Firas Zahabi gave an in-depth breakdown of UFC 223’s lightweight clash between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov and gave his take on one key area where El Cucuy could punish the unbeaten Dagestani.
Less than two weeks remain until UFC 222 takes place in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada and while the card itself is a relatively decent line-up, on paper, April’s UFC 223 remains the most eagerly anticipated event of the promotion’s first half of 2018.
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s unbeaten record will be tested to its furthest limitations when he takes on the streaking contender and current interim-lightweight champion Tony Ferguson in the night’s main event.
And while a lot of controversy has surrounded the UFC’s handling of the division’s undisputed champ Conor McGregor, it does appear as though they are finally prepared to admit that the sport’s biggest star will be stripped of the title he has not defended in over a year.
Ferguson’s title, which he won with a submission victory over Kevin Lee at UFC 215, should be elevated to the one true belt at 155lbs if any sense remains in the world and with two of the very best fighters on the planet hoping to face off on April 7, fans are understandably dying to see this one.
Stylistically, it’s an absolute cracker. Khabib’s masterful skills in the grappling department have seen him encounter little-to-no adversity in his rise through the lightweight ranks and in his last outing – a UFC 219 meeting with Edson Barboza – he managed to completely dismantle his Brazilian opponent on the way to a pretty lopsided unanimous decision.
Ferguson, who is a black-belt in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu under Eddie Bravo, is certainly regarded as one of the game’s most creative and explosive grapplers and while the stand-up exchanges will be interesting in their own right, his ability to deal with the Russian’s smothering ground-game will probably be a factor when the octagon doors finally close.
Tristar Gym’s head coach Firas Zahabi made an hour-long in-depth preview for the bout and while his praise for the Eagle’s prowess on the mat is clear, he does feel as though the elbow strikes of Tony Ferguson could play a massive role in testing his chin, if he can create the proper opportunity to bring them into play.
Zahabi goes into great detail about the differences between taking an elbow and a solid punch and while we’ve seen Khabib recover from damage in the past, one well-placed elbow could well prove to be a fight-ender in what will be his 26th professional outing.
Or, we could well see yet another mauling and a new champion in the shark-infested waters of the UFC lightweight division.
We will find out on April 7.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena