Can Anybody Dethrone Khabib?

by Pub Sports Radio

Can Anyone Dethrone Khabib?

By; Clint MacLean (@DieHardMmaPod)

UFC 254 is the biggest fight card of 2020, and that is saying something. This card is absolutely stacked with fun and meaningful fights with a crescendo at the end featuring the two best 155ers on the planet. The King of the UFC’s premiere division is a magnificent 28-0 and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. 155 is the most stacked division the world has ever seen with a top 10 full of fighters who could have a claim to the title on any given night. Khabib has mauled the majority of them and any who have worked their way to a title shot. The question on everybody’s mind is: Can Khabib be beaten?

Let’s look at the resume of Khabib in the UFC. His journey started all the way back in 2012 and he was welcomed to the UFC by one Kamal Shalorus who was given his walking papers shortly after. Khabib mauled the poor man and choked him out in the 3rd round. Khabib’s UFC debut was a success and he was immediately thrown to the wolves after his dominating finish. Next Khabib went on a 4 fight run of Gleison Tibau, Thiago Tavares, Abel Trujiilo, and Pat Healy. All 4 of Khabib’s next opponents are recognizable names of UFC veterans who were highly respectable at the time and KHabib dominated all of them but Gleison Tibau who did give him and bit of a hard time.

After his run Khabib was finally ready to take a step up in competition. In 2014 Khabib was matched with Rafael dos Anjos who was on a tear at lightweight and was on his path to becoming the champion, but Khabib did to him what he did to absolutely everybody else. Next fell Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza, and finally Khabib took the lightweight title in a fight against Al Iaquinta. Since then Khabib has done nothing but defend that belt and the plan never changes.

The Eagle is a relentless wrestler who averages a ridiculous 5.35 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC cage. Not only does Khabib have one of the highest takedown attempt rates in the UFC, but he has an astounding 47% accuracy rating. Generally any fighter with that high of a take down rate is in the 30s for their accuracy. The trade off for all those extra takedown attempts is lower accuracy, but you get the takedown that you need. Khabib somehow combines both high output with high efficiency and is an anomaly in the game.

In a world where MMA fighters are getting more and more well rounded Khabib has gone the other direction with his game and has essentially doubled down on his ability to out-grapple his foes. Khabib’s striking is nothing to write home about, but it is used in order to distract his opponents and close the distance to initiate that wrestling. Khabib chains together takedown after takedown, always thinking 3-4 steps ahead and each opportunity or defense presents a new puzzle or problem.

When Khabib unified his title against former champion Conor McGregor he took him just 3 takedowns to finish the fight. Stylistically however this shouldn’t be overly surprising. Conor McGregor is a phenomenal striker but we have seen him gas in many fights and he is not a natural grappler. If you were going to create the perfect fighter to defeat Conor you would have Khabib. That fight was the single biggest bet of my life and I cashed in on Khabib being underestimated against the hype of Conor McGregor. Khabib toyed with Conor in the cage and wanted to inflict damage on him before ending the fight. He wanted Conor to feel helpless and teach him a lesson that night. Conor did well to survive until the 4th round but eventually was submitted.

Dustin Poirier was the next victim for Khabib and he claimed to have learned from Conor and was prepared to handle the wrestling of Khabib, but it took the champion even less time to dispose of the Diamond. Dustin was able to get up from under Khabib, but Khabib wore him down, returning him to the floor over and over. Where Conor was able to land 51 significant strikes Dustin only managed 12. Where Conor gave up 3 takedowns Dustin gave up 7. Conor made it to round 4 and Dustin tapped before the end of round 3. Looking at the 2 previous opponents for Khabib we have to ask ourselves if there is anything that Khabib’s opponent on Saturday can do that is any different.

Justin Gaethje is a very special human being. First, Justin is a natural wrestler. Where both Conor and Dustin are strikers who learned how to grappler Justin actually started his MMA career on the wrestling mats and figured out how to strike. Second, both Conor and Dustin are fighters who we have seen wilt and break in their fighting careers before. Justin is a freak of nature. A man without fear. We have seen him stopped in 2 fights in the UFC but we have never seen him break. Justin was a fighter who was looking to be entertaining and exciting, but never cared for strategy or the consequences. A few fights ago that changed. Justin has one of the best coaches in the game today in his corner and he has overhauled everything in order to become the best lightweight in the world. The changes Whittman and Gaethje made were on full display when Justin destroyed the only man everybody thought stood a chance against Khabib.

And lastly Gaethje is willing to go to that dark place. Conor is a great hammer, but a bad nail. Porier is willing to dig deep, but we have seen him fade. Justin Gaethje will bite down on his mouthpiece and swing harder when he gets hurt. Justin Gaethje will walk on destroyed legs through the fire in order to land the winning punch. The only men who have been able to defeat Gaethje are more technical boxers than he is and this was before his decision to chase the gold. Current Gathje is much smarter with his attacks and will not leave the same openings and he is fighting an entirely different fighter. One he might be built specifically to defeat. We saw a wrestler in Al Iaquinta cause Khabib problems, but he lacked the striking ability to do anything with it. Justin is the perfect blend of wrestler and striker. Justin has the right mentality with just the right amount of crazy to do what those who came before him failed to. Justin has the power to end this fight on at any second.

You ask who can dethrone Khabib?

Justin Gaethje can dethrone Khabib. #AndNew  

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