Trail of destruction. This is the best explanation of Khabib Nurmagomedov's path (28-0 in MMA, 12-0 in UFC) in MMA, in general, and in UFC, in particular. Unbeaten in the strongest division in the world, with an extensive cartel for those who have been on the biggest world stage in the sport for almost nine years, the Russian not only wins, but does so emphatically, taking little risk and inflicting profound damage on opponents. The list of people who stayed along the way has heavy names like Conor McGregor, Rafael dos Anjos and Dustin Poirier, just to be among those who already held a belt in their homes.

Those who look from afar do not imagine that Khabib can have such a retrospective with his technical arsenal. He is not the most showy or accurate striker , although he is increasingly functional in this area. The point is that the champion combines two characteristics that make him a rare fighter: he is physically strong as a buffalo, although he does not have a muscular suit, and dominates the adaptation of wrestlingfor MMA like rare ones in the history of the sport. His ability to go into a downward movement and to be able to diversify his attacks without having to reposition his posture is something of the elite of the elite. That is, even if the opponent defends the first attempt, he will have to deal with the second, third, fourth consecutively, without breathing space. Invariably they all end up with their backs planted in the ground or stuck to the grid. To make matters worse, Nurmagomedov has a highly aggressive and offensive mentality, without fear of being hit in the face, as if nothing could stop the freight train that is derailed on top of the unwary poor man who shares the cage with him.

Trail of fun. This is the best explanation of Justin Gaethje's path (22-2 in MMA, 5-2 in UFC) in MMA, in general, and in UFC, in particular. The individual has more bonuses than fights in the most famous octagon in the world and is the only fighter in UFC history who won the award in the first seven fights in the organization. The coolest thing is that, for him, it makes no difference if the opponent is starving from the Ring of Fire or if he is Tony Ferguson, one of the greatest of all time: Gaethje comes out as if there is no tomorrow. It is a delight for the sport when a fan favorite of that level reaches a belt dispute in real conditions to beat the king.

Wrestler with All-American award in NCAA Division I in 2010, Gaethje at some remote point in his career used the sport as a flagship. Anyone who only met him at UFC, or even at WSOF, does not even imagine that he was a great wrestler . He is one of those cases that fell in love with the knockout and the feeling of putting his hand in someone else's face. Not only the hand on the face, but the shin on the legs is also robust. Justin used wrestlingto stand and exchange punches until someone gives up. However, after the pair of defeats suffered in 2018, he started to adopt a strategic profile, less exposed, but equally destructive. As a result, he fired like a rocket towards the interim belt, when he beat Ferguson in the best style of Ferguson, but with much less risk. The old Gaethje was incredibly fun and unstable. The new one remains equally legal and has become a war machine.
Just over a year ago, I wrote an article on how to stop Khabib Nurmagomedov . Gaethje appeared on the list not only because of my immense desire to see this fight materialized, but for being someone with enough technique and strength to sustain a melee fight without giving in to the fall. He did not appear in the combo “lateral movement, evasion, volume of blows and endless gas”. There was still “madness” against him, something that could prevent the extreme level of concentration needed to face Khabib and the lack of care to maintain his cardiorespiratory condition.

What has happened since then? Gaethje follows the same predicates as above and can now also be considered able to perform what I did not believe possible. Today, Justin manages to be evasive, can print lateral movement, throws an unpleasant volume of blows and improved the gas too much. This makes it, currently, the biggest challenge the champion has ever faced.

For the first time in his career, Nurmagomedov will have to think twice before hitting his opponent - that's all Gaethje wants. This may leave the Russian in the uncomfortable and unprecedented situation of not dictating the direction of the actions. And if the American feels comfortable controlling the pace of the fight, he could take Khabib to swim in deep waters. Can you imagine if Justin would force Khabib to fight backing down? I can see saliva running down the corner of your mouth.

For Nurmagomedov, it will be essential to carry out the transitions as quickly as possible. The less he avoids exchanging sticks while standing, the better to take the belt back to Dagestan. Allow Gaethje to approach, but be quick so you don't have to back down. Khabib is fully capable of doing this, but perhaps his time has come.

This fight is a disgrace to bet - I think the odds should be much more even - but Nurmagomedov is a man on a mission. He recently lost his father , the biggest supporter and his main coach. Seu Abdulmanap wanted to see his son reach 30-0. He is no longer here to witness, but I think that force will lead Khabib closer to the magic number. The bet is Nurmagomedov by decision after 25 minutes of the most dramatic.