MCGRATH: Predictions for the rest of 2018 – Khabib, Jones, Cormier, McGregor

Oct 6, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov (red gloves) fights Conor McGregor (blue gloves) during UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a great time to be a UFC fan. Jon Jones is returning. Derrick Lewis and Daniel Cormier are headlining Madison Square Garden on three weeks notice. Don’t forget, we have the much anticipated Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes matchup set for UFC 232 as well. And oh yeah, the featherweight title is on the line between two incredibly exciting young fighters at UFC 231 north of the border.

So let’s get a little crazy and let me tell you what i think I think we’re gonna see for the rest of the calendar year in the UFC.

Khabib Numagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson gets booked

I’m on the Tony vs. Khabib train at this point, I realize Khabib has to figure out what his penalties are gonna be for the UFC 229 scrum. Let’s just assume Khabib gets a hefty fine and say 8 weeks suspension retroactive. That will shore up an announcement by January and a fight date probably around April or May. Sorry to all the McGregor fans out there, but word is, Khabib has already turned down $15 million for a rematch with the former two division champ. McGregor is not going to be able to lure Khabib back with money, I don’t think we see those two share the octagon again.

Jon Jones returns and reclaims light heavyweight title

I get it, not making a lot of headlines here saying Jones will return and reclaim what he never lost. However, I think Conor McGregor proved that ring rust is real. Jones has been away for a year and a half, and he isn’t exactly starting slow, he’s jumping back in with a guy who gave him the biggest test of his career. Sounds familiar huh? Jones to me is just such a different animal. He’s hungry as hell to reclaim the throne at 205. And he will take Gustafsson seriously this time, I put stock in his claims that basically, he didn’t prepare for the Swede first time around and partied leading up to the fight. Jones sleepwalked through the first couple rounds and then turned it on in an epic battle in 2013. I expect to see that Jones out the gate this time, and see “Bones” reclaim his place atop UFC’s light heavyweight division.

Amanda Nunes vs Cris Cyborg is a barn burner and turns out to be the best fight in the history of the women’s division

This matchup is fascinating. Cris Cyborg is one of the most dominant fighters in the history of combat sports. Amanda Nunes is a striker who has beaten some huge names. Stylistically, this fight should be an absolute slugfest. It’s certainly the biggest fight in the history of the women’s division from a competitive standpoint. I’m not ready to predict a winner yet, however, the hype to see if someone can finally beat Cyborg will be well worth plenty of discussions.

Daniel Cormier ground and pounds Derrick Lewis for the win at MSG

I’m a big a fan of the “Black Beast” as anyone. But on three weeks notice against the champ-champ? I just don’t see it. Cormier is hurt a bit, and still not able as of this writing to make a fist with that injured right hand. I just see Cormier being able to avoid the big shot and use his superior wrestling to ground up and win a 25-minute decision over Lewis, Kudos to both for saving the MSG card and taking this fight on super short notice.

Colby Covington vs Tyron Woodley gets announced

Whoo! This one is gonna be hot. Colby Covington’s trash talking game is epic. However, the UFC needs to see what they have in Covington. By that I mean his resume isn’t that impressive, two wins over welterweight gatekeepers Rafael Dos Anjos and Demian Maia aren’t enough for me. If Covington beats Woodley, the UFC has their new big star. A McGregor-esque fighter who can trash talk and back it up. But, the shtick only works if you win. Woodley is dominant right now, he’s cleaned out the welterweight division and if he beats Covington I’m not sure what’s left for him at 170. Either way, the feud has been building forever, and I’ll bet with a decent lead up this fight will perform well on PPV.

Brian Ortega proves to be the best featherweight in the world

Listen, anybody who knows me knows I Love Brian Ortega. Being a longtime ji-jitsu practitioner, I am astounded by his balance and his smooth as glass ground game. This guy is gonna be tough to deal with for anybody, but his striking leaves a little to be desired right now. I think we will see Max Holloway get the better on the feet but Ortega catches him and submit him somewhere and get crowned the featherweight champion at UFC 231. Look out in 2019, if Ortega stays healthy, there are so many interesting superfight matchups for him.

Conor McGregor stays quiet

The rest of 2018 is gonna be quiet for the former double champ. If I’m McGregor I lay back and watch to see if Khabib gets stripped. If that happens Tony and Conor will get that interim title matchup in early 2019. Otherwise, I would go back and maybe rematch Jose Aldo Jr. Or I complete the trilogy with Nate Diaz. Conor needs to get in the win column. Maybe even twice before he can even think of a rematch with Khabib. Take the rest of 2018 to plot your next move. His next fight will be a big name of course, but an immediate rematch booked with Khabib isn’t going to happen.

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