The undefeated lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov takes on the interim champion, Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254 in October. The fans did not get the fight they have been waiting for after Justin Gaethje methodically defeated Tony Ferguson. Nevertheless, Gathje vs Nurmagomedov has the potential to be one of the greatest title fights ever.
Many fans believe that Justin Gaethje is the guy to dethrone the long-reigning lightweight champion. Gaethje has an impressive pedigree in wrestling as a Division- 1 wrestler. Though he never uses his wrestling in his MMA fights it is believed that he is one of the best wrestlers in the lightweight division.
However, his wrestling is not a threat to the lightweight champion. Khabib Nurmagomedov is arguably the best grappler in UFC right now and not many UFC lightweights can deal with his grappling heavy approach.
Can Justin Gaethje stop Khabib Nurmagomedov?
Justin Gaethje is a dangerous striker with a good wrestling background. And fans believe that if Gaethje can stop the takedowns of Khabib Nurmagomedov and keep the fight standing then he can put an end to the most decorated streak in UFC history.
However, stopping those takedowns of Khabib Nurmagomedov is not an easy task. Al Iaquinta had some success in the championship rounds against Khabib Nurmagomedov. However, Nurmagomedov took that fight on short notice and that has to be considered a reason for the level of success Al Iaquinta had against Nurmagomedov.
Conor McGregor did a brilliant job in the first round against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Though Nurmagomedov took Conor down he was not able to do much damage on the ground. But can Justin Gaethje keep the fight majority of the fighting standing to inflict enough damage?
The fact that we are picking rounds and moments of fights to find holes in the game of the lightweight champion just goes to show how good Khabib Nurmagomedov really is.
Justin Gaethje's gameplan is to avoid getting backed up against the cage where Nurmagomedov does the most damage. Gaethje wants to use his technique and force to stop the takedowns from Nurmagomedov. However, Khabib Nurmagomedov is eventually going to get the takedown.
It's not going to be easy against Gaethje. However, sooner or later the fight between Khabib and Justin will go to the ground. If the fight remains in the middle of the octagon, then Gaethje will defend the majority of the takedowns attempted by Nurmagomedov.
However, Nurmagomedov will put tremendous forward pressure, use his striking to back Gaethje against the cage, and then try to get the fight to the ground. Now Gaethje puts a forward pressure against his opponents too.
However, he has been very patient lately, especially in the fight against Tony Ferguson. He still fought at an incredible pace but Ferguson was putting the pressure on Gaethje for the majority of the fight. And this might be a problem for Gaethje in the fight against Khabib.
Gaethje needs to respond to the high pace offense of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov can continue at the same pace for five entire rounds. However, Gaethje slowed down significantly in his fight against Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez. Considering there will be a lot of grappling and wrestling exchanges from the beginning of the fight, the cardio of Gaethje will be put under test like never before. If Gaethje gasses out then Nurmagomedov will secure the takedowns with ease in the championship rounds.
However, the fight always begins with both the fighter standing. It will be intriguing to see how Gaethje approaches the fight. Does he go for an early finish or does he take the risk of getting the fight into the championship rounds?Published 10 Aug 2020, 12:03 IST