The MMA Gods just couldn’t let it happen
Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov have been scheduled to face each other four times now. Fans have been robbed of the chance to partake in this combat feast on every occasion.
An couple of injuries each and some Tiramisu have stood in the way of the most anticipated lightweight contest in UFC history on so many occasions, it’s tempting to believe that this one is just not meant to be, especially when you consider the latest bout-ending injury of Tony Ferguson, tripping over some cabling at the Fox Studio, and tearing a ligament in his knee just six days out from the fight.
UFC 223 Holloway vs Nurmagomedov
The show must go on however, and featherweight champion Max Holloway has bravely stepped in to attempt to make history. If he wins, he will be one of only two men to have held UFC titles simultaneously (the other being a certain Irishman), but more importantly he will have done something that no fighter has ever done, and stop the undefeated freight train that is Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The Dagestan born Sambo wrestling champion is quite simply a different breed of athlete. A totally unblemished 25-0 record is utterly unheard of at this level of MMA, and not only has Nurmagomedov never lost a fight, he’s never lost a round. His brand of powerful takedowns coupled with the best top control ground and pound in the game has quite simply demolished all challengers thus far, the most recent victim being the talented Edson Barboza, who had no answers for the ferocious Russian for 15 minutes.
In the face of this dominance, one could be forgiven for wondering if there was anyone of the UFC roster who would take on this challenge on a mere six days notice. Cue Max Holloway (19-3) stepping up for the biggest and most dangerous fight of his career.
Holloway has been ruthlessly dominant himself in the featherweight division, notching up a formidable 12 fight win streak in which he beat arguably the greatest Featherweight of all time in Jose Aldo – twice. A marvellous striker, with a granite chin, Holloway has some significant tools at his disposal to trouble Khabib.
However, the 145b king Holloway will be giving up a significant size advantage to the gigantic Russian. Nurmagomedov notoriously struggles to make the 155lb lightweight limit, and there are a great many stories of him giving his far bigger teammates at AKA (including Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier) big issues on the wrestling mats.
If there is one glimmer of hope for Holloway it is this. Khabib has been rocked before, once in his UFC career, by a certain Michael Johnson. Holloway is certainly a more accomplished striker than Johnson, and if he finds the chin of Khabib in the first round then we could be in for a historic upset.
If Khabib can settle into his brutally dominant groove however, it will be a long and punishing night for Holloway, who deserves all the credit in the world for stepping up and attempting to silence the huge Russian crowd who are flocking to Brooklyn to watch their countryman.
Whoever wins will not only claim McGregor’s UFC Lightweight title, but likely also a showdown with the Irishman at the end of the year, the most sought-after prize in the UFC.