In the UFC 219 co-main event on Saturday, lightweight contenders Khabib Nurmagomedov and Edson Barboza meet in a match-up that could change the landscape of the 155-pound division. Unbeaten Nurmagomedov plans to stay undefeated and strengthen his status at the top of the weight class, while Barboza looks to earn a place in title contention.
The bout is a classic clash of conflicting styles. Nurmagomedov is an elite-level grappler. In contrast, Barboza is a precision striker. Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt predicts that the grappler will prevail.
“I honestly think that Khabib will win that (fight). I think he’s just too dominant of a grappler,” Garbrandt said during an appearance on the Real Quick with Mike Swick Podcast.
Barboza is always just one strike away from a win, but he needs distance to perform at his best. Nurmagomedov is relentlessly aggressive and Garbrandt believes that will be a factor in the fight.
“I think that if he lets Barboza start getting away in the beginning, start out-striking him, and getting comfortable on his feet, then Barboza can catch you. He has nasty kicks. He’s fast, knees,” he said.
“I think Khabib, if he stays in the pocket, crowds him, dirty boxing almost and get him in the clinch and take him down. If you let Barboza stay long and use his jab and get his kicks going, it could be a long night for him. But I think Khabib is definitely just going to be able to take him down and control him on the ground,” said Garbrandt.
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Barboza is dangerous on his feet, but could find himself in over his head on the ground with the Russian. Garbrandt predicts that Nurmagomedov will be able to impose his game plan on the Brazilian.
“Barboza’s no joke. He’s been in the top of his craft, top five for sure in the world the last few years. He has some amazing knockouts in fights,” he said.
“I think stylistically Khabib is just going to overwhelm him on the ground and tire him out, and he’s going to be fighting off his back a lot.”