Besides Gleison Tibau, nobody could handle Khabib Nurmagomedov's wrestling inside the octagon. Well, Tibau did not win that fight, and he does not fight in the UFC anymore. Even if he did, he'd probably never fight for the title.
So far, no fighter could win more than a round against Khabib Nurmagomedov. But does this mean that no fighter can ever bring the fight to him? No! There are some tough matchups for Khabib.
#5 Conor McGregor
All MMA fans know that Conor McGregor got smashed by Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018. It was the biggest PPV in the company's history.
Although Khabib dominated most of the fight, round three belonged to McGregor. To this day, it remains as the only round that Khabib lost. Hence, there is scope for improvement as far as Conor McGregor is concerned.
With the right mindset and strategy, Conor can put up a tough fight. His knockout power, combined with his ability to learn from his mistakes, makes him a worthy challenger.
McGregor is also coming off an incredible 40-second knockout victory over Donald Cerrone. From a business standpoint, the bout makes the most sense as both fighters are bonafide stars.
#4 Charles Oliveira
Charles Oliveira might not be as good as Conor McGregor in the striking department. However, his treacherous ground game can give a lot of trouble to many wrestlers. Oliveira is on a seven-fight win streak; he has finished all seven of his opponents.
19 of his 29 pro wins came via submissions. He has only gone to the decision twice. In his last fight, Oliveira submitted Kevin Lee, who is a good wrestler, with a guillotine choke.
Like Rafael dos Anjos, there is a possibility of Khabib Nurmagomedov steamrolling through Oliveira. But Oliveira is a much more dangerous fighter on the ground and in the standup.
#3 Michael Chandler
UFC's latest signee, Michael Chandler, has generated quite the buzz in MMA. As soon as the news broke out, the former Bellator MMA champion was compared to Khabib Nurmagomedov. In fact, Chandler will serve as the backup for the main event of UFC 254.
But why has Chandler generated so much hype? Well, Chandler is a terrific wrestler with a solid resume. His fights with Eddie Alvarez were some of the best highlights of his career.
Michael Chandler is also coming off a swift KO win over former UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson. He is yet to test himself in the UFC.
#2 Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje is the most dangerous fighter that Khabib Nurmagomedov will ever face. After suffering two defeats in the UFC, Gaethje reinvented himself and changed his approach.
He is now more patient and chooses his shots carefully. And this makes him even more dangerous, as he can now fight for five rounds without gassing out. His defensive wrestling will help him defend some of Nurmagomedov's takedowns.
Besides his wrestling pedigree, Gaethje has devastating power in his hands. Also, his debilitating leg kicks can immobilize his opponents early in the fight.
A few weeks from now, Gaethje will get his shot to fight Khabib at UFC 254. With Trevor Wittman in his corner, it will be interesting to see how Gaethje will approach this fight.
#1 Tony Ferguson
Yes, Tony Ferguson got dominated at UFC 249 against Justin Gaethje. However, Khabib Nurmagomedov is a much more favorable matchup for Tony than Gaethje.
Why? Khabib Nurmagomedov is not on the same level as Gaethje in terms of striking. Tony's unorthodox footwork, coupled with his unusual strikes can pose a serious threat to Khabib.
Tony Ferguson can also wrestle if required. And if the bout hits the mat, Ferguson has multiple options to finish his opponent. If Khabib Nurmagomedov gives up his neck as he did in the Dustin Poirier fight, the Dagestani fighter can get in deep trouble.
Tony Ferguson's unending cardio and the ability to take insane punishment will play a huge role in the fight. Unless "The Boogeyman" gets caught in a submission, Khabib will have a tough time with Ferguson.Published 11 Oct 2020, 23:33 IST