When the cage door slams shut on Saturday evening, Justin Gaethje could have no choice however to stare immediately into the jet black eyes of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Being locked inside a 30-foot octagon with the Russian is a feat no man has ever loved, with 28 earlier opponents succumbing to the sheer drive and brute energy of ‘The Eagle’.
Gaethje is hoping he has the solutions at UFC 254 as he tries to turn into the undisputed light-weight champion of the world, reside on talkSPORT.
The American was born to combat and wrestled in his youth, earlier than changing into an NCAA Division I All American at North Colorado.
But nothing in sport can put together a person for the onslaught which Khabib brings. The 32-year-old from Dagestan infamously wrestled bears as a toddler and has arguably by no means misplaced a spherical in skilled MMA.
His coaching on the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California compliments his aggressive sambo background completely and his floor and pound is now matched by a powerful submission sport.
Earlier than he takes on the violent Gaethje, former heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier instructed ESPN precisely what makes Khabib so good as we take a look at what a few of his former foes within the UFC stated concerning the unstoppable drive.
Daniel Cormier – coaching accomplice at AKA and pal
“There have been occasions when Khabib was brief on coaching companions, and I’ll go in there and spar him, gentle, I’m not going onerous.
“However truthfully, you’ll be able to’t go as gentle with Khabib as you’d need. He’s not the conventional 155-pounder. He’s large, and he’s sturdy.
“He can wrestle, so that you type of have to provide him a bit of bit greater than you’d typically give a bit of man, however that’s what makes him so particular. He will be standing throughout the octagon from me, and that’s once I was the heavyweight champion of the world, and I’d go in there and spar with him a bit of, and that dude had no concern.
“I type of have to provide a bit of bit greater than I’d usually give a bit of dude, as a result of this dude’s really attempting to win.
“He’s getting higher at controlling, which is absurd, as a result of I don’t suppose I’ve ever seen a man higher at prime management in my life.
“He’s getting higher together with his stress on prime. He’s higher at chasing the finishes as soon as he will get on prime, as a result of for some time, he was simply beating guys up. He wasn’t ending them as a lot as he needed to. However now he’s getting finishes.”
Dustin Poirier – misplaced to him by way of submission at UFC 242
“It’s simply so onerous to get your footwork happening a man like Khabib, who simply bull-rushes and places you in opposition to the fence, and his ability stage in opposition to the fence is one thing I’ve by no means felt earlier than.
“His understanding of steadiness, the best way he makes use of his journeys, his weight distribution — it’s onerous to clarify to somebody who’s by no means been pressed up in opposition to the fence in a fight state of affairs. The man is nice.
“If Justin can use his footwork, use his wrestling within the open, I feel Justin would possibly be capable to outwrestle him within the open. However in opposition to the fence, I don’t suppose so.”
Al Iaquinta – misplaced to him by way of unanimous resolution at UFC 223
“Khabib is unorthodox on the toes. Though it would look a bit of – I don’t wish to name it ‘amateurish’ — it’s an issue. He’s an issue. He’s obtained chin. You take a look at Edson Barboza, that man is world class, and Khabib made him look regular.
“I didn’t wish to get taken down, however I imply, I simply went for it. Proper after the primary bell, I went straight ahead. The distinction with me is I didn’t discover out I used to be combating him till what, 24 hours earlier than. I used to be similar to, ‘ what? Let’s simply rock. Let’s go.’ I didn’t have a priority on the planet. I simply went on the market and winged it.”
Edson Barboza – misplaced to him by way of unanimous resolution at UFC 219
“I feel he’s very sturdy. He’s mentally very sturdy. All people is aware of his sport. All people is aware of his sport plan. And he goes there and [does] it.
“I feel that makes him totally different than different guys. All people is aware of what he thinks concerning the combat, what he’s doing within the combat. All people is aware of that — and no one can cease him. I feel he’s positively the most effective of all time in light-weight.”
Michael Johnson – misplaced to him by way of submission at UFC 205
“It was nothing loopy I haven’t seen earlier than, however I used to be anxious about his takedowns fairly a bit. I wasn’t actually snug. I stored my hips again as I threw punches and was leaving myself prolonged as a result of I didn’t wish to step into something. I used to be anxious about his shot. If I had simply centered on myself, I feel it will have been a distinct story.
“Throughout my camp, I had fairly a bit of individuals in my ear about his wrestling, how good it was, how good his management was – if I didn’t have these individuals in my ear with all that bulls***, I don’t suppose I’d have had such a difficulty. It wasn’t even his wrestling that was an issue, it was positively his prime management. I feel he offers you decisions. You may defend punches, or you’ll be able to attempt to stand up, or you’ll be able to attempt to get your wrists free. He’s all the time attacking and holding the place. He looks like a rattling middleweight, and I used to be a smaller light-weight.
“Folks speak concerning the left hand I landed, however I by no means actually thought I harm him as unhealthy as everybody thought I did. You see various things once you’re within the cage, and I didn’t see Khabib getting harm. I bear in mind him taking punch. That wasn’t my finest left hand as a result of, once more, my hips had been again and I didn’t step in with a variety of energy as a result of I used to be anxious concerning the takedown.”
Darrell Horcher – misplaced to him by way of TKO at UFC on FOX 19
“I wouldn’t say he’s bodily that sturdy. I’ve fought people who find themselves stronger. However he’s relentless together with his Sambo [Russian martial art]. As quickly as we hit the bottom, I couldn’t transfer.
“He’s actually good at getting his head off centre as he is available in. I practice with actually good wrestlers, and you’ll time takedowns with a shot, however he was excellent at getting his head out of the best way. There was no manner I may hit him. The timing off his photographs is nice, however he’s not a lot of a wrestler in that preliminary shot. It’s extra of a solution to chain into his Sambo. I obtained my hips out on his first shot, however he by no means stops. He’s going to simply observe you wherever you find yourself and work you down.
“I practice with gentle heavyweights and heavyweights, and that’s the closest I’ve ever felt to his prime sport. You get a light-weight heavyweight who in all probability weighs 230 kilos within the health club on prime of you – it felt about the identical to that. His toes had been in concrete. I went again to my nook, and I bear in mind going, ‘Yep. You may’t transfer him when he will get on prime of you.’ They usually simply stated, ‘Effectively, don’t let him get on prime of you.’ I used to be so drained. His stress simply sucks the wind out of you. Even in the event you’re in form, and I used to be out of practice from taking it on brief discover, it simply sucks it out of you.”
Rafael dos Anjos – misplaced to him by way of unanimous resolution at UFC on FOX 11
“He has good waist management. I felt like he type of centered on holding me down, as a result of after that combat, I didn’t have one scratch on me. I even referred to as my supervisor and requested to combat once more straight away. I fought 49 days later.
“I bear in mind for that combat, I educated little or no wrestling, which was one in all my errors. I assumed I’d be capable to hold it standing, however he’s wrestler. He’s been taking all people down within the UFC.”
talkSPORT brings you reside and unique protection of UFC 254 this Saturday. Pay attention on talkSPORT.com from 7pm, whereas protection will get underneath manner on talkSPORT 2 from 8pm.