Khabib Nurmagomedov-Justin Gaethje Goes Over 2.5 Rounds (-132)
Nurmagomedov is 28-0 for a reason, and despite what people thought about his bout with Gleison Tibau, “The Eagle” has officially lost exactly one single round on the scorecards in 12 UFC appearances. There is little in the way of evidence, whether on tape or on paper, that shows that Gaethje will be able to thwart the constant chain wrestling of his opponent and stay upright. Nurmagomedov’s last opponent, a man who survived Gaethje’s assault to win by stoppage, recently complained in a title fight, “I can’t get him the f— off of me.” That cry uttered by Dustin Poirier will likely be one echoed by Gaethje as the rounds progress, but the option that this fight hits the over on two-and-a-half rounds is an enticing one. Gaethje has never lost a fight that was the under, and Nurmagomedov has never lost, period. Instead of the easy option of Nurmagomedov at around -310, the round option presents greater value.
If one fighter breaks up this play, it is much more likely to be Gaethje. With 20 finishes across his 22 wins, Gaethje is the author of nine first-round demolitions, and he has stopped 12 men in under 2.5 rounds. Punching out James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone all within one round in consecutive showings leaves a lasting impression about the danger Gaethje poses. In addition to his eye-popping significant strikes landed per minute total of almost eight—the highest of any UFC fighter ever—his leg kicks are deadlier than most to ever grace the cage. His low kicks have played a factor in bouts throughout his career, and Nurmagomedov will have to contend with them for as long as the fight is upright.
The Dagestani champ can put a damper on these leg kicks and Gaethje’s overwhelming volume by doing what he does best. One single takedown attempt is never what Nurmagomedov brings to the table. Instead, the constant pursuit of them, along with continuous mat returns, can stifle even the best strikers in the world. Pound-for-pound talents Poirier and Conor McGregor could barely get off 50 significant strikes against him, and none were truly significant enough to give Nurmagomedov pause. Even when Nurmagomedov let off the gas and decided to stand and trade with Al Iaquinta for the majority of their bout, he held the advantage and kept someone normally known as an effective technical boxer at bay. The ability to adapt is crucial, but his pressure is paramount to winning this fight. Should Gaethje instead advance towards him and keep him at a distance with his back away from the fence, this fight could get a lot more interesting.
Entering this bout, Gaethje’s wrestling credentials are somewhat overstated. A Division I wrestler at the University of Northern Colorado, “The Highlight” was a onetime All-American and placed in the Top 10 nationally once. Although technically the most lauded wrestler Nurmagomedov has faced since the Dagestan native tossed around Kamal Shalorus, the old adage of “there are levels to this game” will likely be more evident in this area than when Gunnar Nelson attempted to outgrapple Demian Maia. Nothing could please Nurmagomedov more than forcing Gaethje to have to fight off takedowns, free himself from the clinch and otherwise exhaust a gas tank that has been questioned in the past.
This lightweight championship unification bout is about as clear-cut of a striker-versus-grappler classic as one could get, and it is indeed compelling. Gaethje’s stopping power and diverse arsenal of strikes, along with his utter relentlessness, are daunting challenges to overcome. An early left hook from Michael Johnson surprised “The Eagle,” and although Gaethje’s striking should surprise no one, getting Nurmagomedov to respect his power would work wonders for him. On the other hand, the takedown and just the mere threat of the takedown has felled lesser men throughout Nurmagomedov’s rise to the top. Even so, Gaethje’s durability has not let him down in the early going, and unless Nurmagomedov snatches an early submission when both fighters are dry or he gets cracked, this fight should reach the later rounds. Should this line be unappealing for the betting populace, Fight Starts Round 3 at -145, Nurmagomedov Wins Inside Distance at -110 or the upset play of Gaethje by TKO/KO at +430 are worth tying to a straight pick for one man or the other.
Is this gonna be a TV, in a bar or at Fridays or summin, or will I have to stream it? I have been having issues with vipbox. SO, any help would…er, help.