How Good is Khabib’s Stand Up and Striking?
As both casual and hardcore MMA fans know, Dagestan’s Khabib Nurmagomedov is a force to be reckoned with inside the Octagon. The hard-nosed Russian has racked-up twenty-six professional wins without having incurred a single loss. Moreover, Nurmagomedov’s wrestling abilities have helped him to absolutely dominate some of the best fighters the sport has to offer, including Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson, and Al Iaquinta, amongst others.
With that said, “The Eagle” will go to war with a man who could be the most skillful opponent he’s faced to date and the most skillful fighter in the world — on 6 October, at UFC 229: Conor McGregor.
Besides entertaining fans with his trash talk and serving as a source of pride to Ireland, McGregor has achieved international notoriety since becoming the first mixed martial artist to simultaneously hold two UFC belts. The brash Irishman has put together one of the most decorated UFC records in history, beating the likes of Jose Aldo, Eddie Alvarez, Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier, and others with his tremendous striking.
Thus, most pundits and fans are wondering which athlete will be able to better impose his skillset; will Khabib dominate on the canvas, or will McGregor be able to dominate on the feet?
And while they’re definitely interesting, inquiries like these fail to account for the possibility that one of these two competitors will be able to hang with or perhaps beat the other in his area of expertise. The question then becomes, how good is Khabib Nurmagomedov’s striking and stand up? We all know it’s not his strongest ability but can he do some damage to Mcgregor in stand up?
Just as is the case with numerous facets of this crazy sport, the answer is complicated.
Many fans will remember how Nurmagomedov turned up the striking heat on Al Iaquinta in the final rounds of UFC 223’s main event, and how he looked pretty impressive while doing so. After that fight, Iaquinta said that he was impressed with Khabib’s stand up – “he was always a step ahead of me; his boxing is awkward like all Russians”. The Serra-Longo product Iaquinta is a formidable boxer in his own right, and outstriking him is no small achievement. Similarly, it must be noted that Iaquinta stepped up to fight Nurmagomedov on very short notice in the described contest.
Other longtime followers of MMA will remember when Khabib absorbed several big punches in the opening round of his UFC 205 match against TUF 12 runner-up Michael Johnson. Before being wrestled through the remainder of the round and the fight, Johnson was able to find a home for some of his frightening punches. Nurmagomedov ate them well but was nevertheless fazed. McGregor is a whole different beast than Johnson – I don’t think we need to tell you that.
The conclusion that can most easily be derived from these examples is that Khabib’s striking abilities are pretty good which allowed him to hold-up against cream-of-the-crop fighters (like Iaquinta and Edson Barboza). But aggressive strikers that can close the distance without being taken down, like Michael Johnson, could do some damage to Khabib.
Conor McGregor is most definitely capable of doing the latter – perhaps better than anyone else on Earth can.
To sum it up, Khabib Nurmagomedov is naturally playing with fire if he stands with McGregor for longer than he needs to. He might have a chance to stay in the fight and score some points if he jabs from the outside and keeps McGregor at bay, but doing so successfully is a longshot. Such a game plan would make it exponentially more difficult for Khabib to get ahold of McGregor and put to use the abilities that have propelled him to the top of the lightweight division.