As the world prepares to watch Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov go to war, we are ringside with the very latest news and views. By Richie Cranny
This weekends UFC 229 headline fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor has been predicted to become the biggest fight in the company’s history. For us fight fans whether it does or doesn’t is neither here nor there, all we want to see is the two best 155lb (70kg) fighters on the planet put on a master class of Mixed Martial Arts.
The question is will this happen or will the two very different fighting styles of Conor and Khabib end up cancelling each other out like so many other “striker v wrestler” fights in recent times? Personally I don’t believe so.
For me this fight has everything a combat sports fan desires. Two explosive fighters in their prime who are at the top of their game and who love to finish. Both fighters come with a huge and passionate fan base with the pride of their respective country resting on their shoulders. Oh and let’s not forget, a history of confrontation and dislike, all the ingredients to a promoter’s dream.
So will it live up to the hype and deliver what everyone is praying for, no matter which side of the fence you might sit? Well here’s what I believe will be the determining factor to whose hand will ultimately be raised.
I know everyone is saying this is a classic wrestler v striker contest and yes that’s true but what I believe will be the deciding factor for each fighter is who controls distance in the fight, or what I refer to as “no mans land”
I’ve coached hundreds of people to their first fight in MMA and the hardest thing to do is to instil the confidence and emotional control to create and control distance. Now Conor and Khabib are in a different hemispheres in terms of skill set and emotional control of course but this fight still, despite their unbelievable skill sets, I feel comes down to the same thing we try to instil to our amateurs – which is controlling no mans land.
The reason I refer to it as “no mans land” is no matter who steps within this space that many refer to as “the pocket,” there is as much danger as there is opportunity and reward and staying within it can often remove the overriding advantage of someone’s skill as reaction time is no more and the race to landing the knock out blow becomes the deciding factor of the fight.
For a striker, controlling this space enables them time to react and counter their opponent’s movements while using length to score and frustrate but on the flip side to land their power shots they must either enter it or allow their opponent to do so, all be it in brief and controlled split second movements.
For the grappler or wrestler, to face a world-class striker like Conor, no mans land becomes a place of high risk v’s hopeful reward. The risk of closing down this space to either clinch or shoot for a takedown is by far the most dangerous element of their game plan and one that can not be taken lightly, as space is now their enemy, allowing the striker the perfect pathway to victory.
However if the space needed by Conor to create power is removed the game is then swayed heavily in Khabib’s favour. Then, like a bower constrictor he will begin to remove every element of space required by Conor and the suffocating pathway to victory is very much a reality for Khabib.
So if you, like millions of others around the world are sitting watching this contest of skill this weekend, be mindful of the space between these two great warriors, as I believe it will be the deciding factor of this fight. If Conor can create and continue to manage no mans land I feel he will win within the first two rounds with his proven finishing power. However if Khabib can continuously cross this dangerous space without taking too much damage and employ his world class wrestling, I believe he will remain the UFC 155lb champion by submission or TKO later in the fight. Enjoy