MCGRATH: Who could beat Khabib?

By David McGrath, MMATorch Contributor

Khabib Nurmagomedov (photo credit Adam Hunger © USA Today Sports)

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Khabib Nurmogomedov proved himself to be the class of the lightweight division Saturday night with an absolutely dominant performance against Conor McGregor. Post-fight antics aside, Khabib rag dolled and mauled the Irishman and most surprisingly outstruck the striker. I see zero holes in Khabib’s game, he’s as dominant a fighter as I’ve ever witnessed. After watching UFC 229, it got me thinking, who could beat this guy? Like legitimately win the fight. Who could outpace the Dagestani and enforce their will? Let’s look at the contenders and potential match-ups.

Ben Askren

Ben Askren is the Khabib of the non-UFC world. Askren is a wrestler who puts you down and holds you down. Askren is a welterweight and this would require Khabib to move up to the 170 lb division. That’s more where Khabib should fight anyhow. Let’s face it, the man cuts a ton of weight to make 155 and he’s a natural welterweight. Askren’s stand up game makes Khabib look like Floyd Mayweather. If this fight is standing for even a quarter of the time, I see Khabib winning the striking battle. Khabib stung MacGregor with a big overhand right and almost closed the show, I see this happening again because Askren’s stand up leaves a lot to be desired.

Verdict: Khabib wins on the feet and TKO’s Askren

Tony Ferguson

This to me would be the champion’s toughest match-up. Tony is so great fighting off of his back and nobody has yet to try to fight Khabib off of their back. Everyone gets too preoccupied with getting up. That is a tremendous waste of energy, for once I want to see someone pull guard and attack Khabib from their back. I believe Tony could successfully do this, and maybe even use his superior jiu-jitsu to submit Khabib. Tony is riding a ten fight winning streak and he’s shown the ability to be losing in fights and not care and come back to win. This is a tough match-up for the champion.

Verdict: Too close to call, but I can see Ferguson winning a decision or submitting Khabib.

Colby Covington at 170

Another fighter I could see hanging with Khabib on the ground and being able to match his cardio pace is Colby Covington. Covington was a college wrestler and a cardio freak. The main issue opponents are having against Khabib is they tire out quickly from ground and pound and become severely diminished. I could envision Colby hanging with Khabib in the grappling department and out striking the champion when the fight is standing.

Verdict: Covington hangs in on the ground and wins a decision.

Michael Chandler

This is as even a match-up as I see for Khabib, Chandler is a hell of a scrambler. Chandler’s striking game is also much improved and I feel like he could out strike the champion as well. I would straight up favor Chandler in this fight, his ground game is right there with Khabib and his cardio has never been an issue.

Verdict: Chandler wins a decision.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee never misses an opportunity to call Khabib out. Lee has been pointing out Khabib’s holes for years and has basically mapped out his game plan for beating Khabib. For some reason, his fight with Tony Ferguson sticks in my head. I realize Lee was diminished battling a staph infection and got submitted via choke in round 3 by Ferguson, but it was Lee’s big chance to fight for the gold and he was defeated on the big stage. I think with Lee being a former college wrestler, he could hang with Khabib’s ground game as well.

Verdict: Khabib tires Lee out and wins a decision or submits Lee

Brian Ortega

Now, this would be a 10-pound jump for Ortega to lightweight but I feel that Ortega would be game for this fight. Ortega’s striking leaves a lot to be desired, but his ground game is absolutely nasty. Ortega is a very intriguing prospect, he’s undefeated and has had some impressive victories. I could envision Ortega fighting off his back much like Ferguson and catching Khabib and submitting him. This is a very dangerous fight for the Dagestani champion, and I’d love to see it.

Verdict: Ortega survives ground and pound from Khabib and submits him.

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