Khabib Nurmagomedov v Conor McGregor

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor go head-to-head on Sunday in arguably the biggest fight of the year.

The duo have been on a collision course for the past 12 months and their bad blood makes it one not to be missed.

Nurmagomedov to shine in Vegas

Champion Nurmagomedov became the first Russian to hold a title in the UFC with his April win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 and he heads into the fight as the favourite at 1.58.

The Russian put in another dominant display over five rounds against his American opponent, who stepped in at short notice following the withdrawals of Tony Ferguson and Max Holloway, to further enhance his reputation.

Nurmagomedov faces a much tougher task when he defends his title for the first time this weekend at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, but he should still have too much for his Irish opponent.

McGregor, who is priced at 2.50 to win, enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the MMA world after making his UFC debut in 2013, winning his first fight after just one minute and seven seconds in Stockholm.

He went on to claim his first world title in his seventh fight, landing a knockout punch on Jose Aldo after just 13 seconds, before going on to become a two-weight world champion three fights later.

However, after almost two years away from the Octagon, he could be a little rusty when he makes his long-awaited return on Sunday.

A clash of styles

Mystic Mac has earned a reputation for being a top striker as his one-punch KO of Aldo proved, but he is notoriously weak on the ground.

McGregor has kept his training regime close to his chest but it’s understood he has been working on his takedown defence and ground game during his absence from the MMA world.

The former Cage Warriors featherweight champion has only tasted defeat three times in his 24-fight professional career, being choked out on all three occasions.

Ground advantage could be the key

Nurmagomedov, a master of the submission, has claimed a third of his career victories in that manner and will be looking to expose McGregor by any means possible.

The Russian, who can be backed at 2.10 to win by KO, TKO, DQ or Submission, is indisputably a more well-rounded fighter but he is not as formidable as McGregor, who has won 86 per cent of his fights by KO/TKO. It means he could come unstuck if the pair remain on their feet and decide to trade.

His gameplan will therefore be based around trying to avoid getting into too many exchanges but he has drafted in extra help to improve his striking accuracy if he gets drawn in.

Former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko, regarded as one of the best strikers around, has been working closely with Nurmagomedov over the last few months.

The Eagle’s ability to adjust to different situations stands him in good stead to come through his title defence and the contrast of styles will certainly make for an interesting encounter.