Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at undefeated lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov taking on fellow top ten lightweight Michael Johnson. Michael Johnson (Record: 18-10, +240 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A-) Blackzilians fighter Michael Johnson enters UFC 205 on the back of the most impressive win of his career. Johnson was able to stun and decisively knockout Dustin Poirier inside of one round in his last outing. A win over Nurmagomedov would be the best of his career and push him into title contention. The former Ultimate Fighter contestant has developed into one of the best boxers in the lightweight division. He regularly trains with some of the best kickboxers in the world preparing him for MMA’s best strikers. What sticks out about Johnson’s game is hand speed. The Blackzilian fighter has the fastest hands in all of the division. In a stand up contest, he can be competitive with anyone in the division. He lands nearly four significant strikes per minute. He combines that with good footwork as it’s not easy to hit him inside the cage; he absorbs just 40% of strikes thrown at him. Johnson’s kicking game is rather limited, so while his speed and technique with his hands is sound it could become predictable. Furthermore, his ground game is rather limited. He does have a junior college wrestling background, but he doesn’t utilize it much as he prefers to strike. His take down defense is very good at 81%. When he has been put on his back is where he struggles the most. Six of his losses have come by submission and that is an area where he has been exposed in the past by opponents with strong grappling backgrounds. Khabib Nurmagomedov (Record: 23-0, -320 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A+) The fighter with the longest active winning streak in the UFC, Russian lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov has yet to lose in his professional career. He rides his 23-0 record into Saturday’s UFC 205 card. A win likely earns him a shot at the lightweight championship. A black belt in judo and a two time world sambo champion, Nurmagomedov may very well be the most dominant wrestler in MMA today. The Russian lightweight is as relentless as they come in this sport in his approach to securing takedowns. Per 15 minutes in the Octagon, Nurmagomedov secures a whopping 6.71 takedowns. That’s over two takedowns per round. He chains his takedown attempts brilliantly and his variance in takedown attempts is as good as they come in the UFC. When in top control, he’s an absolute nightmare for opponents. He maintains a constant pressure, but doesn’t put himself in positions where an opponent can attempt submissions. He’s also very good in the clinch and is able to find many of his takedown attempts from there. His striking is better than people give him credit for particularly from top control. He’s never been forced into a prolonged striking contest because he’s just so good at grappling and forcing his opponents to the ground. Furthermore, he’s a good chin and a great work rate. If there is a weakness, it’s his striking technique. On the feet, he’s a brawler and he uses strikes to setup takedowns. If he struggles at some point securing takedowns in a bout, he may have some problems against a striker. However, that hasn’t happened to him yet during his career. Match-up A very important matchup in the lightweight division sees Michael Johnson attempt to be the first fighter to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov. This fight ultimately comes down to Johnson’s ability to avoid the takedowns. On the feet, the American has a big advantage. His striking technique is vastly superior to Nurmagomedov, but that only comes into play if he can avoid Nurmagomedov’s grappling prowess. Johnson does have 81% takedown defense, however nearly all of the guys he’s faced are strikers first. Going back a few years, Johnson absolutely struggled with Myles Jury and Reza Madadi who are grapplers first and foremost. I believe he’s going to struggle in the same vein on Saturday night. Nurmagomedov times his attempts so well that it will be an absolute struggle to keep this fight on the feet. Johnson does well when he can fight at range and beat opponents in a stand up contest with speed. This is a much different type of fight and he will be forced to the mat. Look for Nurmagomedov to get another dominant win; most likely by decision. Nurmagomedov has won nearly every round of his career, so one angle I like is the point’s handicap. Nurmagomedov -3.5 (-170) is a solid bet on this card.
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