Is Justin Gaethje Khabib Nurmagamedov’s Kryptonite?
Justin Gaethje is having a great 2019. After knocking out Donald Cerrone he’s in the best position of his UFC career. It’s no surprise that he’s a massive fan-favourite because he brings violence to every card he fights on. The big question for ‘The Highlight’ is who is next?
Gaethje is being linked heavily to a fight with Conor McGregor. The Notorious is expected to make his return late this year or early in 2020. From a rankings perspective, this fight would make sense. However, does McGregor really want to play with that kind of fire?
Some have suggested that if things get complicated between the UFC and Tony Ferguson, then Gaethje will get the next title shot. Many believe that he’s one of just a couple of fighters with a genuine chance of taking out Khabib Nurmagamedov. Let’s consider his chances today.
On the Feet
First of all, let’s talk about their chances on the feet. This is where Gaethje would be expected to do better. In his earlier UFC days, he was a savage brawler, but losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier taught him a harsh lesson. It’s not sustainable to fight that way against the very best.
Since then, he’s more selective in his striking. Gaethje has superb power as proven against James Vick and Cerrone. If he catches Nurmgamedov then the Russian would be in trouble.
Verdict: Gaethje – but striking advantages don’t matter against Khabib.
This is where it gets interesting. Khabib is exceptional at taking his opponents down and dragging them to the fence. Gaethje would definitely be the best wrestler he has faced in the UFC. He’s an NCAA All-American and has outstanding credentials. We saw how Khabib struggled to take down Al Iaquinta. Gaethje would be even more difficult.
Verdict: This one could go either way. Gaetjhe would definitely offer Khabib a new puzzle to solve.
On the Mat
Although Gaethje is an All-American wrestler, Khabib’s pedigree speaks for itself. The sambo stylist is possibly the best offensive grappler on the roster, with the exception of Daniel Cormier. When Gaethje gets taken down, it’s going to take a lot to get back to his feet. Michael Bisping has said that footwork is the key to avoiding the takedown and this is something Gaethje would have to employ.
Verdict: On the surface, you’d have to say Khabib. His results speak for themselves. However, Gaethje has the wrestling nous to respond to the Russian – even if we haven’t seen him use it in the UFC so far.
On paper, this is Khabib’s most finely-balanced match-up. However, that doesn’t mean it will happen. Tony Ferguson definitely should be next in line. Consequently, the Russian’s father has said that his son will only fight twice more.
If the UFC agrees on a deal with Georges St. Pierre then a Gaethje clash may never happen. In short, as long as we get Ferguson first, anything else is a bonus.