UFC

UFC 254: Khabib Nurmagomedov v Justin Gaethje - the big fight focus

By Sports Desk October 22, 2020

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje will put it all on the line in a mouth-watering lightweight unification bout that has undoubted fight-of-the-year potential at UFC 254.

Fearsome undefeated Russian Khabib puts up his title against interim champion Gaethje in Abu Dhabi in an intriguing fight between two contrasting styles.

Just five months ago, the prospect of these two mixing it to decide who the main man of the lightweight division is seemed pretty fanciful.

And then the course of history in arguably the most stacked category in UFC was altered dramatically in Jacksonville.

Journey with us as we recall how we got here and look at Khabib and Gaethje in profile ahead of Saturday's super showdown.


HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT?

An enthralling tale begins with a curse that has starved hungry UFC fans of a fight so many have wanted to see for so long.

Back in April, Khabib was supposed to face Tony Ferguson, only for the coronavirus pandemic to prevent the former from travelling to the United States. Incredibly, it was the fifth time a scheduled contest between the two legends of the game was kiboshed.

Instead, Gaethje stepped in to face Ferguson behind-closed-doors in May at a UFC 249 event that was moved from Brooklyn to Jacksonville.

It was supposed to be a formality. Ferguson was meant to come through an admittedly tricky challenge and then finally face Khabib later in 2020.

But Gaethje had not read the script and instead forged a path towards a shot at ultimate lightweight supremacy by stopping Ferguson with a brutal clinic to win the interim belt and immediately call out Khabib.

Rumours of retirement following the sad death of his father and coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov were denied by Khabib, who will now be back in the Octagon for the first time in over a year.


GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS

Submission specialist Khabib is a hall-of-fame shoo-in and had already beaten notable names Rafael dos Anjos and Edson Barbosa by the time he defeated Al Iaquinta to capture the strap.

An infamous defence against Conor McGregor followed before his latest win over Dustin Poirier which means he remains undefeated in 28 professional MMA bouts.

The only two blots on Gaethje's impressive record are certainly no cause for shame, with Eddie Alvarez and Poirier the men to have defeated him.

Since that latter defeat, Gaethje has responded with four straight wins against James Vick, Barbosa, Donald Cerrone and Ferguson – the last of which of course saw him become interim champ.


WHAT'S THEIR MMA RECORD (W-L-D)?

Khabib: 28-0-0

Gaethje: 22-2-0


TALE OF THE TAPE

Khabib:

Age: 32
Height: 5' 10" (177cm)
Weight: 155 lbs (70 kg)
Reach: 70"
Leg Reach: 40"

Gaethje:

Age: 31
Height: 5' 11" (180cm)
Weight: 155 lbs (70 kg)
Reach: 70"
Leg Reach: 40"


WHAT THEY'VE SAID ABOUT THE FIGHT

Khabib: "I'm focused on Justin Gaethje on Saturday night. What the UFC has after this fight you'd be better to ask this guy [Dana White], because he calls us and then we talk about fights. What's going to happen after I don't know. Right now, I'm focused on Justin Gaethje."

Gaethje: "I know he's confident in what he does. He's done it 28 times. I expect him to believe that's what's going to happen. I've been telling myself that's what's going to happen, as a matter of fact. That's what drives me every single day. I'm a performer, I always show up under the lights, that's what I do. I've been doing this as long as he has."


FIGHT STATS IN UFC

Khabib:

- Khabib has an average fight time of 13 minutes and 56 seconds, with 36 per cent of his victories coming via submission.

- He has landed 49 per cent of significant strikes and lands 4.29 significant strikers per minute on average.

- In terms of grappling, Khabib has a takedown average of 5.09 per 15 minutes and a takedown success rate of 44 per cent.

- Khabib has defended against 66 per cent of significant strikes and 84 per cent of takedowns.

Gaethje:

- Gaethje connects on average with 7.74 significant strikes per minute and has a success rate of 59 per cent with such strikes.

- The American has won 86 per cent of his fights via way of KO/TKO, with five per cent via submission and nine per cent from a decision.

- The average fight time for Gaethje stands at 10 minutes and 11 seconds.

- He has guarded against 54 per cent of significant strikes and has a takedown defence of 80 per cent.

Related items

  • Hawks star Trae Young diagnosed with lateral ankle sprain Hawks star Trae Young diagnosed with lateral ankle sprain

    Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young has been diagnosed with a lateral left ankle sprain, the NBA franchise announced on Thursday.

    Young hurt his ankle during Wednesday's 137-127 loss to the New York Knicks, having posted 20 points and 14 assists before exiting in the third quarter.

    Ruled out for Atlanta's next two games, Young's injury status will be updated.

    Young has been averaging 25.3 points, a career-high 9.6 assists – only bettered by Russell Westbrook (10.9) and James Harden (10.9) in 2020-21 – and 3.9 rebounds per game for the high-flying Hawks this season.

    The 2020 All-Star (516) is only second to Washington Wizards star Westbrook (557) for total assists this term.

    Young has helped the Hawks (32-27) catapult themselves into the playoff picture, with Atlanta fifth in the Eastern Conference.

  • Tottenham need trophies to keep Spurs star Kane, insists Woodgate Tottenham need trophies to keep Spurs star Kane, insists Woodgate

    Tottenham have to start delivering trophies if they are to keep hold of star Harry Kane amid links with Manchester United and Manchester City, according to Jonathan Woodgate.

    Kane, who has said he will assess his future after the delayed Euro 2020 tournament with England, is reportedly ready to quit Tottenham in pursuit of silverware.

    The 27-year-old striker is yet to win a trophy with boyhood club Tottenham, who sacked Jose Mourinho on Monday and are set to face City in Sunday's EFL Cup final.

    Former Tottenham defender Woodgate – now head coach of Championship outfit Bournemouth – was part of the Spurs team that last won silverware via the 2008 EFL Cup.

    Woodgate insisted Tottenham must do more than beat City in the upcoming decider at Wembley to hold on to Kane, who has been linked with both Manchester clubs and Real Madrid.

    "They have to [start winning silverware] with the stadium they have built and with the players they have got," said Woodgate.

    "They have got the best striker in England in Harry Kane so they need to start winning trophies for him.

    "They're a well-run football club but they need to start soon."

    Kane reached 20 Premier League goals for a fifth season with the first of his brace against Everton last week, though he was forced off late in the 2-2 draw on Merseyside with an ankle injury.

    The England international's two goals at Goodison Park lifted him to 164 for his career in the Premier League, good enough for seventh on the competition's all-time list. Thierry Henry (175) and Frank Lampard (177) are next in his sights, while Alan Shearer sits top on 260.

    Kane sat out Spurs' 2-1 home win over Southampton on Wednesday – the first outing with temporary boss Ryan Mason in charge – and it remains unclear if he will recover in time to feature in the City showdown.

  • Blue Jays' Springer nearing Toronto debut, could return for Rays series Blue Jays' Springer nearing Toronto debut, could return for Rays series

    Toronto Blue Jays star George Springer is moving closer to his long-awaited debut following an injury-hit start to life with the MLB franchise.

    Springer was lured to Toronto on a six-year, $150million contract from the Houston Astros via free agency – the largest deal in Blue Jays history – but injuries have prevented the 2017 World Series champion and MVP from debuting for the MLB hopefuls.

    The three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger had been nearing a return from a left oblique strain, but tightness in his right quad has sidelined Springer.

    However, Springer will play in Friday's intra-squad game and could make his much-anticipated Blue Jays bow in the upcoming three-game series against American League (AL) East rivals the Tampa Bay Rays, with the final two games played on Saturday and Sunday.

    "He's excited; we're exceptionally excited," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said on Thursday. "Tomorrow is a great day for George.

    "He's doing all baseball activity, he's extremely confident and strong. Now it's just a matter of recovery and putting him in a position to play nine innings and feel like he can face elite major league pitching.

    "Tomorrow will be a very important day to determine what that next step is and what's best for him."

    Heading into the 2021 season, Springer had led MLB with 136 home runs from the lead-off spot since 2015.

    Springer has 39 lead-off home runs in his career – fourth most all-time behind Rickey Henderson (73), Ian Kinsler (48) and Brady Anderson (44).

    The 31-year-old Springer has recorded seven career World Series home runs – most from the lead-off spot all-time – and he is 19-for-56 (.339) in the World Series in his career. No other current Blue Jays player has a World Series hit in their career.

    Springer's 174 home runs since debuting in MLB via Houston are third most by an Astro in a player's first seven career seasons, behind only Jeff Bagwell (187) and Lance Berkman (180).

    Meanwhile, in another boost for the Blue Jays, star Nate Pearson (groin) will start and pitch two-three innings in Friday's intra-squad game.

    The Blue Jays (8-10) are third in the AL East, behind leaders the Boston Red Sox (12-7) and Rays (10-9).

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.