UFC 229: Khabib vs McGregor Complete Event Preview and Betting Odds

Updated Thursday 21st February 2019, 02:06 PM

The promos have been released, the arena has been sold out, and the talk is nearly over. It’s almost time for the biggest fight in the history of the UFC, as the undefeated 26-0 Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his title against former double-champ Conor McGregor. There is genuine bad blood between these two fighters, and their bout promises to be a scintillating matchup between the best grappler in the organisation and one of its best strikers. Check out our preview and all the latest betting odds for all 12 fights scheduled for UFC 229: Khabib vs McGregor.

Early Prelims

Ryan LaFlare vs Tony Martin

Ryan LaFlare rallied from a brutal knockout loss to Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveria last year to take an impressive decision victory over Alex Garcia in April. Back in 2014 he was one of the organisation’s hottest prospects as he put together an 11-fight win streak, including four in the UFC. A frustrating night against Demian Maia gave him his first taste of losing, however, and since then he has gone 3-1, which included that devastating loss to Oliveira.

He will open proceedings on Saturday against Tony Martin, a fighter of similar experience. Martin has fought at Lightweight for most of his UFC career, but returned to Welterweight for the first time in six years to face Keita Nakamura in April. He fought to a solid decision victory but faces a bigger challenge in Ryan LaFlare, who will be determined to string some wins together once again. LaFlare should take it.

Type Odds Bet Now
Ryan LaFlare
Tony Martin
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Gray Maynard vs Nik Lentz

After succumbing to a four-fight losing streak at Lightweight, Gray Maynard’s decision to drop a weight class seemed to pay off, as he won two of his next three fights at Featherweight. Despite his success, he moves back up to Lightweight to face Nik Lentz at UFC 229. Lentz’s last outing was a disappointing decision loss to David Teymur, but previous to that he submitted the highly-regarded Will Brooks by guillotine after getting lit up on the feet for six minutes. That same submission threat might deter Maynard from shooting for takedowns too eagerly, and if Lentz can take advantage of that, he should be able to at least outscore his opponent on the way to a decision victory.

Type Odds Bet Now
Nik Lentz
Gray Maynard
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Lina Lansberg vs Yana Kunitskaya

Like Tonya Evinger, Yana Kunitskaya arrived from Invicta FC to face inarguably the greatest female mixed martial arts fighter on the planet in Cris Cyborg. That fight ended in the first round, but measuring anyone’s performance when they’re up against an opponent as formidable as Cyborg is a pointless exercise. Kunitskaya will aim to get back into the win column against twelfth-ranked Bantamweight Lina Länsberg, and she heads into the event as the bookies’ odds-on favourite. The two fighters are pretty evenly matched, however, so it might not be as clear-cut as they have it. We can see Lansberg coming away with an upset.

Type Odds Bet Now
Yana Kunitskaya
Lina Lansberg
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Preliminary Card

Scott Holtzman vs Alan Patrick

Aside from an unexpected TKO loss to Mairbeck Taisumov in 2015, Alan Patrick has a perfect professional record. He will carry a 5-inch reach advantage into his fight with Scott Holtzman, and that could make all the difference in what should be a closer fight than the bookies have it. Patrick’s athleticism – or at least his backflipping antics at previous weigh-ins – along with his near-perfect record might have influenced the odds-setters to position him as a heavy favourite. Neither fighter is dispatched easily, as shown by the fact that they have fought to decisions in their last eight combined fights. Alan Patrick’s superior defence should help him win on Saturday, but it won’t be the foregone conclusion that the bookmakers have it.

Type Odds Bet Now
Alan Patrick
Scott Holtzman
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Aspen Ladd vs Tonya Evinger

Aspen Ladd and Tonya Evinger have both spent the last few years fighting in Invicta FC, but this will be the first time they have shared a cage. In her first fight with the UFC, Tonya Evinger was fed to Cris Cyborg for the vacant Featherweight title, and while the result was almost a foregone conclusion, Evinger put up a great fight.

She will enter UFC 229 against a young, undefeated fighter who got off to a solid, if not spectacular start in the UFC when she finished Lina Länsberg at UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs Till this time last year. The odds of Ladd taking the win are perhaps buoyed by her youth (she is 14 years younger than her opponent) and her 6-0 record, but she will have her hands full with the former Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion. Evinger is more than tough enough to hang with Ladd for three rounds, but will be out-pointed when it comes to the decision.

Type Odds Bet Now
Aspen Ladd
Tonya Evinger
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Vicente Luque vs Jalin Turner

If you’ve seen some of Vicente Luque’s previous knockouts – particularly the casual left hook he caught Chad Laprise with or the beautiful, technical striking with which he finished Héctor Urbina – you might not be surprised to hear that he’s the big favourite for his fight with Jalin Turner this weekend. Turner is making his Octagon debut after impressing on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, and while he is not fancied to come away with a result, the matchup should be an exciting one. Luque should wrap this one up early, though.

Type Odds Bet Now
Vivente Luque
Jalin Turner
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Sergio Pettis vs Jussier Formiga

The younger of the Pettis brothers heads into his bout with Jussier Formiga at UFC 229 on the back of a huge, albeit closely contested split decision win over Joseph Benavidez. The only blot on his record over the last six fights has been a decision loss to current Flyweight Champion Henry Cejudo, so he is favourite with the bookies.

Jussier Formiga will be no pushover, though, and fights off the back of an impressive Performance of the Night victory over the highly-skilled Ben Nguyen at UFC 221 in February. His grappling will be a big problem for Pettis, who is quick with his hands, but doesn’t have the power to finish fights, as shown by the fact that eight of his last ten fights have gone the distance. Expect Formiga to take Pettis down more than once to grind out a decision or finish with a submission.

Type Odds Bet Now
Sergio Pettis
Jussier Formiga
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Main Card

Michelle Waterson vs Felice Herrig

A close decision win over Cortney Casey will have relieved some pressure on ‘The Karate Hottie’ Michelle Waterson, after she lost two straight fights leading into that one. She will look to consolidate her top-ten ranking against Felice Herrig, who recently had a four-fight win streak snapped by Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 223. This could potentially be one of the closest fights on the card, as the fighters are pretty evenly matched, and this is reflected in the odds, with Felice Herrig given the slightest of edges by the bookies.

This fight will be a case of output versus accuracy. Over their last seven fights, Felice Herrig has thrown twice as many total strikes as her opponent, but Michelle Waterson has landed with 20 percent more accuracy. In this case, while she may be able to tag Herrig with some well-timed counters, Waterson will struggle to deal with the volume of strikes thrown at her. It may go to the judges, but Felice Herrig’s aggression will go down well with them.

Type Odds Bet Now
Felice Herrig
Michelle Waterson
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Derrick Lewis vs Alexander Volkov

There will be many fighters at UFC 229 hoping to prove a point, and one of them will be Derrick Lewis. After his participation in what could be the worst fight of all time against Francis Ngannou at UFC 226 in July, he steps into the Octagon this weekend to face rangy Russian kickboxer Alexander Volkov. Lewis has promised a ‘real fun’ first round, which hopefully means that we’ll get to see the fighter that beat swathes through the Heavyweight division on the way to the tepid showdown with Ngannou.

Alexander Volkov is on one of the hottest streaks of his career, and is 4-0 in the UFC. His opponents haven’t exactly been cans either; his last three victories have been against Fabrício Werdum, Stefan Struve, and Roy Nelson. He will know exactly what he needs to do to beat Derrick Lewis, and getting out of the first round will be the first priority. Expect him to use every inch of his reach to keep ‘The Black Beast’ at bay, before opening up with his striking in the later rounds. If he can avoid being taken down, Volkov should win.

Type Odds Bet Now
Alexander Volkov
Derrick Lewis
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Ovince Saint Preux vs Dominick Reyes

Ovince Saint Preux has been a one-man highlight reel recently, taking his last four wins with three beautiful submissions and a devastating head kick knockout of Corey Anderson. Three of the UFC’s five finishes by Von Flue choke are owned by OSP, with some now arguing that it should be named the ‘Von Preux’ choke after his mastery of the technique.

In Dominick Reyes, however, he faces a tough, undefeated fighter who has entered the UFC in a similarly devastating fashion, finishing his first three fights within the first round, including a 29-second TKO of Joachim Christensen on his debut in June 2017. It’s difficult to say how Reyes will fare if the fight goes to the later rounds, but OSP will need to look for takedowns to avoid his opponent’s power. Reyes is an odds-on favourite at around 4/9, but we think OSP’s experience and versatile game will win out.

Type Odds Bet Now
Dominick Reyes
Ovince St Preux
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Tony Ferguson vs Anthony Pettis

Tony Ferguson feels a bit aggrieved with the way the Lightweight Championship battle has panned out, and it’s easy to see why. After beating Kevin Lee for the interim title at UFC 216, he was forced to withdraw from a bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in April after tearing his fibular collateral ligament, making it the third time that a scheduled fight between the two had fallen through. Nurmogamedov went on to win the Lightweight Championship in a bout with Al Iaqunita.

Ferguson might still believe himself the rightful champion, but the Lightweight division has seen so many interim and undisputed champions come and go that the term has become all but meaningless. One of the arguments against the UFC’s introduction of more weight classes – a move that many think would alleviate the current problem with extreme weight cutting – is that there would be too many belts, which would be confusing for fans. It could be argued, however, that two main eventers attending a press conference carrying three UFC belts between them is even more confusing, but that’s a debate for another day.

The fight between Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis is almost as exciting as Khabib vs McGregor, and together with the main event will possibly help to restore some balance to the Lightweight division. Ferguson is on a ten-fight win streak and has wins over many of the top fighters in the division. His eccentric, unpredictable style is hard to match, and with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he is just as dangerous on the ground as he is on his feet. Of 18 professional finishes, nine have arrived by knockout and nine by submission.

Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis hopes to continue his resurgence after his recent move back up to Lightweight by taking one of the biggest scalps in the division. A three-fight skid between 2015 and 2016 caused the former Lightweight Champion to drop to Featherweight, but he looked a shadow of his former self at times, mainly due to the strain of making the weight in the first place. He moved back up to Lightweight in 2017, and despite a loss to Dustin Poirier – which won Fight of the Night honours for both men – he has looked good.

Tony Ferguson is by far his biggest test, though. If we were seeing the Anthony Pettis of five years ago stepping into the Octagon this weekend, the odds would be much more even, but as it is, ‘El Cucuy’ is a huge favourite, and despite his problems with injury, he should come away with the win.

Type Odds Bet Now
Tony Ferguson
Anthony Pettis
Bet Now

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor

There is no bigger fight than this one right now, and fans around the world will be praying to the MMA gods that nothing derails it before Saturday night. Khabib has had difficulties making weight before, but you would expect that for a fight of this magnitude, that is all but wrapped up by now. Conor McGregor has not had the same trouble with the scales, and you get the impression that there is nothing that could prevent him from stepping into the Octagon in Las Vegas this weekend.

As we noted in our look at the early odds, Khabib is the strong favourite with the bookmakers heading into UFC 229, and in a poll conducted by ESPN this week, he’s also being backed by most of the biggest coaches in the business.

All this will mean nothing, though, when the cage door closes on Saturday.

How do you pick a winner for this fight? Khabib’s stats are incredible, and although his 26-fight undefeated streak won’t intimidate McGregor, it is testament to just how dominant he has been throughout his mixed martial arts career. No one in the UFC has found an answer to his suffocating grappling, and that will be the biggest question hanging over Conor McGregor leading in to the fight.

The Irishman’s takedown defence is an above-average 74%, but he has never faced anyone as good as Khabib. The last time he faced a legitimate wrestler in Chad Mendes, he was taken down four times. That being said, Khabib isn’t one for finishing fights. Six of his last ten have gone to the judges, so if he can’t close the deal after getting the fight to the ground, McGregor has at least five opportunities to trade on his feet. And all it takes is one shot to change the fight.

With all the distractions Conor McGregor has faced, though – the court cases, the two-year absence, the nine-figure paydays – and the ease with which Khabib has ploughed through the Lightweight ranks, it’s difficult to look past the champion. If you’re in agreement, you can find 8/13 on him to win by any means, but we’ll go one better and say Khabib by KO or TKO at odds of 10/3. 

Type Odds Bet Now
Khabib Nurmagomedov
Conor McGregor
William Hill Logo Bet Now
Winner by KO, TKO or Disqualification
Khabib Nurmagomedov
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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2019 02:06:07+00:00
Published By Sports.net

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