Jason Silva/Zuma Press/PA Images UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov.
# Auld Triangle
'I don't see anyone who has a game right now who can beat him'
Do you agree with Kenny Florian and Tyron Woodley when it comes to McGregor’s chances against Khabib?

HEADING INTO 2018, there’s a complicated triangle at the summit of the UFC’s lightweight division following last night’s action at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The reigning champion, Conor McGregor, hasn’t fought in nearly 14 months and there’s no indication of when, or if, his hiatus will actually come to an end.

Tony Ferguson, the interim champion, has won his last 10 fights in a row and logically should be the man to welcome McGregor back to the octagon. However, the 33-year-old Californian is currently sidelined while he recovers from elbow surgery.

Then there’s Khabib Nurmagomedov. Last night at UFC 219, the Dagestani fighter utterly dominated the in-form Edson Barboza to maintain his undefeated record. A powerful wrestler, Nurmagomedov’s ledger now stands at 25-0.

“It really depends on what Conor’s going to do next and what the UFC wants to do next. I just want to see Khabib fight again, to be honest,” said former UFC title challenger Kenny Florian during last night’s FOX Sports broadcast.

“I want to see him fight someone who can give him a challenge because he’s just been walking through guys for the last four years or so. I don’t see anyone who has a game right now who can beat him. I really don’t.”

Casual observers of MMA may be wondering why, if Nurmagomedov is really that good, has he not already gotten his hands on the lightweight title, particularly given that he made his UFC debut 15 months before McGregor arrived in the organisation.

While McGregor was fast-tracked into a title shot in November of last year having previously conquered at featherweight, Nurmagomedov’s progress has been hampered by his track record of withdrawing from fights.

The 29-year-old has had several injury setbacks, as well as struggling to keep himself below the 155-pound limit for lightweights. Last March, two days before a scheduled interim title bout with Ferguson, Nurmagomedov was forced to pull out when he fell ill while cutting weight.

But with his impressive performance last night against Barboza, Nurmagomedov showed that as long as those issues have been consigned to the past, he’s not going to be easy to stop.

Florian added: “If you’re going to beat him, you’ve got to catch him with your hands. I think the way that he shoots his takedowns, he doesn’t really allow you to land a knee or a big kick upstairs. I think if you’re going to do it, it’s going to be with your hands.

“You better have insane power. Conor McGregor does have that power, but as far as to do it consistently, to find that one space, that one gap in order to land that shot, it’s not going to be one shot probably on Khabib. You’re going to have to land two shots.”

PA-33538500 Brian Lawless / PA Wire/PA Images UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. Brian Lawless / PA Wire/PA Images / PA Wire/PA Images

According to current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley — who, like Florian, was also sporting one of Nurmagomedov’s trademark ‘papakha’ hats in the FOX studio — Tony Ferguson represents the more difficult match-up for Khabib.

“Tony has the best chance,” said Woodley. “I don’t think Conor is going to get it done… not from what I saw tonight.”

Do you agree? Let us know in our poll…

If the fight ever happens, is Conor McGregor capable of defeating Khabib Nurmagomedov?

Poll Results:

Yes (1322)
No (1148)

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