Before the main event of UFC 229 there was one question being debated by fans, and that was whether Conor McGregor would be able to knockout Khabib Nurmagomedov before he was nullified by the superior grappling of his opponent. Khabib was able to answer this question in resounding fashion, with a crushing victory that took his record to 27 wins in 27 fights and cemented his status as one of the most dominant fighters to enter the octagon.
McGregor has to be lauded for his desire to pursue one of the most difficult fights available to him after almost 2 years away from the UFC, but from the first round it was clear that a warm-up fight might have benefitted him. Khabib was able to utilise his wrestling experience to pin McGregor to the ground for much of round 1, with the Irishman apparently having neglected to work on takedown defence, perhaps in the belief that his explosive left hand would save him. In spite of Conor’s striking abilities it was Khabib who landed the most significant blows in round 2, rattling Conor with a right hook that took him to the canvas, before unloading a series of punches onto his downed opponent.
Despite his dominance Khabib was unable to finish the fight at this point, and McGregor started to pose more of a threat in round 3. He was evidently beginning to fatigue and had taken a lot of damage from his opponent, but he was able to land some more meaningful shots whilst crucially avoiding another takedown. McGregor had just edged the third round, and this may have inspired some sense of hope amongst the most optimistic of his fans, but round 4 was a reminder of the immense talent that Khabib possesses. He was able to push Conor to the fence and work him to the ground, with his rival having no answer to the brutal efficiency of his grappling. As Conor was pinned to the mat yet again with so much of the round remaining, it became evident that his chances of victory were all but exhausted. McGregor writhed to free himself from Khabib’s clutches, but his opponent was by far the stronger of the two, and with Conor locked in an inescapable neck crank he had no choice but to tap out and accept defeat.[pullquote]The end of the fight should have been a celebration of one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time, who retained his lightweight belt and extended his record-breaking undefeated streak, but instead a scene of carnage unfolded.[/pullquote]
Khabib vaulted over the octagon and attacked a member of McGregor’s team, and McGregor himself was hit with a cowardly blow as he recovered from his debilitating fight. The security teams struggled to contain the mass brawl that erupted, and Khabib was not presented with the belt that he had fought so hard to keep in his grasp. The fight has become secondary to many, with the questions regarding potential legal action against Khabib, the loss of his purse for the fight and whether Dana White will strip him of his belt overshadowing analysis of the contest itself. Khabib was able to systematically wear Conor out and deny him of any opportunity to land a knockout blow, and after his performance it is difficult to imagine any fighter deposing him as lightweight champion. In fact, the greatest threat to Khabib’s dominance is contained within himself, as UFC fans wait to see whether this victory, which should have been his crowning moment, will be rendered hollow by an act of stupidity.