Khabib Nurmagomedov has misplaced simply one spherical whereas racking up a 12-Zero report within the UFC.
It is the second-best begin in UFC historical past behind Anderson Silva, who received his first 16. Nurmagomedov’s 28-Zero general report is the most effective in MMA. Amongst lightweights, he has probably the most takedowns landed and highest strike differential, in line with ESPN Stats & Info information.
When Nurmagomedov faces Tony Ferguson on April 18 in Brooklyn, he’ll be going through somebody who can also be on a 12-fight UFC win streak. Ferguson hasn’t been stopped in 16 UFC fights — fourth-best streak in historical past — and has received 21 of his 26 general by stoppage.
Many are already trying ahead to a Khabib rematch with Conor McGregor — who received the third spherical earlier than being choked out within the fourth of their Oct. 6, 2018 bout. However Ferguson will not be somebody who ought to be ignored.
ESPN’s MMA panel of Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim break down the matchup.
What would a Ferguson win appear like?
Helwani: Nurmagomedov is probably the most dominant fighter in UFC historical past, and I’ve a tough time believing Ferguson will cease Nurmagomedov. I believe Ferguson should go the gap and out-tough him. Simpler stated than finished, after all.
Okamoto: Ferguson is without doubt one of the most entertaining fighters on the earth, as a result of he is all motion. Nurmagomedov is entertaining in his personal proper, however for a really totally different purpose. It is entertaining to look at Nurmagomedov’s dominance on the ground. “Motion” will not be one of many first phrases you’d use to explain a Nurmagomedov battle. He will get his prey to the bottom and he does not allow them to again up. So, a Ferguson win would appear like a Ferguson battle: He would defend Nurmagomedov’s takedowns, and beat him standing. If he does get taken down, he’d pull out some sort of somersault, spherical off, triple axel reverse to get again up. And if he have been held down for any actual period of time, he’d throw elbows from the underside like they are going out of favor. Motion is Ferguson’s buddy. A grapple-fest will not be.
Raimondi: Chaotic. Ferguson excels in a non-linear sort of battle — numerous scrambles, numerous distinctive positions. He’d doubtless use a number of points of MMA to get it finished, not simply putting or wrestling. There would virtually actually be some sort of mixture of the 2. Nurmagomedov is without doubt one of the greatest wrestlers on the earth, however Ferguson is harmful off his again. Ferguson can also be a dynamic and fearless striker. He is unpredictable, which works to his benefit. Plus, Ferguson has cardio for days. There is a purpose he hasn’t misplaced since 2012.
Wagenheim: Ferguson’s cornermen have to whisper in his ear that the UFC has electrified the Octagon fencing and, if he desires to keep away from electrocution, he must keep away from the cage. By remaining in open area, Tony will likely be giving himself his greatest shot at retaining the battle standing. That means he can make the most of his unpredictable assaults to attempt to put Nurmagomedov on the defensive. We’ve not seen anybody succeed at doing this towards Khabib, so perhaps it is fantasy. However it’s much less outlandish fantasy than the notion that Ferguson can pull off a submission from beneath a Dagestani lead blanket.
How does Ferguson’s grappling capacity examine to Khabib’s?
The UFC will return on Saturday, with an up-and-coming heavyweight trying to knock off a longtime veteran in the primary occasion. Jairzinho Rozenstruik, who’s 9-Zero and opened eyes along with his first-round KO win over Andrei Arlovski at UFC 244, will face the hardest problem of his profession in Alistair Overeem. “The Demolition Man” is 45-17 and has earned two straight first-round TKO wins.
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Helwani: Ferguson could be very unorthodox in all aspects of the sport. He is as unconventional because it will get in coaching, putting and grappling. Nurmagomedov is extra of a standard Russian grappler/wrestler. He’s powerful, sturdy and relentless. The latter trait may be his most spectacular one. I imply, did you see the best way he was cupping Dustin Poirier’s mouth throughout their battle in September? You do not see that sort of approach typically.
Okamoto: Ferguson has a robust wrestling background that features success at the highschool and collegiate ranges. Ferguson has by no means actually fought like a standard, American collegiate wrestler in MMA, although. He has a mode that’s uniquely his personal, which he has crafted totally on his personal. He is additionally a black belt in Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu system. Now, that stated, there’s not a light-weight on the planet who owns a bonus over Nurmagomedov’s grappling. Nurmagomedov is the most effective on the earth at taking an opponent down and retaining him there. What makes this matchup attention-grabbing is Ferguson’s fuel tank and his unorthodox model. The cardio cannot be overstated. Nurmagomedov prides himself in making opponents drained. Ferguson does not get drained.
Raimondi: Nurmagomedov is an oppressive wrestler with a number of methods to place opponents on their backs. As soon as there, Nurmagomedov has choices. He can floor and pound from the highest or he can get foes right into a leg-ride sort of place towards the fence, which is the place he cinched that jaw crank on McGregor at UFC 229. Nurmagomedov is difficult to shake off as soon as he has that sort of place. Whereas Nurmagomedov is suffocating, Ferguson is dynamic. He is rolling for legs, being aggressive, going for submissions. Each males are wonderful grapplers, however they could not be any extra totally different of their method.
Wagenheim: Khabib goes to maneuver you towards the cage, lure you there, lock up your physique and take you down, then wrap his legs round yours to immobilize you whereas he works his physique into prime place, from the place he beats you up. He’s as methodical as he’s unstoppable. Ferguson, however, is all concerning the scramble and the scrap, his martial arts expressed within the chaotic summary. He’s Jackson Pollock impetuousness, whereas Khabib is as coldly resolute as, say, Edward Hopper. Sorry, champ, however I do not know sufficient artwork historical past to quote a Russian grasp of harsh realism.
Is Ferguson a extra harmful opponent for Khabib than Conor?
Helwani: Proper now, sure, as a result of Nurmagomedov has by no means fought Ferguson. So, off the bat, Ferguson presents questions Nurmagomedov has by no means answered. Ferguson can also be a tad craftier on the bottom, in order that will likely be attention-grabbing, however lest we overlook McGregor was the primary and solely individual to win a spherical towards Nurmagomedov.
Okamoto: Sure, I consider he’s, for causes we have already highlighted. Ferguson has extra grappling expertise than McGregor and higher endurance. Ferguson in all probability does not have the one-punch knockout energy of McGregor, however let’s not faux he does not hit onerous. He has sneaky energy and extra methods to complete a battle than McGregor. And once more, the cardio is big. Cardio is necessary towards Nurmagomedov.
Raimondi: Individuals repeat the phrase “kinds make fights” so many instances that it has virtually misplaced its which means. However that really is the case right here. McGregor is a striker who’s unproven towards nice wrestlers and grapplers, particularly these on the degree of Nurmagomedov. Ferguson, in the meantime, appears to have the instruments to cope with Nurmagomedov’s wrestling, as a result of the abilities and offense off his again he honed below Eddie Bravo. And Ferguson is an efficient, versatile, free-flowing striker on prime of that. There are methods he can beat Nurmagomedov that McGregor couldn’t.
Wagenheim: In idea, an opponent with one-punch KO energy ought to pose the best peril, as a result of Khabib will not be a man you are going to systematically break down. McGregor has that sort of thwack, and Ferguson doesn’t. However “El Cucuy” has a extra well-rounded sport, and if his wrestling capacity permits him to maintain the battle standing for longer than Conor might, that might afford Ferguson extra alternative to take Nurmagomedov out of his consolation zone. Tony wants to pull the battle away from methodical demolition and into hurly-burly improvisation, and he’s a risk to take action.
Ferguson known as Khabib’s efficiency towards Poirier ‘lazy.’ What was your tackle his win?
Helwani: I respectfully disagree with that evaluation. I assumed Nurmagomedov seemed as dominant as ever. He was aggressive, relentless and good. At no level did he appear in peril of dropping that battle. After 11 months off, he did precisely what he needed to do to win that battle, and he seemed nice in doing so. He even bought a end.
Okamoto: Not lazy. Convincing. Fairly dominant. I am not fully certain what Ferguson meant by “lazy.” Did he really feel Nurmagomedov ought to have discovered a more difficult strategy to win, over taking Poirier down and proudly owning him on the bottom as he does everybody else? Poirier is a proficient boxer with an underrated submission sport, and Nurmagomedov overwhelmed him on the ground. Although we have seen it many instances earlier than, it was spectacular. In line with UFC Stats information, he absorbed solely 30 complete strikes in that battle and went 7-of-Eight on takedowns.
Raimondi: Undecided I purchase that one. Nurmagomedov was fairly dominant towards Poirier and completed the battle within the third spherical with a rear-naked choke. Nurmagomedov is not lazy, he is methodical. That is what bought him to this 28-Zero undefeated report, and that is the sport plan he executed completely towards Poirier. Ferguson does much more in his victories. He is rolling for submissions, leaping for knees. Nurmagomedov and Ferguson could not be extra totally different. However Nurmagomedov is extraordinarily proficient in what he does. And let’s not overlook how darn good Poirier is. It is best to stay to an environment friendly technique towards somebody as harmful as Poirier.
Wagenheim: So we’re dissecting “El Cucuy”-speak now? Yikes, my head is spinning. Possibly what he meant was Nurmagomedov seemed so comfy in controlling Poirier from prime place that it was as if Khabib have been stress-free in a recliner. Or maybe it was Ferguson’s homage to the bombast of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who as soon as stated, “Inspiration is a visitor that doesn’t willingly go to the lazy.” Or perhaps … nah, I do not know what Tony was speaking about, and I seldom do. I assumed Khabib got here via that battle smelling like a daisy. Which rhymes with lazy.
How do you anticipate the battle to play out?
Helwani: I believe will probably be a really enjoyable battle. I do assume their grappling will neutralize one another and a very good early portion of the battle will likely be contested on the toes. That ought to be enjoyable. Finally, I see it going the gap.
Okamoto: There is a purpose the battle world has been trying ahead to this matchup a lot. After all, the lengthy historical past of cancellations has loads to do with it, however it’s additionally as a result of this matchup, stylistically, is arguably probably the most intriguing battle Nurmagomedov can guide. Ferguson is so unorthodox. He surprises his opponents with pictures they do not see coming, he has (perhaps) the very best fuel tank within the sport, and he is onerous to pin down for an prolonged period of time. He is massive for the division. This battle is important to find out, past all shred of doubt, the most effective light-weight on the earth. I believe the battle will likely be aggressive, and Ferguson will take Nurmagomedov nearer to defeat than he is ever been. However my early lean needs to be on the champion pulling it out.
Raimondi: That is so onerous to name. Nurmagomedov’s greatest guess remains to be to take Ferguson down. Ferguson may be harmful off his again, however Nurmagomedov is without doubt one of the greatest pure wrestlers within the historical past of MMA. You may’t get up to now and never stick together with your bread and butter. I anticipate Nurmagomedov to take Ferguson down and for Ferguson to aim to permit that on his personal phrases — right into a place the place he can land elbows from the underside and try submissions. What occurs when it hits the mat is anybody’s guess. I anticipate Nurmagomedov to fend off Ferguson’s assaults and grind him out. However for those who inform me Ferguson would possibly do one thing wild and land or get a detailed submission try, I would not be shocked, both. Regardless of the end result, I can not wait to see two masters of very totally different kinds go to battle.
Wagenheim: Again in 2013, I bear in mind trying on the talent set of unbeaten Chris Weidman, noting he appeared like a nasty matchup for Anderson Silva, but being unable to check a end result aside from one other victory for “The Spider,” who had received 17 in a row whereas casting a spell of inferiority upon the remainder of the battle world. I cite that to acknowledge that my predictable forecasting of one other Nurmagomedov victory right here relies alone continual lack of imaginative and prescient, not on some deficiency in Ferguson’s sport. Ferguson has constructed a six-year profitable streak upon an idiosyncratic tenacity that makes him Khabib’s greatest risk but. Nonetheless, I simply cannot see the night time ending with something however the invulnerable champion squashing one other declawed antagonist.