This Saturday, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 10-0 UFC) defends his title against Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) in a fight that the UFC is billing as the biggest in promotional history.
Nurmagomedov holds the belt that the promotion stripped from McGregor in April after the Irishman went 511 days without attempting a first defense of the title- a UFC record.
The build-up to this fight has been bad-tempered, to say the least, but underneath all the chaos, on sporting merit alone, we have one of the most stylistically intriguing contests in recent memory.
Let’s take a look at the recent results of the two men in Saturday night’s main event:
Nurmagomedov defeated Michael Johnson via third-round submission in November 2016- the same night McGregor last fought in professional MMA. He followed that performance with back-to-back unanimous decision victories over Edson Barboza and Al Iaquinta, picking up the UFC lightweight championship in the latter bout.
The holder of the premier undefeated record in professional MMA today, Nurmagomedov joined Royce Gracie and Anderson Silva as the only fighters who have won their first 10 UFC fights.
McGregor suffered a second-round submission loss to Nate Diaz back in March 2016, before avenging the defeat five months later with a majority decision win over his conqueror. Featherweight champion at the time, McGregor then defeated lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez via second-round TKO to become the first fighter in UFC history to concurrently champion two divisions.
The loss to Diaz at UFC 196- his lone UFC defeat- was the only time McGregor has been the ‘A-Side’ of a UFC Pay-Per-View event. As challenger on Saturday, McGregor will be reprising his role as the ‘B-side,’ where he is 4-0 in UFC competition.
Nurmagomedov and McGregor share no common opponents throughout their professional MMA careers.
The Dwyer Score
Each event, I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It essentially gives a numeric value to the momentum of fighters competing at any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak; a fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score, whilst a fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. Only UFC results are considered and a fighter coming off a no-contest, a draw, or a bout with another promotion has a streak of 0. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card, you get a total for the event- the ‘Dwyer Score.’ This score does not claim to predict or measure the quality or excitement of any one card, but it does give you an idea of the general momentum of fighters heading into a specific event. The graphic to the above-right displays some of the highest-scoring events of all time, to help give some context to this score.
UFC 229: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor posts a huge score of +45.
This score ranks 1st out of 29 events in 2018 and joint-4th out of all 453 events in UFC history.
Conor McGregor features in 4 of the 7 highest-scoring events in UFC history.
Before the cancellation of the fight between Sean O’Malley (+2) and José Alberto Quiñónez (+4) earlier this week, UFC 229 had a Dwyer Score of +52, which would have been the second-highest score in UFC history.
Here’s a look at how this score compares to other events’ scores over the past year:
As you can see, this score far exceeds the +10.7 for all events in the last twelve months, as well as the +23.1 average for Pay-Per-View events in the same period.
Let’s take a look at exactly how this score breaks down:
The highest individual contributors to the score are Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson (both +10), with Alexander Volkov (+4), Dominick Reyes and Alan Patrick (both +3) some way behind.
The lowest individual scorers are Felice Herrig, Tonya Evinger, Yana Kunitskaya and Nik Lentz (all -1), whilst Jalin Turner is the lone UFC debutant at this event.
Enjoy the fights!