What it's like to fight Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov

Conor - Khabib ESPN

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor have combined to face 18 different opponents in the UFC. Only one of those -- Nate Diaz -- ever managed to secure a win (against McGregor, in March 2016) and even he went on to lose a subsequent rematch.

Translation: Victories are tough to come by against these two.

Something will have to give at UFC 229 on Saturday, when Nurmagomedov and McGregor square off for the UFC's lightweight title at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Here are a few of their previous opponents discussing the particulars of facing Nurmagomedov (26-0) and McGregor (21-3) in the Octagon, and offering a prediction if they have one.

Rafael dos Anjos -- Fought Nurmagomedov at UFC Fight Night in April 2014, lost via unanimous decision

He has good waist control. I felt like he kind of focused on holding me down, because after that fight I didn't have one scratch on me. I even called my manager and asked to fight again right away. I fought 40 days later.

I remember for that fight I trained very little wrestling, which was one of my mistakes. I thought I would be able to keep it standing, but he's a good wrestler. Conor is not going to learn how to wrestle in a few months to defend his takedowns. He's been taking everybody down in the UFC.

I always say, every fight goes to the ground. Even if you put two drunk guys on the street, they're going to eventually go to the ground. I would say Khabib has more chances to win this fight.

Dustin Poirier -- Fought McGregor at UFC 178 in September 2014, lost via first-round TKO

Conor's timing is different. His shots land at a different cadence. He just has a different timing and a different rhythm. I think what will end up beating Khabib is good scrambling, the ability to threaten with jiu-jitsu off your back to create space and get back up. Awareness, fight IQ. There's a lot that goes into it.

The longer the fight goes on, I believe Khabib has the better chance. But then again, Khabib slows down and may have trouble getting takedowns late. So, it's a tough matchup to pick for me. I'm kind of leaning towards Conor, but I keep going back and forth.

Chad Mendes -- Fought McGregor on short notice at UFC 189 in July 2015, lost via second-round TKO

I think Conor is smart. Conor knows he's a good fighter, but I think he also knows he has weaknesses -- and by portraying himself as someone who has endless amount of confident, it makes those weaknesses fade away to some people. I think he does a very good job of that.

What I remember most about the fight is his wrestling was pretty bad. In my opinion, he was a novice. He wasn't able to keep up with the changes in direction. One of the main things you learn as a high-level wrestler is chain wrestling. When you shoot and a guy defends, you don't just stop and back out. Chain wrestling is going from one thing straight to another, straight to another. Conor had good defense on the first go-around, but once the chain wrestling kicked in he couldn't keep up. Khabib is a little bit of a different wrestler than I am, though. He's not super explosive, he's more about pressure and putting you against the fence. In my mind, that might be a tough way to try and take Conor down.

His talking didn't have an effect on me. I do remember he was running his mouth the entire time. It was fun seeing him when he had a cut over his eye, bleeding all over the place and he was still talking. I was like, "Dude, you're getting your ass kicked." And he was still talking trash.

Khabib is usually the type of guy who rushes in and tries to close the distance. That will work in his favor against Conor. I feel this fight could go either way.

Darrell Horcher -- Fought Nurmagomedov on short notice at UFC Fight Night in April 2016, lost via second-round TKO

I wouldn't say he's physically that strong. I've fought people who are stronger. But he's relentless with his Sambo (Russian martial art). As soon as we hit the ground, I couldn't move.

He's really good at getting his head off center as he comes in. I train with really good wrestlers and you can time takedowns with a shot, but he was very good at getting his head out of the way. There was no way I could hit him. The timing off his shots are good, but he's not much of a wrestler in that initial shot. It's more of a way to chain into his Sambo. I got my hips out on his first shot, but he never stops. He's going to just follow you wherever you end up and work you down.

I train with light heavyweights and heavyweights, and that's the closest I've ever felt to his top game. You get a light heavyweight who probably weighs 230 pounds in the gym on top of you, it felt about the same to that. His feet were in concrete. I went back to my corner and I remember going, "Yep. You can't move him when he gets on top of you." And they just said, "Well, don't let him get on top of you." I was so tired. His pressure just sucks the wind out of you. Even if you're in shape, and I was out of shape from taking it on short notice, it just sucks it out of you.

If he gets his hands on Conor, it's game over. Conor's wrestling defense is not that great, and even if you have great wrestling defense, Khabib's Sambo is a different world. [McGregor's] only chance is to keep the distance.

Michael Johnson -- Fought Nurmagomedov at UFC 205 in November 2016, lost via third-round submission

It was nothing crazy I haven't seen before, but I was worried about his takedowns quite a bit. I wasn't really comfortable. I kept my hips back as I threw punches and was leaving myself extended because I didn't want to step into anything. I was worried about his shot. If I had just focused on myself, I think it would have been a different story.

During my camp, I had quite a bit of people in my ear about his wrestling, how good it was, how good his control was -- if I didn't have those people in my ear with all that bulls--- I don't think I would have had such an issue. It wasn't even his wrestling that was a problem, it was definitely his top control. I think he gives you choices. You can defend punches, or you can try to get up, or you can try to get your wrists free. He's always attacking and holding the position. He feels like a damn middleweight, and I was a smaller lightweight.

People talk about the left hand I landed but I never really thought I hurt him as bad as everyone thought I did. You see different things when you're in the cage and I didn't see Khabib getting hurt. I remember him taking a good punch. That wasn't my best left hand because, again, my hips were back and I didn't step in with a lot of power because I was worried about the takedown.

This fight is gonna go one of two ways. It's pretty simple. Either Khabib is going to take him down or Conor is going to defend the takedowns and end up landing the left hand.

Eddie Alvarez -- Fought McGregor at UFC 205 in November 2016, lost via second-round TKO

I've been around too long for trash talk to disturb me, but what was unique about fighting him, something I maybe haven't felt before, was he has this calmness that kind of hypnotizes you into feeling calm, and safe. So, rather than going in there and moving like I normally do, I feel his calmness made me feel like, "Oh, I'm not in danger. He feels fine, I feel safe." He does this good job of hypnotizing you into this relaxed state, and then striking quickly.

He likes to punch on punches. Whenever you punch as a fighter, you're not bracing to absorb a punch. A lot of really good knockouts, not just in MMA but in boxing as well, come when a fighter punches on his opponent's punch. When I'm attacking, it means I'm thinking about hurting a guy. I'm not bracing for a shot. He punches on punches well.

And he has a unique, relaxed speed. It takes you a round or two to feel that. Khabib has the exact style to beat him, but when I think about the fight, he's not going to be able to take too many shots at a takedown because he's going to realize the speed of what's going on. I don't think Khabib is that fast. I think that's going to be a big factor in this fight: the speed difference. Comparably, Conor is much, much faster.

It's a true pick 'em. If Khabib implements his wrestling, he'll win -- but if I had to pick, I would probably have to go with Conor. A lot of that is based on what I saw in Khabib's last fight with Al Iaquinta. Him just shooting the same single leg over and over, not mixing it up. He was making way too many defensive mistakes. Against Conor, you have a small margin for error.

Al Iaquinta -- Fought Nurmagomedov on short notice at UFC 223 in April, lost via unanimous decision

I'll tell you this, 100 percent, Khabib is going to surprise a lot of people with his standup and Conor is going to surprise a lot of people with his ground game. Everyone thinks this is is a one-way -- Khabib on the ground, Conor standing -- fight. No way. This is a fight. And it's more evenly matched in the standup and on the ground than people think.

Khabib is unorthodox on the feet and it's a different style than Conor is used to. Although it might look a little -- I don't want to call it "amateurish" -- it's a problem. He's a problem. He's got a good chin. You look at Edson Barboza who fought him, that guy is world class. And Khabib made him look normal.

I didn't want to get taken down, but I mean, I just went for it. Right after the first bell, I went straight forward. The difference with me is I didn't find out I was fighting him until what, 24 hours before? I was just like, "You know what? Let's just rock. Let's go." I didn't have a concern in the world. I just went out there and winged it.

I want Khabib to knock the f---ing s--- out of this man. It would make me look so good (laughs). I want Khabib to kill him, and I think that's what will end up happening. But I feel Conor saw what I did and maybe saw something different in the second and third rounds. I don't know.