It’s being called the biggest fight in UFC history. At UFC 229, which goes down tonight in Las Vegas, Nevada, the former two-weight champion Conor McGregor will make his return to the Octagon to take on undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Given that this is a fight between the two best lightweights alive, it should come as no surprise that it has the combat sports community divided in their predictions. Will McGregor be able to catch Nurmagomedov with a left? Or will Nurmagomedov simply maul the Irishman on the ground?
McGregor has been the underdog the entire time, but with the Irish starting to arrive in Las Vegas that could change. But even if the odds do change, it will remain a tough fight to pick. Fans and media members have mixed opinions of who will win, and the same goes for fighters.
BJPENN.com reached out to fighters to get their prediction for the fight, and like everybody else, they’re all over the place.
BJPENN.COM Fighter Picks for UFC 229
TJ Dillashaw, UFC bantamweight champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov
“For the longest time, I thought that Khabib would wipe the floor with Conor. If I’m a betting man I’m still going with Khabib, but his last fight really didn’t impress me too much. Al Iaquinta is a tough guy and a great opponent but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Khabib looked slow. He was shooting takedowns from like five feet away and he wasn’t setting them up. So I hope that’s not the Khabib we see come out to fight Conor because I think Conor’s striking and his angles will be able to take advantage of that. But again, if I’m a betting man I’m betting on Khabib. He’s never lost a round in MMA, he’s an animal on top, he’s got a chin, so I think he wins the fight, but it’s a lot closer than I imagined.”
Colby Covington, Interim UFC welterweight champion: Conor McGregor
“Originally I had Khabib. I thought he would get the takedown and just pressure him and just make him quit. Conor doesn’t have the gas tank. He’s a drunk little Irish prick and he’s full of himself now. He never had cardio in the first place to go past one-and-a-half rounds, that’s about what he’s good for, a round-and-a-half. But the more I’ve seen the lead up to the fight, I’ve gotta pick Conor, man. He’s gotten inside of Khabib’s head and he’s living inside of Khabib’s head rent-free kind of like how I live in Woodley’s head rent-free. So I’ve gotta go Conor now. I think he’s in Khabib’s head and Khabib looks very emotional and he’s going to come out and fight emotional. He’s gonna fight a dumb fight, leave himself exposed and get finished.”
Stephen Thompson, UFC welterweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov
“Oh my goodness, that is a hard one. Well first off, my needle is leaning towards Khabib’s side. Just for the fact that Conor McGregor hasn’t fought in MMA [in two years] and his last fight was over a year ago and that was in boxing. Khabib has been very consistent, he’s undefeated, he crushes people. But at the same time, he’s not the type of guy that knocks people out. I think if he’s going to win he’s going to grind him [Conor] out or make him tap, that’s what I think. Of course, if Conor McGregor touches you with that left hand, he can put anybody out with that left hand, but he hasn’t done well against really good wrestlers. Yes, with Chad Mendes he [Conor] knocked him out, but those first few rounds were hell for Conor and Chad was on two weeks notice. Same with Nate Diaz. Diaz ended up choking him out and Conor’s cardio wasn’t where it should be I think. To fight Khabib, you better be tireless is all I’ve gotta say because Khabib doesn’t get tired.”
Jimmie Rivera, UFC bantamweight: Conor McGregor
“I pick Connor. I’m picking Connor with TKO. I’m not sure what round it’s going to be, but I think he is going to pull it out. I think Connor got in his head. To get in, it took a while and Connor kept digging. Let me tell you that guy does his research really well. He’s smart and a lot of shit he was saying was crazy and people watched it and people started googling it, looking up stuff. You start finding the stuff he was saying is true, and you’re like oh shit, this and that. So, he’s very smart and I think towards the end he [Khabib] just wasn’t having it. He just walked off stage and then Connor got in his head.”
Dom Reyes, UFC light-heavyweight:Conor McGregor
“So we all know it can go one of two ways, right? Conor either knocks him out or Khabib mauls him. But I’m also thinking that Conor’s knowledge of range and his awareness of space might get him the win in this fight. Khabib kind of rushes in sometimes and his hands aren’t the best, we know this. He showed a questionable chin against Al [Iaquinta] and he got stunned a little bit by a weird shot. So I’m gonna go with Conor. I think he’s busted his ass working on that grappling defense, all he has to do is stop the takedown. A lot easier said than done, especially against Khabib, but I’m going with Conor based on awareness and knowledge of range.
Tim Johnson, Bellator heavyweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov
“As a grappler I want Khabib to win, but he’s shown me no reason in his past fights to think he isn’t going to get rocked by McGregor. So there’s a likely chance the fight is gonna end with a KO. On the other hand, if Khabib can survive the first 10 minutes and impose just a little bit of his clinch and pressure I feel he’ll wear McGregor down. So once McGregor gases, which we’ve seen on multiple occasions, I think Khabib imposes his will on him.”
Ricky Bandejas, Bellator bantamweight: Conor McGregor
“I think Conor wins by TKO/KO. Overall I believe Khabib is going to beat him up, but McGregor will catch him for the TKO/KO.”
Jon Fitch, Bellator welterweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov
“Khabib. He’s a monster. TKO. Savage beating.”
Eryk Anders, UFC middleweight: Conor McGregor
“Conor via knockout by rear uppercut.”
Aaron Pico, Bellator featherweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov
“I think Khabib if Khabib sticks to his father’s game plan. His grappling should win him the fight.”
Bobby Moffett, UFC Featherweight: Conor McGregor
“If I were betting, it would be Conor, because these are his moments, when the stage is the biggest and brightest he always shines.”
Devin Clark, UFC light heavyweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov
“I think Khabib will win by submission, Conor seems off for this fight.”
Juan Adams, UFC heavyweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov
“Khabib, but it really can go either way. If it goes past the 2nd I don’t see Conor being able to keep up with Khabib’s pressure, not to mention Khabib hasn’t lost, why bet against that zero now.”
Who do you think will win between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, and how?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 10/6/2018