Khabib Nurmagomedov is scheduled to take on Justin Gaethje in a lightweight title unification bout for at UFC 254 in Fight Island, Abu Dhabi. However, before this fight, Khabib was scheduled to take on Tony Ferguson in the main event of UFC 249. However, the much-anticipated bout fell apart for a record fourth time after trave restriction due to the pandemic made it impossible for Khabib Nurmagomedov to travel out of the country. Be that as it may, Justin Gaethje will take on Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed gold at the lightweight division.
Since time immemorial, Tony Ferguson has been looked at as the toughest challenger for Khabib's undisputed throne. However, if we put Justin Gaethje into that mix, and with a spectacular win over Ferguson at UFC 249, it becomes difficult to determine who is truly the biggest threat to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Is Justin Gaethje the biggest threat to Khabib Nurmagomedov?
Justin Gaethje is a prolific fighter and his performance against Tony Ferguson is a testimony to his punching prowess and lethal striking. However, Khabib has faced strikers in the past with the most notable being Conor McGregor. Khabib was able to get past one of the most accomplished lightweight fighters after Khabib, Dustin Poirier after he picked up an impressive third-round submission win in his second title defense inside the octagon at UFC 242. However, Justin Gaethje brings a challenge like no other.
Other than being one of the fiercest strikers in the history of UFC, Justin Gaethje is a Division I wrestler with notable credentials to compliment his wrestling pedigree. While Justin Gaethje has never been seen going for a takedown or taking the fight to the ground, it will be interesting to see Gaethje use his wrestling for the first time against probably the most dominant fighter in the history of MMA.
If we talk about Justin Gaethje's gameplan, it is expected that he should be able to avoid Khabib's takedown attempts and keep the fight on the feet. Gaethje's calf kicks could also create a huge impact. With solid knock out power in his hands and a wrestling background to compliment Khabib's fighting style, Justin Gaethje could be the toughest challenge that Khabib has ever faced inside the octagon.
Tony Ferguson is indeed the toughest challenge for Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov has stated many times in the past that getting past Tony Ferguson adds to his legacy as a lightweight fighter. While Ferguson may have lost his 12 fight undefeated streak, Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov is still the most anticipated bout in the history of MMA.
Tony Ferguson has always been looked at as the fighter to beat Nurmagomedov. Recently, in the lead up to UFC 254, Khabib stated that it's an inspiration to train for Tony Ferguson. So why does Khabib regard Tony Ferguson so highly?
Other than being a relentless striker and insane cardio to complement his fighting style, Ferguson is a Division I wrestler with a black belt in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu. In simple words, Tony Ferguson is the antidote to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Khabib relies on is impeccable grappling to tire his opponents and looks to either finish his opponents or submit them for the win. However, Tony Ferguson could be an exception. Despite a lackluster performance against Justin Gaethje in what was a striking battle between two of the best, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson is a stylistic match-up.
While one would expect Tony Ferguson to avoid Khabib's takedowns, it is Ferguson's submission game that poses the biggest threat to Nurmagomedov. Ferguson is brilliant off his back and is very quick on the ground. It was evident from his performance against Kevin Lee, where even after being dominated on the ground by Lee, Ferguson was able to snatch a submission win to grab the interim gold back in October of 2017.
In all likelihood, both Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson are tough opponents for Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both the fighters are exceptional strikers with solid wrestling pedigree. However, it is Ferguson's submission game that gives him an edge over Gaethje as the toughest challenge for Khabib Nurmagomedov.Published 12 Sep 2020, 02:35 IST