When Khabib Nurmagomedov takes to the Octagon to face Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, he’ll be bidding to make it 29 professional fights unbeaten. It’s an astounding record, especially given that going unbeaten is becoming more and more difficult in any combat sport these days, due to the remarkable standard that such sports are being played at across the globe.
But Khabib has proved himself to be cut from a different cloth, and has shown his supreme talents throughout his career to make it to this point of dominance. It’s no surprise that the Khabib odds have the Russian as the heavy favourite to defeat Gaethje and retain his UFC Lightweight Championship.
So, what is it that makes Khabib so remarkable? We’ve had a look at a few reasons why the 32-year-old strikes such an imposing figure for all who challenge him.
The most obvious reason for Khabib’s success is that he is simply an immensely talented fighter. Favouring a more wrestling-based approach, Khabib is a master at stifling his opponents and preventing them from getting the upper hand.
That’s not to say he doesn’t also possess extreme power in the punching department. Of his 28 victories in his professional career, eight of them have come by KO or TKO. Khabib’s versatility and ability to adapt based on the challenges his opponents throw his way is a key factor in getting him to where he is today.
Years of experience
Khabib is much like a fine wine in that he seems to be becoming more and more dangerous as the years go by. He has had a stellar career in mixed martial arts, with his first professional victory coming in 2008 against Vusal Bayramov in the CFSU: Champions League.
Since then, the Russian has slowly built up his experience to become one of the most fearsome fighters in the world. He began his UFC career in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since, building his way up to eventually become Lightweight champion of the world.
Beaten the best
The fact that Khabib has beaten some of the biggest names at his level is also a reason why opponents dread to take on the Russian in the Octagon. The latest of these was Dustin Poirier, who submitted to Khabib last September, in what is the Lightweight champion’s most recent fight.
But Khabib’s most memorable victory came a year earlier, when he got the better of legendary Irish fighter Conor McGregor in Las Vegas. It was a win that sent shockwaves throughout the sporting world, and established Khabib’s status as the best fighter in the UFC. Although there were ugly scenes after that fight, with both fighters ultimately hit with punishments, there was no arguing with Khabib’s victory.
Then you have the fact that no matter who comes up against Khabib, they are faced with the reality that no man in the world has ever defeated him. In a way, that can bring motivation for his opponents, the prospect that they can make history with one outstanding performance, but it can also create an immense amount of pressure for his challengers, and time and again we’ve seen them fold under the weight of Khabib’s status within the sport.
The question is, how will Gaethje cope with this pressure at UFC 254? Will he crumple beneath the weight of Khabib’s reputation, like so many before him, or will he rise to the challenge and produce another memorable victory?