UFC 254: The biggest fight of the year goes down this weekend as Khabib Nurmagamedov looks to defend his Lightweight Title against Dustin Gaethje at UFC 254
The UFC returns to Abu Dhabi this weekend for the highly anticipated Lightweight Championship bout between the undefeated Khabib Nurmagamedov and Interim Champ Justin Gaethje. The promotion has branded this Khabib’s toughest test to date, and despite the fact they roll that line out before most of his fights, there may be some truth to it on this occasion.
The Russian comes into this fight as the 1.33 favorite on the BETDAQ betting exchange and there’s no doubt he is the man to beat. Today his record stands at 28-0, with 12 of those wins coming in the UFC octagon. Since his promotional debut back in 2012, Dagestan’s favourite son has notched up four wins by submission and two via KO, but his grappling style tends to lead to judges’ decision rather than finishes. Khabib’s domination has been such that his six unanimous decisions have rarely seen him lose a single round. His roll of honour includes former 155lbs Champions Conor McGregor and Rafael Dos Anjos, with his most recent victory coming back in September 2019 against then Interim Champion Dustin Poirier.
Across from Nurmagamedov will stand Justin Gaethje, USA born and bred, and ready to represent his country against Russia’s best. The Arizona native’s 22-2 record is also impressive, with five wins and his pair of losses coming against the elite within the UFC. Gaethje is a wrestler-come-striker, who has evolved from the wrestling mat in college to one of the hardest-hitting strikers across the entire UFC roster. “The Highlight” secured each of his quintet of wins via KO and will be in search of his fifth straight win on Saturday night.
Back-to-back defeats to former 155lbs Champion Eddie Alvarez and the aforementioned Poirier, in 2017 and 2018 respectively, could’ve added Gaethje to the promotion’s list of journeymen, but his response has been nothing short of defiant. A hat-trick of opening round KO’s was swiftly followed by a final round finish of Tony Ferguson, the man originally slated to face Khabib, and thus presented Gaethje with his imminent title shot.
The winner of Saturday’s fight will more than likely be determined by whether or not Gaethje can quelle the onslaught on the ground from Khabib when he is inevitably taken down. The Champ’s 47% takedown accuracy speaks for itself. Essentially, he may miss one, but he’ll get the next. Nobody to date has been able to halt Khabib’s work on the ground, but with an 80% takedown defence record of his own, Gaethje may just be the man to do it.
Should Khabib get his way and take the challenger down, he will still have his work cut out for him. It’s not that the American is afraid to wrestle, he just hasn’t needed to so far in his UFC career, but he will pose far more of a threat in that part of the game than say McGregor or Poirier. As for cardio, Gaethje proved he could go the distance with cardio-machine Ferguson in his last outing, so the stamina is there. All that remains to be seen is can his body and mind handle the different type of pressure Khabib will bring.
A truly exciting fight, which should give fans value for money, whilst for punters, the value definitely lies with the underdog. Gaethje has the tools to both neutralise and punish Khabib, and so we are backing him to upset the odds and win at 3.6.
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