Will Khabib beat Justin Gaethje at UFC 254?
The undefeated Russian UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is scheduled to defend his title against the #1 contender Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on October 24, 2020. Their bout will take place at “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and we recommend you take a look at what time Khabib vs Gaethje fight will actually start.
Below, you will find a breakdown of the Khabib vs Gaethje matchup and we will predict the most likely scenario and the outcome of this fight. A lot of people are considering Gaethje to be Nurmagomedov’s biggest challenge and the toughest fight to date but can he really beat Khabib at UFC 254?
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov
MMA record (UFC record): 28-0 (12-0).
Height: 5′ 10″.
Khabib’s fight stats to know ahead of the Gaethje fight:
Last 3 fights: Dustin Poirier (W), Conor McGregor (W), Al Iaquinta (W).
Significant strikes landed per minute: 4.11.
Significant strikes absorbed per minute: 1.65.
Takedowns landed per 15 minutes (on average): 5.35.
Takedown accuracy: 47%.
Submissions attempted per 15 minutes (on average): 0.7.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is known as one of the most dominant pound-for-pound wrestlers/grapplers in the UFC at the moment. He does his best work on the ground where he was able to finish his last two fights via submission against champion-level opposition in the likes of Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. It’s very interesting that Khabib’s opponents know his strengths so well and they know exactly what’s coming their way. But no one can stop Khabib’s takedowns and cannot do anything once “The Eagle” takes them on the canvas.
Another key element of Khabib’s success is his cardio and conditioning. The Dagestani champion has amazing cardio which allows him to pressure and dominate his opponents in later rounds.
What about Khabib Nurmagomedov’s stand up and striking, you may ask? It is somewhat awkward and obviously nowhere near the level of his grappling skills. At the same time, it’s far from being horrible and generally, Khabib’s striking is above average in comparison to most wrestlers/grapplers.
After all, Khabib did basically knocked down Conor McGregor and generally looked competitive in stand up exchanges against the best strikers in the UFC’s lightweight division.
Khabib at this point in his career looks to be a fighter with a full package without big holes in his game. His striking does the job to keep his opponents away and sets up opportunities for takedowns. On the ground, Nurmagomedov stays busy applying constant pressure, ground and pound, controls his opponents, tires them out. It is his bread and butter.
Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje
MMA record (UFC record): 22-2 (5-2).
Height: 5′ 11″.
Gaethje’s fight stats to know ahead of the UFC 254 bout with Khabib:
Last 3 fights: Tony Ferguson (W), Donald Cerrone (W), Edson Barboza (W).
Significant strikes landed per minute: 7.74.
Significant strikes absorbed per minute: 8.37.
Takedown defense: 80%.
Justin Gaethje is the UFC interim lightweight champion and #1 ranked contender for Khabib’s belt. “The Highlight” shocked the world in his last fight when he dominated and earned a very impressive victory against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. A lot of people were surprised that Justin Gaethje beat Tony Ferguson but I did correctly predict the outcome of this fight.
Gaethje, primarily a striker, significantly improved his game since joining UFC in 2017. The two losses that Justin suffered against Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez pushed “The Highlight” to make some changes, especially, tactically and strategically. Since then, Gaethje fought smarter, wiser, more patient, and it paid off big time in his most recent fights against Edson Barboza, Donald Cerrone, and Tony Ferguson.
Justin Gaethje’s most effective weapon is his nasty leg/calf kicks. Gaethje has been very successful chopping his opponent’s legs in most of the fights including the last fight with “El Cucuy” in which he landed a total of 30 leg kicks with 100% accuracy.
Speaking of cardio and conditioning, “The Highlight” made significant improvements over the last few years. In his last fight, we saw that Gaethje was able to keep up with one of the best conditioned fighters in the UFC’s lightweight division Tony Ferguson in a 5 round fight. Justin has the gas tank to go against Khabib for 5 rounds but we are yet to see his conditioning once the fight goes to the canvas and he has to wrestle/grapple on the ground. In one of his interviews in the past, Gaethje stated that he chooses not to wrestle in the UFC because “it takes too much energy” which must be a huge concern for Justin ahead of the matchup with “The Eagle”.
What do we know about Justin Gaethje’s takedown defense, grappling, and ground game because it will be a key factor when he faces Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254? The fact is, we don’t know much about Gaethje’s grappling and ground game skills when it comes to mixed martial arts because he never fought a grappler of Khabib’s caliber in his entire MMA career.
Justin has a wrestling background as he started wrestling at the age of 4 and he was a collegiate NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler but he doesn’t have much experience in terms of MMA-adopted grappling and jiu-jitsu.
How will Khabib vs Gaethje fight play out?
A lot of fans and pros are expecting Justin Gaethje to give Khabib a lot of problems saying that Gaethje is a tough matchup for “The Eagle”. So far in the UFC Conor McGregor landed the most significant strikes on Khabib and is the only fighter to win a round against the undefeated Dagestani champ.
Can Justin Gaethje be the one to make Khabib bleed on October 24th when 28 fighters previously tried to beat Khabib and 28 have failed?
No doubt, Gaethje has a chance to beat Nurmagomedov. Who knows, it is possible that Justin will do a lot of damage and possibly injure Khabib with his calf kicks. Or Nurmagomedov might get caught while trying to attempt a takedown – don’t underestimate the power of Justin’s hands. Or “The Eagle” might simply have a very bad day and will make a lot of costly mistakes which will lead to Gaethje’s victory.
It’s a combat fight and anything can happen on a given day.
But 9 out of 10 times Khabib will beat Gaethje and it is the most likely outcome of their upcoming UFC 254 bout.
Nurmagomedov is not going to trade shots and make this fight a “stand up war” as Ferguson did. Khabib will be looking for takedowns the entire time. He will be wrestling, physically pressuring Gaethje. To quote “The Eagle” himself, his strategy will be to take Gaethje “into the deepest ocean and drown him”. It’s exactly what he did to Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier – Khabib was able to submit both in rounds 4 and 3 respectively.
Justin Gaethje has a wrestling background and it will help him when he’ll face Nurmagomedov. He has a good takedown defense and I do believe Khabib will have to work a little bit harder and be more creative to take Gaethje down and keep him there.
Despite that, sooner or later, I believe Nurmagomedov will be able to capitalize and dominate Justin on the ground. Nonstop wrestling will tire Gaethje out as it’s not something he had ever experienced in his MMA career.
The way I see Khabib vs Gaethje bout play out is that Justin will have the most success early in the fight while he is still “fresh”. Nurmagomedov is not the type of fighter to go all-in from the start as he usually puts more pressure as the fight goes on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gaethje will take the first round against Khabib if he lands a few nasty leg kicks and successfully defends early takedowns from the champ.
But I don’t see Justin being able to keep up with Khabib’s pace and defend his takedowns for 25 minutes. He will gas out earlier than normal because it will mostly be a wrestling contest which takes a lot of energy and stamina. Khabib does it better than anyone else in the UFC – he tires you out when takes you to the ground.
He isn’t just laying on top like some other wrestlers do. “The Eagle” is flawless when it comes to grappling as he constantly tries to advance, improve his position, ground and pound, threats with submissions. He makes his opponents work twice as hard to escape these positions.
From that point on, Khabib will dominate the rest of the fight and Justin will be in a “surviving mode”.
I don’t necessarily see Nurmagomedov getting a finish against Gaethje as the American might be able to scramble and avoid being submitted. I predict that Khabib will beat Gaethje by a unanimous decision and he will remain as a UFC lightweight champion.
Betting on Khabib vs Gaethje fight?
If you are considering placing some sports bets on Nurmagomedov vs Gaethje fight, Khabib to win via unanimous decision at +200 odds is one of my favorite risky bets on the UFC 254 card.
Another play you might consider is the fight to go over 2.5 rounds at -145 odds or over 3.5 rounds at +100 – both of these bets are reasonable.
I also recommend you to check out my other betting predictions for UFC 254 fights.
How do you think UFC 254 main event will play out? Do you think Khabib will beat Gaethje or “The Highlight” will be able to stop Nurmagomedov’s takedowns? What are your predictions for their fight?
Don’t hesitate to share your opinion in the comments below this post.