When UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former two-division champion Conor McGregor step into the cage in the main event of UFC 229, there are two very clear possibilities in terms of outcomes.
One definite possibility is that Khabib Nurmagomedov drags Conor McGregor into a grappling hell he will not be able to withstand. Another is that McGregor leaves Nurmagomedov supine on the canvas, where he will slowly come to under the arena lights.
Given the clear and deadly strengths of these two fighters, their coaches will be working hard to develop game plans, and get the two fighters to stick to those game plans.
In the eyes of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s head coach Javier Mendez, however, he and McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh are both going to have a tough time handling their fighters in this one.
Speaking on the Eurobash podcast, Mendez explained that he’s had a difficult time keeping Nurmagomedov on track in the past — particularly in his recent fight with Al Iaquinta.
“In the first two rounds, he fought exactly like we wanted him to. In the third round, what happens? Nope, he does one takedown, he shot once — he chains takedowns he never just does one shot — and then he started [getting] comfortable hitting Iaquinta with the jab,” Mendez said of Khabib Nurmagomedov (transcript via Peter Carroll of MMA Fighting). “His chin up high, he wasn’t moving his head right. Khabib was doing all the things you aren’t supposed to do, but yet, he was still out striking him 4-1 if not more.”
“He was comfortable doing that but I was not happy with that because I told him, ‘You’re going to get comfortable hitting him, I don’t want you to do that’. He does that for the first few rounds and then finally I tell him, ‘Obviously, you’re not going to listen to me and your father, but do me a favor, do half of what you want to do and do half of what we want’. I said, ‘Okay, can you do that for me?’ and he said, ‘Yeah’, so that’s why you’ll notice in the fifth round he took him down again. He did the takedown and then he did the standup like he wanted it.”
“I can mention a few times where Khabib has done things I don’t want him to do, so guess what? He’s going to do what he wants to do with Conor. And Conor’s gonna do what he wants to do, and I don’t think John Kavanagh is going to be able to control what Conor will do, just like I won’t be able to control what Khabib will do.
“Look, these are two great fighters and they’re going to do what they’re going to do. Our job is to get them as prepared as possible, but come fight time they’re going to do what they’re going to do. For all I know, Khabib could stand with him and I’ll be screaming my head off thinking, ‘What is he doing?’”
Having heard these comments from Javier Mendez, how do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor’s UFC 229 fight will unfold?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 8/28/2018.