After over 500 days with no title defenses, Conor McGregor is OUT as the UFC’s lightweight champion. We have a new king in town, Khabib Nurmagomedov. The bear wrestling freak of nature now has his work cut out for him. Get a load of this list of names coming down the pipe at him:
Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, Eddie Alvarez, Dustin Poirier, Kevin Lee
That’s just the top five. Throw in a wild card with Justin Gaethje (who admittedly needs a couple wins first), Nate Diaz, and featherweight former champ Jose Aldo as well. Oh, and why not have Max Holloway and Brian Ortega in the mix while we’re at it?
The point is, Khabib has a tough road ahead of him. If he successfully defends against the meat grinder that is the lightweight division, it will cement him as one of the greatest champions the UFC has ever seen.
Chances for Victory: Who is Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Toughest Contender?
But what do the numbers say? How do each of the top five contenders we’ve named above stack up in their chances to take down “The Eagle?” A Conor McGregor bout is already in negotiations, and Khabib has said if it drags on for too long, give him Dustin Poirier. But, who is the biggest threat to Khabib’s reign? Let’s break it down!
5. Dustin Poirier – 5% chance to beat Khabib
Okay, I’m a fan of Dustin Poirier. “The Diamond” is tough and exciting to watch. Right after Khabib got his belt he said that if Conor McGregor was playing games, he would defend his title first against Poirier (Khabib has since changed his tune, having McGregor and someone else in mind, but we will talk about that one in the bonus round). Poirier has a great body count, wins over Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller, Yancy Medeiros, and Max Holloway. Unfortunately for Poirier, he has the exact style that Khabib has excelled against. Strikers have always had a hard time with Khabib. Just ask Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson (who beat Poirier), and Rafael Dos Anjos. I’m afraid that a match between Khabib and Poirier would be the same as Barboza and Johnson. Bad.
4. Kevin Lee – 15% chance to beat Khabib
Kevin Lee is pretty similar to Khabib. We really haven’t seen how Khabib does against a wrestler the caliber of Kevin Lee, either. Lee’s best advantage is exactly this, the unknown of how Khabib fairs with excellent wrestlers. The thing that Lee has to keep in mind is where Khabib trains. AKA is a breeding ground for ELITE wrestlers, i.e. Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, current and former champions. So, although Khabib hasn’t yet fought a wrestler of this ability and skill set in the Octagon, he trains with the best of the best.
3. Eddie Alvarez – 40% chance to beat Khabib
Now we are getting to the unpredictable fighters. Eddie Alvarez is a tough son of a gun. His war with Justin Gaethje showed how much punishment he can take and still put someone down. Eddie is also the second most rounded fighter on this list (there’s that mystery fighter again). Eddie’s only real bad outing was when he was outclassed by McGregor at UFC 205. But, the toughness of Eddie Alvarez gives him much better chances to dethrone Khabib and reclaim his lightweight title.
2. Conor McGregor – 50% chance to beat Khabib
This is the fight everyone is expecting to see. A lot of fans seem to believe that this is a shoe-in for the current champ. But don’t count McGregor out. The signature left hand and striking speed give him a slightly better advantage against Khabib than Alvarez had.
The key to taking Khabib’s belt is control. We saw that in the Al Iaquinta fight. If McGregor can stand in the middle of the octagon and control the fight, McGregor will pick Khabib apart all day. Another thing McGregor has going for him is his odd ability to make an opponent seemingly abandon their gameplan completely. McGregor has about a coin flip’s chance to win this fight, which completely depends on octagon control.
1. Tony Ferguson – 65% chance to beat Khabib
Yes, we need to try to make this matchup a fifth time. Tony Ferguson thrives where Khabib likes to put his opponents. Tony on the bottom is a scary, scary thing. Tony is also absolutely insane. He simply ignores adversity in the octagon and continues to trudge along the gameplan’s path. Putting Ferguson on his back is exactly what he wants. Tony is probably the only fighter with the perfect style matchup to actually be at an advantage over Khabib. We’ve been so close multiple times to seeing this fight and we will hopefully get it soon. But until the McGregor show finishes up, we won’t get to see it for at least a year.
Bonus Fighter: Georges St-Pierre – 99% chance to beat Khabib
Surprise! It’s the mystery fighter. Georges St-Pierre is rumored to want to only fight Khabib and McGregor. Let’s be honest here, St-Pierre is the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. He has beat a who’s who of the welterweight division, become a two-division champ, and now he’s wanting to do something nobody has ever done. Get a third belt.
GSP has fought and beat Michael Bisping, who was originally a light heavyweight. St-Pierre has dealt with other workhorses like Johnny Hendricks, Josh Koscheck, BJ Penn, Matt Serra, and Matt Hughes. He’s used to dealing with guys that have to cut plenty of weight to make welterweight, whereas he fits fine under the 170 limit without having to cut too much weight. He’s used to dealing with stronger people.
Khabib is strong, but I don’t think he would be able to abuse GSP like he wants to with other opponents. IF (big “if) GSP can make weight, Khabib better be careful, his legacy can be derailed by the stronger and better fighter quickly.
Who do you think poses the biggest threat to Khabib Nurmogomedov’s legacy? Sound off in the comments!
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