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UFC 229 fight card primer: Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

UFC’s biggest fight of 2018 is upon us, as Conor McGregor returns to do battle with Khabib Nurmagomedov.

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It. Is. On. UFC 229 features the fight as the year: Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA; 9-1 UFC) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA; 10-0 UFC). This is for the UFC Lightweight title, which is officially held by Khabib, but never lost in the cage by former champ McGregor. The UFC rankings have Conor as the division’s #1 contender, #2 pound for pound, with Khabib #8 pound for pound. UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor airs live from Las Vegas this Saturday night, October 6. The main card airs on PPV with a fight time of 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT, with the prelims starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on FS1 and 6:30 p.m. ET on Fight Pass.

This is really a remarkable fight for so many reasons. There’s the obvious drama stemming from McGregor’s attack on Khabib’s bus earlier this year. There’s the atmosphere that Conor brings to the table. There’s the very, VERY heated words from both men. And there’s the real unknown about how it will play out. McGregor could exploit Khabib’s clear disadvantage in striking and blow him away. Khabib could exploit Conor’s clear disadvantage in wrestling and grind him into dust. We won’t know until Saturday night.

How do these two stack up?

Nurmagomedov: 30 years old | 5’10” | 70” reach
McGregor: 30 years old | 5’9” | 74” reach

What have these two done recently?

Nurmagomedov: W - Al Iaquinta (UD) | W - Edson Barboza (UD) | W - Michael Johnson (Sub)
McGregor: W - Eddie Alvarez (TKO) | W - Nate Diaz (MD) | L - Nate Diaz (Sub)

How did these two get here?

Khabib Nurmagomedov has become a cult fan favorite in recent years, thanks to his non-stop winning ways and his brutal wrestling game. The Eagle is the textbook definition of someone who breaks opponents, beating them down with arguably the most vicious top game we have ever seen in MMA. He’s 26-0, undefeated for 10 years, which is very impressive. But the knock on him remains that his level of competition is not the highest. He’s never managed to get in the cage with Tony Ferguson, and only won the title by defeating Al Iaquinta. The Iaquinta situation wasn’t Khabib’s fault in any way, but still - for an undefeated champion it’s hard to deny that his list of top level wins is a bit shallow.

Conor McGregor has achieved a level of international superstardom that maybe surpasses anyone in MMA. That started in earnest in 2014 and has just been building momentum ever since. In the past few years, he’s won the Featherweight title by knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, become a two division champion by running through Eddie Alvarez, and made piles and piles of money by maneuvering his way into a boxing fight with Floyd Mayweather. It’s a very impressive list of accomplishments. Notably absent from that list: defending either one of those belts he won. It’s been two years since the Notorious one was last fighting in an Octagon - we’ll see if that makes any kind of impact.

Why should you care?