As soon as he shocked Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, displaying much-improved technique and defensive capabilities, Justin Gaethje was calling out Khabib Nurmagomedov, because he has no interest in only being the interim UFC lightweight champion.
Caption: Who will come out on top if the fight goes to ground?
Sure enough, the fight has now been slated to happen on the 20th of September, with the likes of Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley providing chief support.
We look ahead to this intriguing clash of styles and see if there is any way that the American can make a dent in Khabib’s so far unblemished armor.
Khabib Does Not Lose Rounds
The Eagle, as he is known by his adoring fans, is the overwhelming betting favorite for this fight, due mainly to the fact that he is unbeaten in twenty-eight fights and has only ever lost one round in the octagon, that coming against Conor McGregor.
This means that he is viewed as having a certain veil of invincibility, with him racking up points quickly against opponents who find themselves falling behind before they have even warmed into a fight. With this in mind, Gaethje must start quickly and do everything possible to at least stay up going into the later rounds when his high work rate may pay off.
Gaethje Must Be Relentless, But Also Smart
It is one thing to ask a fighter to start strongly against Khabib, but quite another to find a way for him to go about doing it safely, without walking into a deadly strike or takedown situation.
Although Gaethje’s head movement and defense did improve against Ferguson, he still took far too many shots and must improve again if he is to evade Khabib’s attacks, applying measured pressure rather than being reckless.
Caption: Justin Gaethje has redoubled his efforts in sparring and training, but will it be enough to overcome the world’s pound-for-pound best?
Will Travel Issues and The Loss of his Father Adversely Affect Khabib?
Sometimes a fight can be decided long before the combatants enter the ring, and Gaethje’s best chance may be that Khabib has been unsettled by the recent loss of his father as well as the travel disruption that saw yet another proposed bout with Ferguson canceled.
It remains to be seen how the warrior from Dagestan will react, but it would probably be unwise to bet against him extending his record to 29-0, before following the lead of other combat sports pros in looking for a crossover bout against a boxer.