UFC 254: Bas Rutten Assesses Justin Gaethje’s Chances Against Khabib
Former UFC champion and Hall Of Famer Bas Rutten, believes Justin Gaethje has the tools required to dethrone the UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Gaethje, who became the interim UFC lightweight champion after dramatically beating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, will face the undefeated Dagestani in the main event of UFC 254 on October 25th on Fight Island.
A Change Of Approach
“I think [Gaethje] could be the guy who beats [Khabib],” Rutten said. “I truly believe so, because he’s a great wrestler – he might stop the takedowns. Listen, the best thing that ever happened to Gaethje was getting knocked out, because I had been telling him at the World Series of Fighting and PFL so many times, ‘Why do you fight like this?’ [He said], ‘Because it’s exciting and I want to be here for the fans.’ And I said, ‘Dude, eventually it’s going to hurt you. You want to be able to speak to your kids when you’re going to have kids, right?’
“When he got knocked out, now, suddenly, he starts fighting like his coach Trevor Wittman really wants. The way he was with [Tony] Ferguson, that was scary. I was afraid for Ferguson. He started shaking his head, I thought, oh, he’s got brain damage. He got hit so hard, and nobody’s been able to stop him. I know Gaethje is in Denver and he’s got the mile-high [environment], and they’ve got great stamina. I thought Ferguson could keep on pushing, but [Gaethje] had no problem.
“So now, Khabib is going to face someone with endless stamina, a freakin’ heart as big as a lion. Even if he’s tired, he will do the craziest things. He’s got great low kicks, he’s got great takedown defence, and who knows, man? He’s really started thinking later in his career, and that’s why you see him shine now. Maybe he’s going to shoot for a takedown. You don’t know what he’s going to do, because he’s never done it before.”
Leg Kicks And Endless Stamina
One of Gaethje’s many attributes are his vicious leg kicks. But Rutten thinks the ‘The Highlight’ would be wise to chop Khabib’s legs down in the later rounds, rather than risk exposing himself to takedowns in the earlier rounds.
“I think that if Gaethje can do that as well with his low kicks, I wouldn’t do that in the beginning especially, because that might set him up to be taken down,” Rutten continued. “But now we’re going to find out if we can stop the takedowns from Khabib, and if he can Khabib is in trouble.
“He know’s he’s got the endless stamina. So he’s going to push this fight. Khabib’s probably the guy who works everybody in the gym, so he needs to find ways to get him really tired, because otherwise, he’s playing his game and is still in his zone.
“I think if Gathje is pushing, pushing, pushing, and once [Khabib] gets tired, and that’s the moment you want to start implementing the low kicks. Like in rounds three or four, once they start getting tired, because Khabib – I think nobody has ever fought a guy like Gaethje. This guy just comes forward the whole time and everything is power, and he’s got endless stamina. He’s a very hard guy to fight.”
If Khabib does extend his unbeaten run, Rutten would like to see him face the former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who although is retired, has said that he would be tempted to return for a superfight with ‘The Eagle’.
“If he [wins] that, it’s going to live on for the next 1,000 years,” Rutten said.
Do you believe Justin Gaethje can beat the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254, as Bus Rutten suggests?