Max Holloway vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov Preview for UFC 223

In what almost certainly looked like a highly elaborate April Fool’s joke, the UFC announced – on April 1 – that Tony Ferguson would be pulling out of his UFC 223 Lightweight title match up against Khabib Nurmagomedov due to injury.

Holloway Steps in at the Eleventh Hour

The UFC quickly found a replacement worthy of keeping the card’s Main Event status, with UFC Featherweight champion Max Holloway stepping up to replace Ferguson. It will be a huge ask for Holloway, as he faces a 26-0 undefeated fighter in his first ever UFC Fight at lightweight.

That doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task, however. After all, Holloway is the man who has almost effectively cleaned out the Featherweight division, and is the only fighter to have finished Jose Aldo twice.

The Blessed Gameplan

There’s one key game plan he will need to adopt if he to stand a chance of being the second fighter to hold two UFC belts simultaneously – avoid Nurmagomedov’s takedowns.

It’s a game plan that is much easier said than done, but Holloway does have a speed and striking advantage over his Russian adversary. Holloway needs to use this to his advantage by using constant movement and varied strikes in order to keep Nurmagomedov on the back foot and make him uncomfortable.

This would likely involve Holloway using tactics that could put himself in potentially risky situations, such as using leg and body kicks which would leave him more vulnerable to being taken down.

While being an elite fighter on the ground, Nurmagomedov has a record of not being able to hold fighters on the ground for long periods of time.

Because of this, Holloway – if he is taken down – may be better served planning ways to get the fight back on the feet rather than focusing purely on takedown defence. If Holloway’s key strategy is to keep the fight standing at all costs, Nurmagomedov’s is to take it to the ground and keep it there.

 

Max Holloway Recent Fight Record

Res.

Record

Opponent

Method

Event

Date

Win 19–3 José Aldo TKO (punches) UFC 218 December 2, 2017
Win 18–3 José Aldo TKO (punches) UFC 212 June 3, 2017
Win 17–3 Anthony Pettis TKO (body kick and punches) UFC 206 December 10, 2016
Win 16–3 Ricardo Lamas Decision (unanimous) UFC 199 June 4, 2016
Win 15–3 Jeremy Stephens Decision (unanimous) UFC 194 December 12, 2015

Video highlights of Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo

The Eagle to Extend Unbeaten Record

The Eagle’s ground game is one of the best ever seen in MMA, and is the primary reason why he boasts one of the best professional MMA records in the sport today.

Nurmagomedov will take to take an aggressive, calculated approach to Holloway – much like he did against Edson Barboza – in order to get in close and take the fight to the ground.

While the Russian has previously been successful in employing this type of approach, it will come with increased risks against an elite striker like Holloway, who has shown himself to be more than competent when it comes to defensive striking.

 

Khabib Nurmagomedov Recent Fight Record

Res.

Record

Opponent

Method

Event

Win 25–0 Edson Barboza Decision (unanimous) UFC 219
Win 24–0 Michael Johnson Submission (kimura) UFC 205
Win 23–0 Darrell Horcher TKO (punches) UFC on Fox: Teixeira vs. Evans
Win 22–0 Rafael dos Anjos Decision (unanimous) UFC on Fox: Werdum vs. Browne
Win 21–0 Pat Healy Decision (unanimous) UFC 165

Video highlights of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza

 

Our Prediction for Holloway vs.Nurmagomedov

If Nurmagomedov is able to take Holloway down, it is important that he uses his size advantage to not give Holloway any room to get back on his feet. Nurmagomedov will need to be relentless as soon as the fight hits the ground in order to quickly wear Holloway down.

By doing this, it will be easier for Nurmagomedov to submit Holloway and will also make Holloway less effective on the feet if he is able to get back up.

Holloway will show flashes of brilliance that will affirm his elite status, but Nurmagomedov’s grappling-centric game plan will once again be effective…Khabib Nurmagomedov via decision (49-46, 48-47, 49-46)

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