John Kavanagh still doesn’t know if Conor McGregor will be stripped of his lightweight title, but he thinks the world will still see the Irishman as the champion regardless of what happens at UFC 223.
On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will clash at the Brooklyn event, but it has yet to be revealed if Ferguson’s interim title will be on the line or if McGregor will be stripped of his title, as suggested by Dana White.
Considering the matchup, Kavanagh predicted that the Russian would win a decision over Ferguson.
“They’re both grapplers for a start,” Kavanagh said in Facebook live interview to promote Wimp 2 Warrior.
“Neither really has high level striking, so it’s going to be a grappling match. I think a lot of it will be played with Khabib on top, and I think he wins a decision. I think it goes the five rounds, I think it’s a decision to Khabib.”
The SBG head coach believes there is a “high risk” that the fight will not happen due to Nurmagomedov’s history with injuries.
“I do think there is a really high risk of it not happening. It’s been scheduled twice and it has not happened twice,” he said.
“It’s very impressive what Khabib can do when he is fighting, just that pace he has and the relentless pressure, but it does require you to train in a certain way that brings on injuries. There is a reason why he is averaging one fight or less over the last couple of years because of multiple surgeries and so on.
“He’s got a lot of miles on the athletic clock. I would almost see as there being a high likelihood of one pulling out before the fight happens.”
Again, focusing on the style matchup, Kavanagh explained why he thinks “The Eagle” will not be able to land a finishing blow in the bout.
“Let’s assume both get through their training camps, they’re both healthy, it happens and it’s five rounds. I think Tony will have some moments in the first round or two where he gets close with some guillotines or triangles, but I think Khabib powers out of them and wears him down as he does,” he explained.
“I don’t think he really has the stopping power to finish him. His victory over Barboza was very impressive and so one sided, but he didn’t really break him up. His face wasn’t bashed up and rearranged, it was more just the volume of shots and guard passing and so on. I think that would start to wear on Tony and he’d start to steal rounds with takedowns. Yeah, Khabib by unanimous decision.”
There is some speculation that McGregor may be stripped of his title tomorrow at a UFC press conference in Boston, but Kavanagh insisted that he still does not know if the Dubliner will hold onto his belt.
“I’m hearing this at the same time as everyone else. I see there is a press conference that will happen tomorrow. I think Tony and Khabib, or else just Khabib, is being interviewed about the fight that Dana announced in April, which was news to me as well. Maybe they’re going to say it at that. Is it an interim title fight or is it a belt fight? I don’t know.”
Regardless of who takes the win, Kavanagh believes the world will still see McGregor as the champion.
“I think regardless of what way it’s sold, I think it’s still going to be known who the champion is. I know that’s going to upset a lot of people, but there you go, that’s my opinion on it.
“If it happens that those guys fight each other, and if it happens for the belt, they’re both going to think to themselves, ‘I’ve got to beat Conor to be really seen as the champion.”
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