Whatever advantages Justin Gaethje might have in the wrestling, Khabib Nurmagomedov will have plenty of his own according to American Kickboxing Academy head coach Javier Mendez.
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In just over a week, Nurmagomedov meets Gaethje in a highly-anticipated lightweight title unification bout in the UFC 254 headliner on October 24. It’s a fight many observers in the combat sports world are eager to see as they believe Gaethje has the skillset required to inflict Nurmagomedov’s first loss.
Two of Gaethje’s big weapons are the fight-ending power in his fists and his devastating leg kicking ability. However, the one major trump card everyone repeatedly talks about is his Division I All-American wrestling credentials.
Although he doesn’t use his wrestling in his fights, there is a belief that if anyone can get up, if not prevent Nurmagomedov’s takedowns, it’s Gaethje.
Mendez certainly believes Gaethje’s wrestling will put Nurmagomedov to the test. That said, “The Eagle” has advantages of his own given that this is a mixed martial arts fight — not a pure wrestling match.
“Well, from a wrestling standpoint, I’m sure it’s not Division I level at the present time. But from an MMA standpoint, I’m sure it’s the best it could be,” Mendez told Submission Radio of Gaethje’s wrestling ability. “He might very well have the best takedown defense out of anybody because he has that wrestling background. But remember, this is MMA, there’s a lot of variables to takedowns. So, that’s an advantage he has, but that’s also an advantage we have. It’s not pure wrestling. If it was a pure wrestling match, I don’t know how we’d fare.
“But this isn’t wrestling, this is MMA. So, there’s a lot of things you can do in MMA that you can’t do in wrestling that would prevent the takedown in a regular wrestling match. But in an MMA match there’s almost sometimes nothing you can do, you’re getting taken down regardless. If you get hit in the right spot and it’s done proper, you’re going down.”
There could certainly be a possibility that Gaethje is able to stuff Nurmagomedov’s takedowns in the early rounds.
At the same time, “The Highlight” has never faced anyone with a wrestling-heavy game such as Nurmagomedov which will ultimately prove to be his disadvantage according to Mendez.
“His credentials are extremely dangerous because he’s used to wrestling, so it’s a big advantage for him in the sense of fighting everybody,” Mendez added. “But the big disadvantage I feel is he’s never met anybody that’s going to continue to stay on the wrestling and continue to wrestle him five rounds. He’s going to have to wrestle five rounds.
“It’s not gonna be that Khabib’s gonna shoot in a couple of times and it’s over. How many times have you seen Khabib stop after two shots? Uh-uh. Unless he wants to stop, he’s not stopping. He’s prepared to go five rounds, attempt takedown after takedown. And if he’s successful one time, he’ll be successful two times. And if you’re successful two times and you manage to get up after two, I don’t know how much more you’re going to have.”
You can watch the full interview below: