As everyone knows now the Khabib vs Conor fight is creating a lot of tension and has its own thick presence, not due to the fight only as is the case in most of Conors fights the spectacle is reaching a fever pitch within every tier of fan from the deep hardcore training fans all the way to the new fans. The non-accommodating resistance within this bout is a person that I believe is an unflappable participant that has Conor excited to compete. That person would be Khabib “War Eagle” Nurmagomedov the undefeated champion he’s my go-to guy because he is head and shoulders above everyone as a grappling technician and scares everyone but T Ferg but Ts crazy. When nobody wants to fight you and you’re a stoic and funny Russian hitman the company doesn’t necessarily want you to light the golden boy on fire. Conor says he will fight anyone and he’s proved he’s learned from Mayweather to promo not based on the other man’s name and skill but purely on the theatrics of what you can do. Now the only thing that the MMA mainstream media wants to talk about is how Khabib got caught by Michael Johnson a very testy point within the community, the Al Iaquinta fight, how Conor beat Chad, Conors left hand and Conors cardio. So I’ll be discussing these talking points and explaining them for what they are and not what we want them to be.
Khabib versus Michael Johnson was a mauling one-sided fight where people took what Rogan said he believed to have happened as the gospel, that being Khabib being hit by a right hand from a very talented Henri Hooft trained fighter. I have encountered a lot of pro-Conor fans and analyst that repeat the same thing. I would like to dissect this as a guy that has seen guys get rocked, caught, checked, and starched. Getting caught is one thing getting rocked implies getting hit clean and your legs buckling. It’s an easy thing to see in boxing because guys aren’t dropping down to shoot or stepping offline to through a kick etc. So the gif below is what makes Conor fans hopeful because a fast southpaw was able to hit Khabib. If you are caught it tends to lead to getting hit more and more to the point you are rocked. Khabib gets hit and then defends against the barrage Johnson then through with a high elbow and shoulder defense Allah Diaz’s, Bobby Green, Jorge Masvidal, etc. That is the opinion of a guy that has been in the gym post-2005 and seen a lot experienced a lot I’ve felt and seen what rocking and catching a guy is. I feel like yes Khabib got hit clean however he wasn’t buckling at the knees, he was literally just responding in line to how he and any other fighter is trained you defend the barrage.
The Khabib versus Al is an interesting fight where we can compare how both guys compare Conors finishing ability of short notice vs Khabibs ability to take out and finish a short notice fight. However that tells me nothing funny enough why because of the strengths on both ends lean themselves to a flash finish or a grinding pace of a fight, those are the antithesis of both men’s styles. Khabib versus Al was interesting because we saw what happens when an American with a wrestling background decides to bend at the hip and force Khabib to strike basically. Is Khabibs ability to mix it up like GSP from striking to wrestling to striking back to wrestling with every jab and shot looking the exact same. I was not at all surprised Khabib fought safe and sound against Al because there was a lot on the line, play with the jab that was the better in that bout shoot when its open and keeps the pace high and constant to get some 5 round experience. Those are the specifically strikes weighed against Khabib to make him look basic.
Now for the Conor points starting with how he handled Chads wrestling positive and negatively. My points usually start with if mini Mendes could control the takedown and bust open Conor from top position for long periods of the rounds what can Khabib do. The rebuttal is the post-fight announcing that Conors was hurt on antibiotics. I will concede that point if previous to the Chad replacement, something that itches in my thoughts, however, is that Dennis Siever took down Conor in that Boston showcase fight. I just come back to Conor extending on the straight 2 and Dennis shooting off that, what Brendan Dorman calls a reactive take-down not a response to getting hit but to counter the strike thrown. Conors ability to front kick Chads stomach was a brilliant and now obvious tactic that would have had the same effect even if Chad had received a 8-week camp. Is his wrestling defense improved I would believe so because of how he was able to defend the take-down against Nate until the 5th round in the 2nd fight as well as the shot from Eddie. My point here is this, Conor is not some Okie Doke grappler with no skill or awareness of what to do in situations he’s not incompetent.
The striking is unobjectionably in Conor wheels house and favor, he is able to fight backward and walking forward he can get hit but the man’s got a beard. The only issue that can be leveraged is a cardio drop off around the mid 2nd round of in the cage and around the 8th round in a boxing competition with 3-minute rounds versus 5 minute rounds. Khabib hasn’t shown a drop off that you can title as fatigue, everyone gets tired but not everyone gets fatigued. Conor has said over and over he has fixed that issue but the Eddie fight didn’t go long enough and the only 5 rounder he looked like cardio wasn’t a problem was against Max Holloway. The argument people will make is that Nate was bigger and he boxed against Mayweather, my response is it wasn’t short notice because Conor was able to train for it. The issue becomes grappling fatigue and again the energy systems being trained in camp biking, running, and rowing get you half way home you’ve got to grind in that wrestling room to get all the way home. Conor could make up that distance and since he hasn’t been doing media I would love to believe that was his focus this time around. I would love to think that but when you say you’re going to ice him in the 1st round, Chael said it best if you go for the KO you will not win the decision and by extension a 5 round war.
Dissecting Khabib is fairly simple, this ain’t your normal white guy this is a “Russian” competition breed Master of Sport in Combat Sambo, AKA propelled bear wrestling terror at 155. It’s not if but when he wants to take Conor down, he can let him up and do it again like he always does against faster opponents and stronger opponents. So the master of sport in sambo, “say man who else had that pedigree in MMA”, oh yeah FEDOR prime FEDOR. Sambo is if not the best base for MMA its right next to wrestling and now kickboxing (thanks Wonderboy for stealing Hendricks soul). So when he gets it to the mat after shooting the most technical double outside of any current Olympic wrestler maybe because honestly, he’s as good as Yoel Romero. Khabib shoots and if Conor starts attacking off the bottom and arms gets snatched from side control or crucifix, that can end up being a broken limb. Khabib is a high-level submission artist go watch his sambo matches and make your own opinion but some of the best armbars ever were done by Sambo players Fedor to the late Randleman, Khabib, Rustlam etc. But what if Conor kicks him similar to Mendes, Sambo players basically brought over the beginnings of this crazy leglock and ankle lock game you see in BJJ. In my mind, he runs a single into a double or takes the knee pick because that’s what he does to everyone who throws a linear kick. Then when the hesitation on the kick comes in to play watch for power double pass to half smash smash smash pass to mount smash knee in elbow pass to crucifix end the fight. That’s been Khabibs game since he was strangling baby bears. Can Conor catch the DEATH BY THE LEFT, I believe so, I don’t know how Khabib will take it we don’t know how anyone will take it. Khabibs got a chin but can he make it to the grinding or will Conor catch him in the first round to stop Khabib from getting to his ace.
I think Khabib beats Conor because of the old history of fighting not caring about your heart and passion when you’re not as skilled as the other in a discipline. Conor and Khabib are both in that situation Khabib does not possess the offensive striking while Conor doesn’t have the grappling ability in a nutshell. The story is who can develop the skill fastest enough to defend and capitalize. This fight in my head doesn’t end as a blow out either way it ends after a hard-fought chess game were both guys show defensive strategy and if their lungs hold up a blistering pace and activity we accept to see. I can’t wait for this fight but I caution everyone this may end up being a replay of Woodley vs Wonderboy 1 a lot of blitzing and some well-timed shots over and over again. Well, that’s my take on things, who’s gonna call out GSP I wonder…..