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Now, this is a fight! This could very well be one of the most anticipated lightweight fights in the history of the UFC as the undefeated Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov faces his toughest test yet in Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson. Both of these guys are truly elite fighters and are each deserving of a shot at the lightweight championship, yet there’s just one hurdle remaining before they get their shot at Conor McGregor – they must defeat the man in front of them this weekend.
In a generation of mixed martial arts in which even the greats lose once or twice in their career (look at Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz or Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra), Khabib Nurmagomedov has somehow managed 24 wins without losing inside the octagon. He’s 8-0 in the UFC and has never lost a round. Khabib is a potentially one of the most internationally recognised stars of combat sambo and is a two-time World Sambo Champion. If you’ve never seen Khabib fight before, here’s a quick description of his style. He picks his opponent up from the mat with ease and throws them around like a child. He’ll then work his way into an advantageous position on the mat and terrorise the opposing fighter with submission attempts and heavy ground and pound. Superb wrestling and pure aggression stand-out as key attributes of Khabib’s style.
Tony Ferguson, the man in front of Khabib this weekend at UFC 209, is a very smooth operator inside the cage. He moves seamlessly, flowing his strikes together from all angles and his footwork means that he is consistently swapping in-and-out of the range of his opponent. He fights longer than his opponents perceive him to and he can often land his strikes from optimal distance.
Ferguson has managed a 22-3 mixed martial arts record and is currently riding a nine-win streak inside the UFC that began in October 2013. His last three wins are deemed most impressive with decisive wins against Rafael Dos Anjos, Edson Barboza and the rising star Lando Vannata. Ferguson survived an early onslaught from the impressive Vannata on debut to then go on and win in the second round. Ferguson is best described as a freestyle fighter with impressive jiu-jitsu skills behind his extensive knowledge of the 10th Planet system and training closely with Eddie Bravo.
The matchup between these two fighters is so spectacular that it makes it difficult to predict how the fight may play out. Will Khabib dominate Tony with wrestling and sambo style fighting, or will Tony light Khabib up on the feet before taking him down to the ground to finish with a D’arce choke?
Khabib survived against Michael Johnson who was relentlessly pursuing ‘The Eagle’ with heavy punches before taking him to the mat, and the fight changed dramatically. Once Nurmagomedov is on top of you, it all changes instantly. I don’t think there’s any reason why Khabib can’t get Tony to the ground and work his magic. I’ve got Khabib by KO/TKO as he breaks Tony mentally in the second round and lands some devastating ground and pound.
Khabib Nurmagomedov by KO/TKO/Submission
Sunday 5th March, 04:30 GMT
Odds: 11/5 3.20 +220 2.20 2.20 -0.45 – Bet365
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