WildCard Predicts: Max Holloway v Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 223)

Tommy "WildCard" Hayden Tommy "WildCard" Hayden

Fox Sports Asia previews the UFC 223 main event Lightweight Championship title fight this April 7 in New York.

With the recent withdrawal of Interim Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson, due to injury, from this bout, Max Holloway, the UFC Featherweight title holder has decided to step up on six days’ notice and test his metal against the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov – arguably the most dominant grappler currently in MMA.

And with Conor McGregor now being officially stripped of his Lightweight belt, having not fought in the UFC since he won the title from Eddie Alvarez back at UFC 205 in 2016, Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0) and Max Holloway (19-3) will fight for the undisputed belt at UFC 223 in New York on Saturday.

Will Khabib finally prove himself to be the number one lightweight as his fans have long argued? Or will Max Holloway equal McGregor’s feat of simultaneously holding the Featherweight and Lightweight belts, setting up the showdown of showdowns with the last man to ever beat him back in 2013?

But just because Holloway is coming up from the smaller division, it does not mean he has no chance. He is a very dangerous striker with great movement, footwork and excellent timing. Holloway has a way of using his range and putting his combinations together that could prove deadly if Nurmagomedov gets caught too many times.

Since Nurmagomedov has been getting ready for Ferguson, I am sure his game plan hasn’t changed in the slightest. He still needs to use head movement in order to work his way through a slew of strikes to close the difference. However, now he is standing across from an opponent that is more of a volume striker than a power striker. Khabib is probably just thinking “Grab small man and smash!”

Holloway certainly has the confidence to step up against the man ape that is Nurmagomedov. I have a feeling Holloway will be on his bicycle the whole time, backpedalling while sticking and moving. I really only see him having a chance if he can catch Nurmagomedov on his way in.

Nurmagomedov is going to move forward through Holloway’s hands, as he is used to being hit harder by his usual foes in the lightweight division, and he is going to drag Holloway into his own personal hell.

I am curious to see if Nurmagomedov makes an example out of Holloway, as a warning to any other featherweights who want to venture into one of the deepest divisions on the planet.

I am going with Nurmagomedov on this one. I like an underdog but I really don’t think Holloway has a chance outside of knocking Khabib out. I really only wonder how long Holloway will last against Khabib.

Will we see a quick finish or a long drawn out fight with Khabib pounding Holloway through the canvas leaving nothing but a pool of blood?


Tommy “WildCard” Hayden is a former UFC fighter and Head MMA Coach at Elite Fight Club, Bangkok.

Be sure to watch UFC 223 live on FOX Sports Asia!