UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje Preview, Predictions and Picks

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Tyler Monahan
Tyler Monahan is a recent graduate of Montclair State University where he majored in Communication and Media. A lifelong Philadelphia sports fan Tyler began writing for several Philadelphia blogs in the past few years mainly covering the Philadelphia 76ers. You can follow Tyler on Twitter @TMon_19 for all of his picks as well as his other random sports takes.

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje fight for the lightweight title this weekend at the Flash Forum on Yas Island.

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With 2020 quickly coming to an end UFC fans have a chance to watch one of the best cards of the year this Saturday. Headlined by an incredible matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje for the formers lightweight championship, the fights before the main event are sure to impress also. The card is filled with heavy hitters so we could be in store for tons of knockouts and highlight reel moments so don’t blink. We are sure to have some fireworks and I am pumped to watch.

All odds from FOXBet Sportsbook

UFC Record: 25-8

Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris

This is a really interesting matchup between two guys who are good enough to be considered contenders in the heavyweight division but just can’t string together wins to get to the top of the mountain. Volkov is the younger fighter and yet still has 18 more fights in his career, he has seen basically all the division has to offer and is still standing. One of the reasons this is the case is because he is able to take the heaviest of punches and continue to swing, he has 20 career knockout wins and has only been knocked out himself twice.

Walt Harris is known to have some of the strongest hands in the UFC so Volkov’s jaw will be put to the test. Harris has the ability to knockout people early and he is too reliant on that fact, once he gets out of the first round he has shown the propensity to go back on his training and just start swinging, tiring himself out looking for a knockout. If Volkov can control the pace of this fight like he’s shown he can and just tire out Harris this fight should be his.

Pick: Alexander Volkov moneyline -188

Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier

Because the headliner of this card is Nurmagomedov vs Gaethje no one is really giving the attention to Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier that it deserves. These two are at the top of their games and are fighting for a guaranteed match for the middleweight championship with champion Israel Adesanya.

Whittaker wants his revenge after Adesanya took the belt from him and Cannonier is the up and comer that Adesanya said he wants to fight. Because of the run of form Cannonier is on many are backing him as he is now the favorite in this fight but honestly I just think Robert Whittaker is the better, more well-rounded fighter in this matchup. Whittaker can do it all and has shown he can win however necessary, whether it’s on his feet knocking someone out, on the ground submitting someone or by just taking the damage and winning a fight by decision.

I don’t think Cannonier is able to pick and choose how he defeats an opponent at this point in his career, he needs to stick to one singular game plan. Robert Whittaker showed that he still has quick hands and can dominate pace and make opponents fight his style back in July against Darren Till, I think a similar story unfolds this Saturday.

Pick: Robert Whittaker moneyline +100

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje

In the fight the world has been waiting for Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov makes his return to the octagon after over a year off and defends his title against Justin Gaethje. Known as one of the most dangerous men in not only the UFC, but the world, Nurmagomedov is going to look to make quick work out of his opponent that is in the middle of the best run of his career.

Justin Gaethje is coming off of an incredible showing against one of the most well respected fighters in the game in Tony Ferguson where he looked like he had cinderblocks for hands with the weight that he was throwing his knockout punches. He is known for his knockout prowess (19 knockouts in 22 career wins) but he is also a former All-American wrestler during his time at the University of Northern Colorado so he can hold his own on the ground.

Gaethje might be firing on all cylinders but he has never had to go up against someone like Khabib Nurmagomedov. The champion can turn your biggest strength into your biggest weakness. I expect Nurmagomedov to challenge Gaethje on the ground and look for a submission while also controlling the clock for a majority of this fight. It isn’t always the most exciting brand of fighting but it is a winning style. There is a reason that many expect Nurmagomedov’s title run to be so lengthy and that is because he knows how to win fights without putting himself in positions to get hurt.

I think Justin Gaethje has a long career ahead of him but this could serve as a wakeup call that he needs to form a well-rounded game in order to go up against fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov. Unless Gaethje sneaks in an early punch that turns the champions lights off I see Khabib Nurmagomedov dominating this fight on the ground.

Pick: Khabib Nurmagomedov by Submission or Decision -143

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