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411 Fact or Fiction MMA: Should Conor McGregor Get a Rematch Against Khabib Nurmagomedov?

October 10, 2018 | Posted by Lorenzo Vasquez
Conor McGregor Khabib Nurmagomedov UFC 229

Welcome back to another edition of 411 Fact or Fiction MMA! I’m your host, Lorenzo Vasquez III, and it is my pleasure to bring you another round of fact or fiction the MMA edition. This week, the handsome one, Dan Plunkett returns to face the challenge that is the heavy hitting knock out machine, Wyatt Beougher. They will lock horns over the UFC’s matchmaking circus, everything McGregor-Nurmagomedov, Derrick Lewis fighting for a title, and much more! Grab some grub and strap in because it’s time for another round of, 411 Fact or Fiction MMA!

TALE OF THE TAPE
RED CORNER
“Handsome” Dan Plunkett
Contributor, 411 MMA Zone
8-9-1

VS

BLUE CORNER
Wyatt Beougher
Host/Reviewer/Columnist, 411 MMA/TV & Movies/Wrestling Zones
5-13-1


Should he avoid a lengthy suspension, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s next fight should be either Tony Ferguson or the winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Nate Diaz.

Dan Plunkett: FACT No doubt about it, those are the only two logical directions. Tony Ferguson deserves to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov. That’s the fight that the UFC has been trying to make for three years, and it seems like the natural fight coming out of UFC 229. However, if for whatever reason Ferguson can’t do the fight, then the winner of Poirier vs. Diaz makes sense. Right now, Poirier is the most deserving after Ferguson. Diaz is the biggest name of the three and despite his inactivity, he wouldn’t be totally undeserving with a win over Poirier.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT I’m going FACT here, but only if we can throw out the last part of the statement. I like Poirier and can admit that Diaz is a draw (not as big as he thinks he is, but that’s neither here nor there), but the only fight to make for Khabib after his pretty one-sided showing against Conor McGregor is against Tony Ferguson. If for some reason Nurmagomedov actually does get suspended (and I’ll go on record as saying that I believe that is a highly unlikely outcome – UPDATE, 1700 pm EST, 2018.10.09: I was right), then throw El Cucuy in the Octagon with the Poirier/Diaz winner for the official UFC lightweight championship (the lineage is so screwed up as it is that the fact that he didn’t beat Khabib for it won’t make it any less valuable). But assuming Khabib is ready to go early in 2019, then the fight with Ferguson has to at least be scheduled, though, like many MMA fans, I’m of the mind that Nurmagomedov/Ferguson is cursed and will never actually happen, even though it’s the only fight beside Jones/Cormier III that I really want to see. And really, unless Dana wants to give McGregor the most unwarranted title rematch in UFC history, Ferguson is arguably the best opponent he could put in the cage with Khabib, because these guys have history, Ferguson can sell the fight (assuming he goes back to being Tony Ferguson and not whatever pale imitation of McGregor he was playing at after the Pettis fight on Saturday), and he’s got a unique enough style in the cage that he might actually have more success against Khabib’s grappling than anyone else the Russian has faced. Even if he doesn’t, the intrigue is there and that should translate into buys. If Dana’s really nervous about buys, put Conor on the card with the Diaz rematch he was talking about prior to losing Saturday, and you’ll get even more eyes on the two guys who are going to be at least the short-term future of the division (and who have been keeping it interesting while McGregor was off getting outclassed by Floyd Mayweather).


The brawl, chaos that presumed the conclusion of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor can be blamed on multiple factors; however, the culture—trash talking, lack of consequences for unaccepted actions—the UFC has created takes a larger piece of the blame.

Dan Plunkett: FICTION You can say that Saturday’s brawl never would have happened if the UFC had dished out a suitable punishment to McGregor for the bus attack, but that’s only because in that case, the fight wouldn’t have happened on Saturday. If the UFC strictly policed culturally insensitive trash talk, then perhaps the build to UFC 229 is much different and perhaps, therefore, the brawl never happens. But even if the UFC had set a standard that made it clear that jumping out of the cage to fight Dillon Danis in the crowd was unacceptable, Khabib Nurmagomedov was so riled up at the moment that I don’t see it going any differently. Case in point, the UFC has set a standard of non-star fighters being dispensable. This knowledge certainly didn’t stop fighters Zubaira Tukhugov and Islam Makhachev from attacking McGregor in the cage, which they had to have known would have cost them their jobs. I don’t think the culture UFC has created helped in the matter, but I don’t think it was the primary factor.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT Between the wee hours of Sunday morning and the time this column is published, there will have been approximately one million think pieces and hot takes about how for as surprised as Dana White says he was, as appalled as he claimed to be, the entire fracas at the conclusion of the main event falls squarely on the UFC president’s shoulders. And admittedly, when there are that many fast-twitch reactions to a happening as major as what we saw on Saturday, an event that could drastically alter the trajectory of the UFC (and, by extension, MMA as a whole), the vast majority of them tend to be bad. In this instance, though, I think the majority is spot-on.

Dana White has allowed Conor McGregor to do whatever he wants and say whatever he wants without consequence for the past three-plus years, turning a blind eye to multiple incidences of McGregor using racist and homophobic hate speech. It was only a matter of time before one of his opponents took those words personally, and it shouldn’t be all that surprising that it was Khabib, a man proud of his Dagestani heritage and upbringing, who finally did. Until White actually stops relying on Athletic Commissions to levy punishments for incidents like this and the UFC actually takes a hard-line stance, I don’t imagine this will be the last time something like this occurs.


Conor McGregor’s performance against Khabib Nurmagomedov does not warrant a rematch; therefore, McGregor should look to rebound from his loss against the loser of Dustin Poirier vs. Nate Diaz.

Dan Plunkett: FACT Saturday’s fight was too one-sided to justify an immediate rematch, and it’s not as though there was anything controversial about the fight itself. A rematch would be enormous, but to help it reach its full potential, McGregor needs to convince people he has a good shot at winning. That means taking a fight in the meantime, and that fight should probably come against Nate Diaz. There is unfinished business there, and it’s a big drawing fight. If Dustin Poirier loses at UFC 230, maybe he’s the right fight for McGregor, or perhaps it’s still Nate Diaz. Either way, McGregor can’t jump right back into a fight against Nurmagomedov.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT I’ll go FACT here with the caveat that I think McGregor should fight Diaz whether the Stockton native wins or loses his fight with Poirier. Realistically, since he’s the UFC’s lone cash cow and he’s already angling for a rematch with Nurmagomedov, that’s likely the fight we’re going to see, but that doesn’t mean it will be warranted. This wasn’t a GSP/Serra situation (or even a McGregor/Aldo situation), where the champion fell victim to a flash KO and the fight was over before we could truly see how evenly matched the two combatants were; Khabib systematically dismantled McGregor and took his will to fight, almost immediately dousing the flicker of hope that McGregor’s not-horrible third round may have inspired in McGregor’s fans (and likely in the champion himself). Nurmagomedov took everything McGregor had to offer without so much as flinching, repeatedly took the champion to the ground and pummeled him, and then, when McGregor was getting desperate, he cranked his neck and made the Irishman swallow his pride and tap out. That’s about as decisive a finish as you can imagine in a title fight, so there’s absolutely no reason for a rematch.


SWITCH!

Derrick Lewis may have scored a tremendous win against Alexander Volkov, but his performance indicates he is not ready for a heavyweight title fight.

Wyatt Beougher: FACT Apparently Dana White doesn’t agree, as I just read that Cormier/Lewis is booked for November 3rd. But seriously, when Lewis himself says he’s not ready for a title fight and he needs to work on his cardio, how can I disagree with him? Sure, there’s a chance he starches Cormier early in the fight, but the Black Beast barely made it through three rounds, so I think it’s a lot more likely that Cormier outpaces him early, tires him out, and then puts him away. Cormier has good cardio and, more importantly, he’s one of the more intelligent fighters in the sport right now, so I don’t think there’s any chance he’s going to punch himself out and leave himself open for a Hail Mary knockout as Volkov did. Lewis is one of the more entertaining fighters in the UFC, both based on the fact that he can end a fight at any point the fight is on the feet and an also based on his complete lack of filter when a live microphone is put in front of him, so I can see why Dana would want to strike while the iron is hot and make this fight for promotional purposes. But I just don’t think Lewis is a legitimate threat to win the heavyweight title right now, and I’m honestly somewhat surprised Cormier would accept the fight, considering he’s only talked about fighting Brock Lesnar, Stipe Miocic, and Jon Jones of late. Then again, on paper, it looks like a fairly easy win for the champion, putting him one step closer to retirement, so I also can’t say I blame him for taking it.

Dan Plunkett: FACT Well, I guess the UFC just thought to hell with it. Lewis isn’t ready for a title fight. Until the finish, Volkov totally dominated him and his stamina wasn’t up to par. But, life happens, the UFC needs main events, and now we’re less than a month away from Lewis challenging Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight championship. The most likely result is that Cormier dominates him. Not only is Cormier is an all-time great, but Lewis just got beat up badly a few days ago. That’s a short turnaround. However, Lewis is much larger, hits very hard, and is never out of a fight. Further, Cormier hasn’t been training for a fight and apparently has been having hand issues, so Lewis isn’t drawing dead here. Still, he’ll be a massive underdog for a reason.


Stripping Daniel Cormier of the light heavyweight title to have Jon Jones battle another foe other than Cormier is justified considering Cormier has never actually beaten Jones.

Wyatt Beougher: FICTION I would say FACT here, but since Cormier has insisted that he wants to fight Jones at light heavyweight, I think it makes more sense to give Jones a tune-up contenders fight in December and then put them in the cage in March, right around Cormier’s 40th birthday and desired retirement date. If Cormier does decide he wants to retire, promote the fight as being for both the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles, and then if Jones wins for the third time, you’ve got a new lineal two-division champion. And that’s assuming Cormier doesn’t get caught by Lewis next month; if Lewis unseats Cormier, then a light heavyweight title fight against Jones makes the most sense for DC’s swan song. Either DC finally gets his redemption or Jones puts the final nail in his coffin.

Dan Plunkett: FACT This statement was sent on Sunday, but I’m only going fact here because of news that came out on Tuesday. As you may have heard, Daniel Cormier is defending the heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis on November 3. After that, unless things have changed, the idea is another heavyweight title defense against Brock Lesnar. That’s three consecutive heavyweight fights in a row without defending the light heavyweight title, and for that reason, I don’t think it’s outrageous to take the light heavyweight belt from him.

Had the idea been that Cormier would fight once more at heavyweight before returning for a title defense at light heavyweight, then it would be more ridiculous for the UFC to take the title from him just because they have a pay-per-view main event to fill.


The Valentina Shevchenko vs. Sijara Eubanks booking cements the idea that the UFC is no longer about the best fighting the best and championship belts holding a degree of integrity but more about raking in high revenue.

Wyatt Beougher: FICTION C’mon, Lorenzo, of all the fights you could’ve picked, you picked this one? Neither of these fighters is exactly the second coming of Ronda Rousey or even Gina Carano in terms of drawing power, so I can’t in good conscience go FACT here, just based on that. That said, Eubanks is fourth in the official UFC rankings, and I don’t think Nicco Montano is going to get another shot until she has a successful weight cut for a non-title fight first. So that only leaves Katlyn Chookagian ranked above her, and honestly, if the UFC were just looking for a revenue fight, I think Chookagian has a higher profile right now (plus she holds a win over Eubanks back in 2015). Of course, Shevchenko’s initial opponent for the vacant flyweight title arguably represents both “the best fighting the best and championship belts holding a degree of integrity” and also “raking in high revenue”, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a dominant former champion (albeit in a heavier weight class) and, as a result, a better-known fighter than either Eubanks or Chookagian. So yeah, this is a strong, strong FICTION for me.

Dan Plunkett: FACT Now the UFC is back to Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but the statement is still valid as the UFC tried to go with Shevchenko vs. Eubanks until another fight fell into their lap. I wouldn’t exactly say that making Shevchenko vs. Eubanks is prioritizing raking in high revenue, because that fight wasn’t going to draw. But this is a promotion intent on having title fights headline pay-per-views, often to the detriment of the value of the championship. This was the case when they made up titles for Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis, Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie, Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee, Yoel Romero vs. Luke Rockhold, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta, and Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington. And that’s only examples from the past two years. These examples keep popping up, and it hurts the value of every UFC championship.


So who won? You’ve got until midnight eastern on Tuesday to vote, so make sure you make your voice heard!


And that’s it for today but, as always, we’ll be back next week with another contest! And please, be sure to vote!

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