Resist, withstand, contest, oppose, fight, combat, conflict, antagonize are comparable when they mean to set one person or thing against another in a hostile or competing way, and they may be roughly distinguished according to the degree to which one of the things or forces takes the initiative against the other.
Resist and withstand suggest generally that the initiative lies wholly with the person or force competed against.
Resist implies an overt recognition of a hostile or threatening force and a positive effort to counteract it, repel it, or ward it off.
Withstand may suggest a more passive yet often successful resistance in which if nothing is gained, at least nothing is lost.
Contest and oppose suggest a more positive action against a threatening or objectionable force.
Contest often stresses the raising of the issue or the bringing into open question of the matter over which there is conflict.
Oppose, perhaps the most general of the terms, can indicate almost any degree of protesting attitude from mild objection to positive belligerence, and can suggest any action from a mere contrastive setting of one thing against another to open violence against an opposing force, although in all instances positive action is implied.
Fight and combat suggest strong action.
Fight puts the initiative clearly in the hands of the subject of the verb and stresses the forthrightness or belligerence of the action.
Combat more often suggests a resisting than an initiating and stresses the force or impact or urgency of the resulting action, though it says nothing about the success of the resistance.
Conflict and antagonize do not fit easily into the scale.
Conflict indicates merely the fact of competition, friction, or hostility between two forces.
Antagonize has lost in general use the idea of placing oneself in opposition or in the position of an antagonist, a sense which persists in technical usage.
In current general use the term carries only the idea of arousing antagonism or making antagonistic.