UFC 223: Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov Pre-Fight Thoughts

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 19: (L-R) Opponents Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov face off during the UFC press conference at TD Garden on January 19, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

When Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov meet at UFC 223 on April 7, it will be a championship showdown between two of the best lightweights on the planet.

The fight will be for the official lightweight title. Although Ferguson holds the interim strap, UFC President Dana White said that current champ Conor McGregor will be stripped “as soon as one punch is thrown.” The delay seems to simply be a safeguard incase the fight falls apart like it infamously did at UFC 209 when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized after a bad weight cut.

However, fans are eager that the fight will finally happen at UFC 223, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Let’s delve into the hype around the match-up.

The Tale of the Tape

Ferguson enters as the interim lightweight champion on a 10-fight win streak, all coming inside the Octagon. Nurmagomedov is undefeated at 25-0 with nine of those against UFC competition.

Both men own a win over former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, who is rumored  to fight Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title next.

“The Eagle” is five years younger than “El Cucuy” (29 and 34 respectively). Ferguson has the reach and height advantages.

The Styles

Ferguson has an unorthodox but well-rounded game. He throws a weird array of strikes, many of them with fight-ending intentions. He hasn’t had as many knockouts at lightweight as he did welterweight, but he’s hurt many an opponent with his funky striking. At 155, Ferguson’s true bread and butter has been his submission game. Throughout his 10-fight winning streak, Ferguson has choked out six of his opponents.

Nurmagomedov has a functional striking game, but he’s a top-heavy grappling demon through and through. He’ll take opponents down and suffocate them with a barrage of ground and pound. That opens his opponents up to be TKO’d or submitted. He flatout dominated Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson, two of the division’s top strikers, in his last two bouts.

The Odds

Nurmagomedov has opened up as more than a 2-1 favorite according to sites like www.bestbettingsites.uk.

Nurmagomedov does have the more clear path to victory, but Ferguson is the more likely of the two to finish the fight out of nowhere.

Nurmagomedov’s finishes are a slow burn; they come after he grinds down fighters and they leave an opening he can exploit. Look at his victories over Johnson and Darrell Horcher for proof.

Ferguson, however, has knockout power, or can snatch up an opportunistic submission.

Last Thoughts

Nurmagomedov has his avenue to victory. He should be able to secure takedowns on Ferguson. While Ferguson’s no slouch in the takedown defense department, it almost seems inevitable. Nurmagomedov is that good. However, Nurmagomedov must be extremely careful once in Ferguson’s guard. The interim champ has shown that he can catch fight-ending submissions from out of nowhere. And once he’s locked on, the fight’s usually over.

The real winners are the fans, though (assuming the fight happens). If both make it to the Octagon, UFC 223 should be an unforgettable night.

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