It’s one of the most anticipated MMA fights ever and the headliner of Saturday’s UFC 229 card from Las Vegas.
The five-fight main card is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. Here’s a look at those bouts and their Sports Interaction MMA odds.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor
Records: Khabib (26-0), McGregor (21-3)
Prediction: Khabib by submission
There’s a reason that this lightweight title fight between the champion Nurmagomedov and former two-division champion and No. 1 contender McGregor is being marketed as Khabib vs. McGregor: It’s because no one can pronounce the Russian’s last name, so we’ll just stick with Khabib here as well. Every fight, be it MMA or boxing, seems to pit guys who don’t like each other as it’s simply a good way to draw attention and more viewers. These two truly don’t. It really went off the rails before UFC 223 in April at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. McGregor attacked a bus carrying Khabib and other fighters that led to a few fights being canceled due to injuries suffered on the bus as well as leading to McGregor’s arrest. The Irishman attacked because of a beef between his UFC buddy and training partner Artem Lobov and Khabib earlier that week at a hotel. Khabib was caught on video slapping Lobov multiple times.
UFC president Dana White was furious and embarrassed and even threatened to ban McGregor forever, but that was never going to happen due to the fact McGregor is easily the most popular fighter in the sport. When he actually enters the Octagon. He hasn’t since UFC 205 in November 2016 when he beat Eddie Alvarez to add the lightweight title to his featherweight crown – becoming the first UFC fighter to hold two belts at once. McGregor eventually was stripped of both because of inaction. Of course, he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing ring last year and showed respectably but lost. Khabib was named undisputed lightweight champion with his unanimous decision win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Khabib’s strength is wrestling and McGregor’s is striking. Should be fascinating.
Anthony Pettis vs. Tony Ferguson
Records: Pettis (21-7), Ferguson (25-3)
Prediction: Ferguson by KO/TKO
This matchup of Americans features the lightweight division’s No. 2 contender in Ferguson – who may get his shot at the Khabib-McGregor winner unless we get an immediate rematch if the fight is close – against No. 8 Pettis. Ferguson won the interim lightweight belt with a submission (triangle choke) of Kevin Lee at UFC 216 last October and has been scheduled four different times to fight Khabib but those kept falling through, including at UFC 223, and the UFC basically just took the belt from Ferguson, who feels (perhaps justly) that he’s getting jobbed. “El Cucuy” has won his past 10 fights and has a huge reach advantage here. Pettis is a former lightweight champion who has seen better days as he has dropped six of eight.
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes
Records: Saint Preux (22-11), Reyes (9-0)
Division: Light heavyweight
Prediction: Reyes by KO/TKO
Another matchup of U.S. fighters, with Saint Preux, a former University of Tennessee football player, ranked No. 7 among lightweights and Reyes at No. 12 with a bullet thanks to his unbeaten record. “OSP” can look fantastic one fight (he took superstar Jon Jones the distance, for example) and then terrible the next. He has won four of his past five, which follows losing four of five. Seven of his 11 losses are by decision. We should find out if Reyes is legit as he hasn’t fought anyone overly notable yet and has had only three UFC bouts. Just one of his wins has taken place after Round 1. Hence Reyes’ nickname: “the Devastator.”
Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov
Records: Lewis (20-5), Volkov (29-6)
Prediction: Lewis by KO/TKO
Lewis, an American, is ranked No. 2 among the big boys, while the Russian Volkov (it could really be a big night for that country) is No. 5. The only loss for Lewis in the past nine was to Mark Hunt by fourth-round TKO (punches) last June. Lewis beat mega-talented but frustrating Francis Ngannou last time out in July by unanimous decision. That was only the second decision win in Lewis’ career – 17 are by KO or TKO. Volkov has won six straight since back-to-back losses to Tony Johnson and Cheick Kongo. “Drago” (get it Rocky fans?) last fought in Mach and beat former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum by fourth-round knockout (punches). Little chance this one goes the distance.
Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig
Records: Waterson (15-6), Herrig (14-7)
Division: Women’s strawweight
Prediction: Herrig by decision
The main card begins with this matchup of American women, with Waterson ranked No. 8 in the strawweight division and Herrig No. 9. Waterson, with the fabulous nickname of “the Karate Hottie,” ended a two-fight losing streak – including one to current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas — with a split-decision win over Cortney Casey-Sanchez in April. It was only Waterson’s third career decision victory. Two fights ago, Herrig also beat Casey-Sanchez by split decision. Herrig followed that with a split-decision loss at UFC 223 to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, currently ranked fifth in the division.