UFC 254: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje preview and pick
The long awaited showdown between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje is finally upon us.
This lightweight title fight headlines UFC 254, and someone is leaving Fight Island a broken heap by night's end.
Let's preview the fight and make pick for this tantalizing main event.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje
Sat, October 24 2020, 8:30 PM
What is fascinating about this bout is that it features the best fighters from two separate disciplines.
Gaethje would wipe Nurmagomedov out in a straight-up fist fight, but Nurmagomedov would almost certainly make Gaethje tap on the mat. Gaethje has shown an adept takedown defense, but the champ is just as strong defensively in the stand-up game.
This fight will come down to technique and IQ, which heavily favors the champion. Unless Gaethje finds daylight in the early rounds, he can expect to come up short on the cards. There is no way he'll outsmart Nurmagomedov, but Gaethje could exploit a chink in the champ's armor to score the massive upset.
Who will come out on top at UFC 254?
Gaethje has a small window to win
Nurmagomedov is not a heavy striker, but has handled himself well against other capable strikers. He has a bad habit in being complacent in his stand-up game, which slows the pace down more than he has to. Conor McGregor took advantage of this aspect, and Gaethje's speed and accuracy serves him well here.
Granted, Nurmagomedov is disciplined enough to snap out of it when it starts to become a problem, but it's Gaethje's only chance. Even in traditional situations that favor strikers, such as fighting on the inside or pushing the action to the ends of the octagon, Nurmangomedov is extremely dangerous. This has to be one huge shot that changes the outcome of the fight.
Nurmagomedov will set the pace and slow Gaethje down
The reason Nurmagomedov is the commanding favorite is that he's too cerebral for Gaethje, who doesn't have anything in his toolbox the champion can't handle. Gaethje is an easy puzzle to solve.
In many ways, this fight echoes what we saw a few weeks ago, when Israel Adesanya easily diffused Paulo Costa in a fight with similar circumstances. Adesanya has more faith in his power to take chances, whereas Nurmagomedov's faith in his skills will carry the fight.
Expect Nurmagomedov to slow Gaethje down, trip him up, and get a submission win via rear-naked chokehold in the third round.