UFC 229 fight week began with a sour taste. “Sugar” Sean O’Malley (10-0 MMA) pulled out of the UFC 229 prelim headliner earlier this week. The 23-year-old bantamweight withdrew from Saturday’s event at T-Mobile Arena due to a potential USDA infraction. Despite the loss, UFC President Dana White has ensured everyone that UFC 229 will be the biggest event in the promotion’s history. He’s predicted the event will sell over two million pay-per-view buys; largely in part to the card’s main-event, Khabib Nurmagomedov versus Conor McGregor.
When announced on August 3, that Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA) and Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA) would headline UFC 229 on October 6, in Las Vegas, the world’s focus was on McGregor’s octagon return. Nurmagomedov, the current champ, was a -200 favorite and McGregor, an underdog for the first time in his career with a +160 betting line. Granted, the Irishman hasn’t fought in the Octagon since November 2016, but since the announcement, the odds have inched ever closer and will likely change after the press conference, and weigh-ins this Thursday and Friday respectively. Keep in mind there are a ton of places to bet on this weekend’s fight and is a good place to check if the odds change. The first Russian born UFC champion, Nurmagomedov is now at -155 favorites, McGregor is a +125 underdog, here’s three reasons why.
The first, trash talk. No one in the history of combat sports has mentally broken their opponents like the “Notorious” Conor McGregor. Yes, Muhammad Ali’s “Louisville-Lip” rattled the opposition, but McGregor has a proven history of angering and completely derailing opponents game plans. Which he later exploits in the cage. At the first UFC 229 press conference in New York, McGregor finally broke through the Russian’s calm demeanor. The Irishman was able to fire off multiple verbal jabs that obviously hit home. The stare-down that wrapped up the press conference saw Nurmagomedov stop about three feet short from where he was supposed to meet McGregor face to face. Nurmagomedov may have held back due to fear, anger or maybe McGregor just made him forget where to stand, all the same, it is unlike the Russian not to step-up and face his competitor head-on.
Stylistically, these men present entirely different attributes, and the bout will likely go one of two ways. Nurmagomedov holds the record for most takedowns in a single fight in UFC history with 21, fair to say the man can wrestle. Conor has finished 18 of his 21 victories via KO/TKO. The difference is Nurmagomedov has been rocked on his feet before, most notably at the hands of Michael Johnson (18-13 MMA) at UFC 205. The same event McGregor sparked an excellent wrestler, Eddie Alvarez (29-6MMA), inside two rounds to claim his lightweight gold. McGregor has been taken down and controlled on his back, but it was done a much bigger Nate Diaz in the welterweight division. When taken into perspective, McGregor’s ground game stacks up stronger when compared to Nurmagomedov’s striking.
Previous opposition difficulty. If we break down the past seven bouts each of these men have fought in the octagon, the caliber of opponents and results are exceptionally different. In those seven bouts, the champion has headlined one main event. He has seven wins in one weight class with two finishes. McGregor’s past seven fights, he has headlined six main events. He has six wins across three weight classes and five knockouts, two of which came against world champions. In short, McGregor has had greater success against greater opponents under a bigger spotlight.
The odds will likely change after the press conference, and weigh-ins this Thursday and Friday respectively.