Why elite wrestler Darrion Caldwell's definitely not betting against Conor McGregor at UFC 229
Darrion Caldwell knows a thing or two about mauling.
Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell was an accomplished amateur wrestler at a very young age. In high school, he was a three-time state champion. He was a two-time NCAA All-American and an NCAA Division 1 champion. He earned the latter prize by defeating Brent Metcalf who claimed the Dan Hodge Trophy, the annual award given to the most outstanding college wrestler, the previous year.
Unfortunately, a freak rollerskating injury halted his progress after college. When he didn't make the US team for the London 2012 Olympic games, he decided to transition to MMA. It didn't take long for 'The Wolf' to excel in his new field. Just five years after making his professional debut, he was being crowned Bellator's 135 lb king. His wrestling prowess played a huge factor in this feat.
Despite this, Caldwell's backing 'the striker' to defeat 'the grappler' in UFC 229's event.
"My prediction is Conor McGregor's going to win. That's just me. I'm not really biased against Khabib. I know Khabib, he does his thing, he has like 900 takedowns. He's nice, he's legit. But I feel like Conor's got an It factor that Khabib probably does not have."
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Caldwell partly credits the success of wrestlers such as UFC flyweight champion Henry Ceudo and UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight king Daniel Cormier to their abilities to dictate where the fight takes place. That being said, he believes McGregor is just too gifted of an athlete to allow Nurmagomedov to hold him down.
"As a wrestler, you control the pace of the fight by keeping it on your feet or taking it to the ground, but I believe Conor has good enough takedown defence. He's an athletic dude. So he's not going to be held down like Edson Barboza. You assume Conor McGregor will have a little better standup like Al Iaquinta did as opposed to a guy who's going to go down and get beat up on. I expect Conor McGregor to go out there and beat Nurmagomedov, personally."
When asked to give an assessment of McGregor's wrestling abilities, Caldwell said the Irishman was 'decent, not great'. He believes that McGregor has a long way to go to get to Georges St-Pierre's level, for example. However, he feels that other factors will be at play for the Nurmagomedov fight.
"I think Conor's got a ways to go to get to that point. He has abilities and I'm want to say, intangibles that you can't see. He has those and I think that will get him through.I think he'll get up and at least defend a takedown. On top of that, he's got fucking crazy hands. Khabib's got to get past that first."
"I've bet against Conor McGregor for a long time and he continued to prove me wrong. Anybody that can prove me wrong, I'm not going to continue to bet against. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you know."