGregor’s striking radius, and that’s a dangerous proposition for anyone; McGregor is one of the most talented defensive/counter-strikes in UFC history. But when it comes to playing the numbers, I like Khabib’s odds of moving through McGregor’s strike-zone and instigating the clinch without too many ill effects.
Khabib vs McGregor: Best Fight Props
|Fight to complete one full round||-120|
|Khabib wins inside distance||-105|
When it comes to the fight props, the first one I love is the YES on whether the fight will complete one full round at -120. Again, McGregor could end it with one punch early when Khabib shoots or tries to clinch, but he will likely be extra cautious at the outset, knowing the power in McGregor’s hands.
If/when McGregor gets taken to the mat in the first round, he is going to be at his freshest. He showed in his fights with Nate Diaz that, when he’s not exhausted, he can escape from even the best jiu-jitsu artists.
It’s going to take time for Khabib to wear McGregor out on the mat, just like it took Diaz time to lock in a rear-naked choke on McGregor back in 2016. But eventually, the Irishman is going to tire from Khabib’s relentless pressure. Having a man with Khabib’s size and strength lean on you in the clinch for two or three rounds is unbelievably exhausting.
While McGregor’s cardio is fine, it has never been his calling card. It rarely is for a striker of his caliber. He’s only been past the second round twice in his life, and only gone five rounds once in McGregor vs Diaz II. If you look at the fight stats from that one, you’ll notice a steep drop-off in McGregor’s activity in the fifth and final round. After out-throwing Diaz 388-245 in rounds one to four, Diaz was the busier puncher in round five (77 to 47).
Khabib, meanwhile, just went five rounds in April and has gone at least three rounds in eight of his last ten fights. The longer this fight goes, the bigger the advantage for the Russian.
Given that all three of McGregor’s career losses have come by submission, there’s value on Khabib winning inside the distance at -105.