UFC 229: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor preview and picks
UFC 229: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor preview and picks
The UFC heads home to Las Vegas, hosting what will very likely be the biggest pay-per-view event of 2019, and quite possibly the biggest MMA PPV event of all time.
The UFC heads home to Las Vegas, hosting what will very likely be the biggest pay-per-view event of 2019, and quite possibly the biggest MMA PPV event of all time. Former two-division champion Conor McGregor makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon, ending a near-two-year hiatus from the sport that brought him unprecedented fame. McGregor will take on the biggest test of his UFC career in Khabib Nurmagomedov as he hopes to regain the 155-pound crown he was stripped of earlier this year. Below, we take a look at Saturday’s complete fight card, with odds courtesy of Bovada. ## UFC 229 odds and picks, main card ## Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (-160) vs. No. 1 Conor McGregor (+130) The fight we’ve all been waiting for from the moment Conor McGregor stepped out of the Octagon as lightweight champion at UFC 205 nearly two years ago, the sport’s biggest star will finally go face to face with the man many believe to be his greatest professional adversary. Khabib Nurmagomedov, he of a perfect 26-0 record, hopes to pick up the biggest win of his professional career, proving himself the rightful king at 155 pounds when he meets the former Irish champion at UFC 229. Chances are you’ve been exposed to the stylistic differences both men possess inside the cage. Saturday’s main event is a striker versus grappler matchup through and through, with McGregor playing the role of the former here. Holding atomic capabilities in his left hand, it only takes one flush punch to the chin for McGregor to seize victory (just ask Jose Aldo). That’s what makes this fight such a fascinating matchup: Despite Nurmagomedov’s ability to maul other grown men into career-questioning defeat, it only takes one punch for McGregor to erase whatever potential lead the champion may or may not have at any point in this 25-minute affair. McGregor could very well walk away a two-time lightweight champion at UFC 229. …he could also very well leave the cage with the most debilitating loss of his professional career. See, for as great as McGregor is a striker, Nurmagomedov is equal parts a wrestler. Virtually nobody outside of Gleison Tibau has been able to stop “The Eagle’s” relentless onslaught of wrestling and top control, making amateurs out of elite fighters in Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson and Rafael dos Anjos. Making matters worse for McGregor, we’ve already seen what he’s like against a top-level wrestler (re: Mendes vs. McGregor at UFC 189). “The Notorious” won that fight in emphatic fashion, but not without a few worrying moments before the big finish. Nurmagomedov can likely do that and more, so long as he can avoid McGregor’s one-punch power. But that’s the thing: We’re not so sure that he can. McGregor is a master at maintaining and manipulating distance, and should be able to let his hands go in the early goings. The odds may shift closer as the fight grows nearer, but as they stand, it’s wise to take a chance on Ireland’s own. __Betting pick:__ McGregor __Free contest:__ [Win up to $5,000 in our UFC 229 contest](https://betchicago.chalkline.com/games/ufc-229-fight-card) ## No. 2 Tony Ferguson (-350) vs. No. 8 Anthony Pettis (+265) It’s easy to forget that UFC 229 also plays host to another lightweight matchup with massive implications. Former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson faces former undisputed lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, with the winner expected to hold a strong argument in the race for the next crack at the 155-pound title post-Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor. Ferguson returns to the cage for his first taste of Octagon action since defeating Kevin Lee for the interim strap last October. “El Cucuy” was expected to meet Nurmagomedov this April before a gruesome, and remarkably untimely injury forced him out of his title defense and onto the shelf for the past six months. He returns in hopes of taking a big step toward his former throne, as he faces a seemingly rejuvenated version of one of the most exciting fighters in divisional history. Pettis, nearly four years removed from becoming the first and only UFC fighter to ever grace the cover of the iconic Wheaties cereal box, is facing an opportunity to get as closest as he’s ever been to the throne since losing his title in 2015. Pettis most recently picked up his most impressive win since 2014, showcasing his power and crafty submission skills against Michael Chiesa at UFC 226 in July. We’ve seen glimpses of vintage “Showtime” since his title run ended in early 2015, but it’s up for debate as to whether he still has the goods to end one of the most dominant active winning streaks in the UFC. Ferguson’s layoff is certainly something to be concerned over, but he simply has too many tools to ignore. __Betting pick:__ Stay away __More UFC 229:__ [Why Conor McGregor is the bet to make](https://www.betchicago.com/ufc-229-conor-mcgregor-bet-khabib-nurmagomedov) ## No. 7 Ovince Saint Preux (+170) vs. No. 12 Dominick Reyes (-210) One of the more hopeful young fighters in an aging, disappointing division, Dominick Reyes is set to take a big step up in competition when he faces former interim title contender Ovince Saint Preux in what’ll be his first crack to prove himself in front of a pay-per-view audience. Reyes broke onto the UFC scene in June 2017, needing just 29 seconds to stop Joachim Christensen in his promotional debut. The undefeated fighter picked up wins Nos. 8 and 9 with first-round stoppages against Jeremy Kimball (submission) and Jared Cannonier (TKO), respectively. The 28-year-old California native has only been out of the first round once over the course of his nine-fight pro career, showcasing some heavy power along the way. But he faces the first real challenge of his UFC career when he meets Saint Preux, a veteran light heavyweight who’s already faced the who’s who at 205 pounds. OSP is in the midst of a bounce-back effort after losing four of five bouts from 2015 to early 2017. He’s now victorious in four of his last five dating back to April 2017, cementing his place as a light heavyweight gatekeeper with wins over upstart fighters in Corey Anderson and Tyson Pedro. Does Reyes have the wherewithal to avoid becoming the latest promising talent to fizzle out at the first sight of a real challenge? Disappointing as it may be, Saint Preux has the skill set to avoid Reyes’ greatest strengths. __Betting pick:__ Saint Preux __More UFC 229:__ [Why Khabib Nurmagomedov is the bet to make](https://www.betchicago.com/ufc-229-khabib-nurmagomedov-bet-conor-mcgregor) ## No. 2 Derrick Lewis (+150) vs. No. 5 Alexander Volkov (-185) UFC 229’s lone heavyweight contest, Derrick Lewis and Alexander Volkov may just be fighting for a shot at a title eliminator. They’d likely be fighting for a shot at gold if not for Brock Lesnar’s blockbuster 2019 return, but here we are. Lewis, one of the division’s most devastating power punchers, is fresh off of one of 2018’s most disappointing contests opposite Francis Ngannou. It was a victory nonetheless for “The Black Beast,” making him victorious in eight of his last nine dating back to October 2015. A penchant for vicious exchanges, Lewis faces the most complete fighter of his UFC career when he meets former M-1 Global and Bellator heavyweight champion Volkov. The Russian skyscraper is 4-0 since making his UFC debut in November 2016. He’s rebounded from a sluggish start to his UFC career, finishing the likes of Stefan Struve and Fabricio Werdum in a pair of balanced, impressive stoppage victories. At 6-foot-7, it’s fair to say that Volkov is one of the better strikers the division has seen in recent years. It’s not just the height, but it’s his ability to use that height that makes him such a daunting task for many of the division’s elite. That includes Lewis, whose ability to close the distance has never been all too impressive. He’s victorious whenever a fighter willingly engages within medium range. It’s doubtful Volkov chooses to play ball. __Betting pick:__ Volkov ## No. 8 Michelle Waterson (EVEN) vs. No. 9 Felice Herrig (-130) The ladies of 115 open up Saturday’s PPV card, as Michelle Waterson faces Felice Herrig in what should prove to be a consequential bout for the strawweight division. Waterson comes into the bout having won three of her last five, technically putting an end to a disappointing two-fight losing streak with a controversial victory over Cortney Casey in April. “The Karate Hottie” should be viewed as a fighter on the proverbial hot seat here, now nearly two years removed from the sort of performance that once had pundits touting her as the next big thing. There’s likely nothing Waterson can do to regain her place on that pedestal Saturday night, but a loss would go a long way toward further derailing her original plans. Herrig, one of the division’s scrappier contenders, is more than capable of digging Waterson deeper into the hole. Victorious in four of her last five, the aggressive 115-pound fighter has brought her UFC record to 5-2, with her only losses during that run coming opposite Paige VanZant and former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Neither woman has done enough in recent outings to solidify herself as the clear-cut favorite, with their individual fighting styles consistently giving judges a hard time. You can expect another close call here. __Betting pick:__ Waterson ## UFC 229 odds and picks, prelims __No. 2 Sergio Pettis (-150) vs. No. 5 Jussier Formiga (+120)__ Pick: Pettis __Vicente Luque (-800) vs. Jalin Turner (+500)__ Pick: Stay away __Aspen Ladd (-170) vs. Tonya Evinger (+140)__ Pick: Evinger __Scott Holtzman (+200) vs. Alan Patrick (-260)__ Lean: Holtzman __Lina Lansberg (+155) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (-190)__ Pick: Lansberg __Gray Maynard (+180) vs. Nik Lentz (-230)__ Pick: Maynard __Ryan LaFlare (-140) vs. Tony Martin (+110)__ Pick: LaFlare2018-10-04T13:17:28.980Z2018-10-04T06:00-07:00