UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has made his prediction for his UFC 254 title defense against interim champion Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje is widely regarded as the toughest foe Nurmagomedov has faced to date, but the undisputed champion sees a clear path to victory in the fight. He intends to do the same thing he always does: chase takedowns until he’s got his foe where he wants him.
“Nothing changes,” Nurmagomedov said at the recent UFC 254 media day (via MMA Fighting). “I’m going to try wrestling with him. If he’s going to defend my takedowns for a long time, I’m going to try second, third, I’m going to try 100 times.
“Of course, I’m going to box with him. I’m going to kick with him. It’s going to be kickboxing and wrestling mixed.”
Nurmagomedov is considered one of the best grapplers in MMA. Even still, securing the takedown against Gaethje, a decorated wrestler in his own right, will not be easy, but the champion believes its doable.
“I think he has good wrestling defense, very good wrestling defense,” Nurmagomedov said about Gaethje. “He knows how to wrestle. He’s wrestled almost all his life. But I don’t think the last five, six years, he used his wrestling how I use. Because I always use my wrestling. In training, inside the cage, because wrestling and top control, this is what make me champion. I don’t think the last couple of years he becomes a very good wrestler.
“He has the base, like you have when he was a kid, but right now everything has changed. Of course, he knows how defend if someone try to take him down and we all know about his conditioning, too. If I’m going to attack him the first two rounds, the third round I think he’s going [to be] finished. Because he don’t have good conditioning.”
Nurmagomedov also believes he can outfox Gaethje in the Octagon by relying on his superior fight IQ—although he acknowledges his upcoming foe has plenty of intangibles to rely on as well.
“I think my fighting IQ is much better than Justin Gaethje,” Nurmagomedov said. “He’s just a tough guy. He like fighting. He like blood. He’s like real warrior but when we talk about fighting IQ, I think my fighting IQ is much better than he has.
“Of course, Justin can fight. He can go deep. He has heart. But if you’re talking fighting IQ, I think I have much better than him.”
If Nurmagomedov is able to execute his gameplan, he believes he’ll be able to tire his challenger out, and finish him in the third or fourth round.
“My goal is to make him tired,” Nurmagomedov said. “I’m going to make him tired. This is my goal. Maybe round No. 3 or round No. 4, my plan is finish him.”
Do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov can make good on this prediction for his fight with Justin Gaethje?