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UFC 229 Conor vs. Khabib: Questions, answers, predictions

It's here: the UFC return of Conor McGregor after a two-year absence against his toughest challenge to date in Khabib Nurmagomedov. Oh, and Khabib's the champion but you'd barely know by all of the attention the challenger is getting.

Let's take a look at the show and answer a few questions with Paul Fontaine and Ryan Frederick, the later of which who will actually be in the T-Mobile Arena tonight. If you want some free audio to listen to, check out my interviews with Sean Sheehan and Garrett Gonzales.

  • UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor
  • Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis
  • Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes
  • Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov
  • Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig
  • Sergio Pettis vs. Jussier Formiga
  • Vicente Luque vs. Jalin Turner
  • Aspen Ladd vs. Tonya Evinger
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Alan Patrick
  • Gray Maynard vs. Nik Lentz
  • Lina Lansberg vs. Yana Kunitsaya
  • Ryan LaFlare vs. Tony Martin

What are you most looking forward to?

Ryan: That’s pretty easy: the main event. It’s the Khabib and Conor show and the biggest fight in a long time, perhaps ever. Having been on the scene in Las Vegas the last few days, it is a huge event. I’ve never experienced a fight week quite like this one in 14 years of going to UFC events. It’s also a great fight on paper, one of the absolute best matchups the UFC can put together. It’s a good clash of styles and a fight where literally anything could happen.

Paul: Obviously the main event but Tony Ferguson is my favorite fighter so I’m looking forward to that one as well. After years of delivering exciting fights and highlight reel knockouts, the former interim champion and TUF winner gets a chance on the biggest stage of his career and with a victory could set himself up for a huge payday down the line against the Conor/Khabib winner.

Josh: LaFlare vs. Martin, duh. The whole main card looks great on screen, but we've said that before. It's the Conor-Khabib show, baby. That's it.

Anything being slept on?

Josh: Because of the long shadow cast by the main event, Ferguson-Pettis is somewhat being overlooked but I feel like there's still a ton of buzz about that one too. Maybe Formiga-Pettis because of the title shot implications for the winner, but unless there's an impressive finish, I don't sense a lot of newsworthiness to come out of it. Maybe Waterson-Herrig a little?

Ryan: I don’t know that it is being slept on, but we have a fantastic co-main event between Ferguson and Pettis. That could be all kinds of wild and it’ll be interesting how good Ferguson looks coming back so early from a devastating knee injury. A couple of other good fights on the card are Saint Preux and Reyes, and the other Pettis brother, Sergio, against Formiga.

Paul: The whole card is great. One of the Fight Pass prelims has two former title contenders squaring off with Yana Kunitskaya taking on Lina Lansberg. Both were overmatched against Cris Cyborg but who isn’t? At their more natural weight classes, both could make some noise in a bantamweight division that’s really not all that deep and in need of viable title contenders for champ Amanda Nunes.

Anything not doing it for you?

Paul: The heavyweight fight between Derrick Lewis and Alexander Volkov is important and has relatively big names. But while it has a chance to be good, I’m not so sure. Both have had real snoozers in the past and Lewis recently had one of the worst fights of the year, maybe of all time, against Francis N’Gannou on another high profile card. Hopefully, I’ll be proven wrong.

Ryan: There’s two fights that could end up being boring and it’s luckily the first two on the card: Maynard against Lentz and LaFlare against Martin. They feature fighters who play a lot of points fighting and don’t take a lot of chances, and they have all been in more boring than exciting fights. They could put the crowd to sleep early, but I doubt many will be in the arena for those bouts anyway.

Josh: The undercard is kinda meh as far as interesting names, but the fights could be good. Everything seems to be in line though.

What’s the intrigue with the show?

Ryan: It’s obviously what happens in the main event, and whether this sets not only the buyrate record, but by how much. Numbers like 3 million buys have been thrown out, and while I don’t think it’ll get there, it wouldn’t shock me if it actually did. This is a massive event and I’m sure everyone in the end really hopes that Conor wins.

Paul: Really, the intrigue in this show is the intrigue about this sport in general. It’s the classic matchup in the main event -- grappler vs. striker -- and in those two disciplines, there are none better in the sport than Khabib and Conor. Whoever is able to execute their game plan should win and do so handily. Whatever happens, it’s almost a consensus that the winner will dominate. If the fight’s on the feet, Conor should win and quickly. If Khabib is able to take him down, he will hold him there and grind him to the mat for 25 minutes. Anything can happen in MMA and maybe one of these scenarios doesn’t happen but that’s why we watch the fights.

Josh: If McGregor wins and reclaims the title, that puts the division in a tough spot because I don't see him wanting to be another one of the guys and start defending the title twice a year. McGregor's in interesting fight territory now, not 'defend the belt against all comers' territory. I don't see Khabib becoming a big star (aka PPV draw), but there's still some intrigue in that Ferguson fight if they can try to make it for the 100th time. What happens after the fight is almost as interesting as what happens in the fight...almost.

What will be people talking about most after the show is done?

Paul: A rematch, for sure. If this show sets records (and at this point, even just breaking the record with something like 1.75 million buys would be considered a disappointment), everyone will want to see them fight again. That sucks for the likes of Ferguson, Diaz, GSP, Woodley and anyone else that is highly ranked at anywhere from 145-170. But Conor is all about big fights and big money and a rematch of the biggest money fight of all time would be the biggest fight possible and would also make sense sporting-wise. This could be the first fight in a series between these two as they both should have years of competitive fights left in them.

Ryan: It will be all about what is next for Conor. I do think if he wins, his next fight comes against Tyron Woodley as he goes for another title. It wouldn’t surprise me if that is the way it goes even if he loses, but in that scenario, I see Nate Diaz next. If Khabib wins, I totally think we are getting him against GSP next year.

Josh: That this is the biggest UFC PPV of all time, that Ferguson is the rightful No. 1 contender, and that McGregor continues to do everything he says he can do and then some.

Who wins?

Conor vs. Khabib

McGregor: Josh, Ryan, Paul

Ferguson vs. Pettis

Ferguson: Ryan, Josh, Paul

Lewis vs. Volkov

Lewis: Josh
Volkov: Ryan, Paul

OSP vs. Reyes

OSP: Josh
Reyes: Ryan, Paul

Waterson vs. Herrig

Waterson: Ryan
Herrig: Nason, Fontaine

Follow along with our live coverage all night.