UFC Lightweight Championship: Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) (26-0) vs. Conor McGregor (21-3)
Nolan Howell: This is a fight that plays out with time being the factor. To me, Nurmagomedov needs to bank a dominant ten to fifteen minutes to guarantee a victory, while it may only take McGregor a few good punches. Nurmagomedov will need to pressure McGregor to the cage to get the takedown and assert his gameplan from there, and that will be no easy task. McGregor will likely be the aggressive fighter and not allow Nurmagomedov to take the lead in pressure in order to stay off the cage, forcing the champion into his wheelhouse.
Should Nurmagomedov get the pressure needed to get the takedown, it will likely take two rounds of his vaunted ground and pound, draining top control, and grappling to gas McGregor and the third round to completely get out of the woods, all the while avoiding the counters while getting inside to set all that up.
Just given the time needed and the competition faced, it is hard to not see McGregor having the wider path to victory. Conor McGregor by second-round TKO.
Lightweight Bout: Anthony Pettis (21-7) vs. Tony Ferguson (23-3)
Nolan: With a likely title shot on the line here for Ferguson, it depends if he lets Pettis set up in the first round to work his kicks to keep Ferguson on the outside. That doesn’t seem likely given Ferguson’s pressure game, and with the ability to mix takedowns in to work what should be a power grappling advantage outside of the tricky guard of Pettis, this seems like Ferguson’s fight to lose. Ferguson should be relentless and work Pettis down to a stoppage late. Tony Ferguson by third-round TKO.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Dominick Reyes (9-0) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (23-11)
Nolan: While the clock could be ticking on Saint Preux at 35, given his fighting style relying on physical tools, Reyes is a fighter who pretty much counts on those same advantages. He will be on the outside of Saint Preux’s reach and may not be able to blitz as easily to use his knockout power and Saint Preux is fine at using the clinch to slow things down. Reyes is the more dangerous fighter of the two, but give me Saint Preux uglying it up down the stretch. Ovince Saint Preux by unanimous decision.
Heavyweight Bout: Alexander Volkov (30-6) vs. Derrick Lewis (20-5)
Nolan: Lewis could very well clinch and pressure his way to a decision here against Volkov, but it is so hard to trust him with a bad back that seems to give out in the middle of fights now. Volkov can use his reach advantage to stay out of trouble and count on keeping Lewis moving and working until his pace lulls. Alexander Volkov by unanimous decision.
Women’s Strawweight Bout: Felice Herrig (14-7) vs. Michelle Waterson (15-6)
Nolan: Herrig is seemingly rounding out her game in a bit of a late renaissance and look for her to use volume striking to keep Waterson from setting up her kicks. While Herrig will have the clinch and wrestling advantage, she will likely want to just use it for positional advantage to avoid the more dangerous submission game of Waterson. Herrig seems to have the ability to dictate how this fight goes and that should be enough here. Felice Herrig by split decision.