From all angles, the new UFC 223 main event is risky (in case I haven’t made that clear). I know, it’s a pessimistic point of view, but there have been too many times where my optimism turns into disappointment. Disappointment that should have been seen coming from a mile away.
Not this time though. This time, we must accept that the most likely outcome to the UFC 223 main event is a disappointing one. Before you get too excited for Saturday night, I’d caution that you go in hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.
So what’s the worst? Khabib Nurmagomedov winning.
90 times out of 100, Nurmagomedov wins this fight against Max Holloway in the same way he always wins. The deck is completely stacked against Holloway, almost enough for the fight to seem unfair.
Holloway was not expecting to fight any time soon. 16 days ago, Holloway was talking about possibly needing surgery on his ankle. Maybe his rehab was successful, but it’s a lot to be thrown into a fight with no training camp while coming off an injury. On top of that, Holloway had to fly from Hawaii to Brooklyn (6 time zones apart) and now has to cut weight.
I know that Holloway doesn’t care about these circumstances. Max is just looking to make history. That’s exciting for the fans to hear, but it is extremely short-sighted for fans to not consider these factors and that they may severely hinder Holloway’s performance.
Remember Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva? Silva stepped in at the last moment to replace Jon Jones. In the end, we got a boring, but expected result. Cormier took Silva down and Silva wasn’t able to generate much offense. Cormier played it safe against a last-minute opponent, and Silva wasn’t prepared for Cormier’s wrestling. Silva also had gull bladder surgery 2 months prior, but still took the fight.
An amazing striker with lingering medical issues fighting up a weight class on short notice against a world-class wrestler from AKA who was already preparing for a long, lanky (but unorthodox) striker. Sound familiar?
Dive any deeper and the comparison of Cormier/Silva to Nurmagomedov/Holloway starts to get a little weaker. In any case, that fight was a major disappointment. Not all short-notice replacement fights can pull off the same magic as McGregor/Diaz and Rockhold/Bisping. Holloway has more obstacles to overcome than either of those cases.
The most disappointing part of the fight could be what happens afterwards, assuming Khabib wins. He will have won the Lightweight Championship by defeating a Featherweight who’s had no time to prepare. It’s not the ideal circumstances for a fighter that has long been hailed as the best lightweight on the planet.
The talk will be directed to how Holloway might have performed better if he had more time. Win or lose, we’ll be forced to give Holloway “credit” for stepping up. Max will never use it as an excuse, but the UFC and fans will surely use the circumstances as a reason to why this loss doesn’t affect his stock.
If the loss is meaningless for Holloway, then the win should be as equally as meaningless for Nurmagomedov. We could be sitting here a week from today with an injured Featherweight champion and a new Lightweight Champion, asking ourselves if it was really worth it.
To wrap up this pessimistic opinion piece, here is the most likely outcome. Khabib takes down Holloway right away, beats him up, and that continues for 3 to 5 rounds, progressively getting worse. Holloway is praised for his “guts” and “heart” while Khabib relentlessly punishes him. Khabib wins the belt, Holloway is praised for taking the fight in the first place, and fans are left feeling unsatisfied by the whole thing.
Now that you’ve got this outcome in your mind, go into Saturday night expecting a disappointment. This way, you can lessen some of that unsatisfying feeling. Even better, you can be thrown off your chair in shock when the exact opposite happens and Max Holloway knocks out Khabib Nurmagomedov to become a double UFC Champion.
Just don’t expect it to happen.