With talk of Georges St. Pierre returning to the octagon to possibly face Khabib Nurmagomedov––at a potential 165lb division––it begs the obvious question: who wins that fight? After his dominant win over Conor McGregor at UFC 229, the big question about Khabib has been, who is next? The hardcore fans have been lamenting their desire to finally see the Tony Ferguson fight, but the rumblings of a GSP fight at 165 have risen to a level that can not be ignored. The allure of a Khabib-GSP fight is evident when considering the potential for the fight to be a legacy builder for the winner, with the added benefit of potentially being a huge pay-per-view producer. This potential fight appeals to both hardcore fans, for the level of skill and prestige of the combatants and to the “casual” fans, for the name recognition of both fighters.
When I think about this potential matchup I have a few different responses, first, I am disappointed that the long-awaited El Cucuy fight has to be put off, then second, I am intrigued about the technicality of the matchup. Two fighters who are at the absolute pinnacle of the sport and of the highest skill level one could ever expect to see in MMA. Khabib Nurmagomedov is 27-0 and has displayed virtually unstoppable grappling ability, and in his last fight, showed huge improvements in his striking: basically out-punching Conor McGregor and dropping him in the 2nd round. Georges St. Pierre (26-2) is arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time and possibly the most technical fighter we have ever seen in MMA––demonstrating some of the best MMA wrestling combined with dynamic striking ability. When looking at their respective attributes and the nuances when pitting them head to head, this is how it breaks down to me.
The fight would likely take place at a newly-created 165lb division, which has pros and cons for each fighter. Khabib is a big lightweight, who struggles to make the 155lb weight limit––so with this fight, he has a significantly easier weight cut. However, with this arrangement Khabib is facing the bigger guy, who would be closer to his normal division. Theoretically, GSP is the bigger guy, however, he would be coming down from his normal weight class of welterweight (170lbs), so he would have to cut an additional five pounds, thereby making his weight cut a little tougher. In this matchup––even though Khabib is a large lightweight––I see GSP as the bigger fighter: more due to a longer frame and reach and less because of coming down in weight. I see this as a big advantage for GSP. I think he would be able to neutralize some of Khabib’s wrestling and would have a notable reach advantage. In addition, GSP is an inch taller than Khabib, and is listed as having a 76″ reach. A six inch reach advantage is huge and will definitely play a major role in this fight, particularly if the grappling gets nullified. I see this fight playing out very tactically and I give the advantage to GSP.
If this fight really takes place I see Khabib pressing the pace and going for an early takedown––much like in the McGregor fight at UFC 229––but I see Georges St. Pierre being able to stop the takedown. Even if Khabib does get GSP to the ground early, I don’t see him being able to dominate him there. GSP has excellent wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu and I see him matching Khabib on the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Georges shooting on Khabib, and if he were to get a takedown, it would give him critical momentum and a mental edge as the fight progresses. If the fight were to stay on the ground, I do see it being a dogfight, with very technical transitions and close-calls on submission attempts. When I play different scenarios out in my head I see GSP simply having the edge on Khabib in most scenarios. There are a few scenarios where I see Khabib edging out GSP, and I will address them here.
When considering the technicality of both fighters, the main chance I give Khabib would be if he works his cardio to an extreme level, such that he can push an incredibly hard pace throughout the fight. In this case he would be capitalizing on GSP having a significant weight cut versus his own easier cut. With this approach Khabib could potentially gas out GSP and create scrambles and chances for a potential finish. If Khabib can push such a pace, I see it opening up takedowns off of these potential scrambles, and opportunities for scoring, and perhaps even some ground-and-pound.
Here is what I see as being the most likely possible outcomes, and how. I do see the possibility of GSP securing a submission from a scramble, but I see this as being a less likely outcome. There is definitely the possibility of Khabib getting a submission out of a scramble, but if Khabib wins, I see it being by a decision won from him pushing a blistering pace, scoring some ground-and-pound, and edging out a decision. A finish by either fighter seems unlikely, but if it were to happen, I see it coming from GSP, and likely by submission. All things considered, I see the most likely outcome to be GSP by decision––probably unanimous.
Please let me kow what you think in the comments.