Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov once again appear to be a collision course in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2020. The Russian bested McGregor in their previous duel in 2018 at UFC 229, securing a victory by submission in the third round.
Nurmagomedov will now defend his UFC Lightweight Championship against Tony Ferguson in his next bout, but if, as expected, the 31-year-old triumphs, the challenge of McGregor and preserving his unbeaten record awaits him in the near future. It promises to be a blockbuster event between two of the sport’s greats.
McGregor’s return to UFC has provided a major boost to ratings, but the Irishman is still in need of a signature win to signal that he is back to his best. Nurmagomedov has built an imperious hold over the lightweight division and could mark his 30th win on the bounce in his MMA career with a win over McGregor. The UFC will watch and wait to see whether the two titans face off once more, and we’ll look at the profiles of both men and see who the odds will favour in their potential rematch.
Nurmagomedov has been dominant during his MMA career, winning all 28 of his fights to date. He began his run in the UFC, carrying a 16-0 record into his bout against Kamal Shalorus. The Russian overcame Shalorus by submission deploying a rear-naked chokehold to secure his first UFC triumph. He has not looked back since and has risen to the occasion at every challenge that has been thrown his way. Abel Trujillo posed a test having won his previous four fights ahead of their contest at UFC 160. Nurmagomedov was outstanding in the bout and dominated his opponent, without landing a knockout blow. He recorded 21 takedowns – the most recorded in a single bout, which allowed the Russian to claim a victory on a unanimous points’ decision.
Another notable moment came against Darrell Horcher, who has lost only once in his career before their clash at UFC on Fox: Teixeira vs. Evans. Nurmagomedov responded to the test with an onslaught of punches to break through his defences in the second round, notching the first knockout victory of his UFC career. From that point onwards, the bright lights have been on the Russian. He defeated Edson Barboza in the Performance of the Night at UFC 219 before carrying that momentum forward into his title fight against Al Iaquinta.
After a bizarre build-up which saw a carousel of potential opponents come and go, Nurmagomedov remained focused on his goal and through solid form on the mat and then his striking, he was able to claim the crown on a unanimous points decision. McGregor was next on the agenda and his manoeuvrability was the key factor in defeating the Irishman, landing the decisive blows before applying the neck crank that allowed him to claim the victory. The scenes after the fight were unsavoury to say the least, making a rematch all the more enticing.
McGregor knew nothing other than victory in the early stages of his UFC career. However, after his defeat Nurmagomedov in their last bout he will enter their contest as the underdog. The betting odds offered for the possible fight already had McGregor at 12/5, as of 20th March. The Irishman recorded seven wins on the bounce before tasted defeat for the first time in an UFC contest. Nate Diaz got the better of him in a stunning upset at UFC 196 in March 2016 as McGregor was forced to submit after being caught in a rear-naked chokehold by the American. He was able to respond with a solid performance in their rematch, winning on a points’ decision.
McGregor then overwhelmed Eddie Alvarez in his last UFC bout for two years. The Irishman won the UFC Lightweight Championship but then surrendered his crown due to inactivity due to a number of issues. One of which was his determination to enter the boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Although the bout against Mayweather may have been very lucrative indeed, his rustiness on his return to UFC was plain to see against Nurmagomedov.
The 31-year-old lacked the tenacity and drive of the Russian, even though he did look like finding his feet in the third round. However, he was not clinical enough and was forced to submit to his opponent. McGregor was outstanding Donald Cerrone, knocking out the American within 40 seconds. The fire seems to be back and that could spark a revival to end Nurmagomedov’s unbeaten MMA record.