Justin Gaethje relying on the power of miracles

The challenge facing Justin Gaethje is an immense one. He may be pinching himself ahead of UFC 254 as he faces up to the task of taking on the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov, with the UFC Lightweight Championship on the line. It’s a position the American could never have expected to be in, in his wildest dreams. After all, he was only granted this opportunity after being drafted in as a late replacement for Khabib to take on Tony Ferguson. Many El Cucuy fans will feel that it is he who deserves to be squaring up to Khabib, but Gaethje defeated him against the odds, fair and square, to set up this intriguing clash.

Khabib represents a different kettle of fish, however. The Russian is about as fearsome an opponent as it is possible to face in the UFC. He is undefeated in 28 professional fights in his career, and overcomes challengers through a terrifying blend of power, speed and tenacity. He has ridden every challenge thrown at him throughout his career, and the odds on Khabib Nurmagomedov ahead of this next fight firmly favour the Russian. 

But hope lies for Gaethje in the nature of his victory over Ferguson. He had little right to even be there, let alone win, but he didn’t let the occasion get the better of him and produced a fine performance, despite getting knocked down at one stage. Ferguson was clearly unsettled by having to face a different opponent at relatively short notice, and Gaethje hatched a game plan to make the most of that, producing one of the greatest performances of his career, if not the greatest, to defeat El Cucuy and set up this clash against one of the best mixed martial artists of all time.

It would be a stretch to describe Gaethje’s win over Ferguson as a miracle, but that’s the word that comes to mind when one considers what it will take for him to repeat the trick against Khabib. The psychological impact of taking on a fighter who has never lost in his entire professional career is not insignificant, and if Gaethje is going to put up a good fight he’ll have to find a way to cast Khabib’s fearsome reputation to one side. 

But then, there may be a degree of uncertainty in the Khabib camp. After all, the Russian will have been expecting to take on Ferguson, even after he was forced to withdraw from the pair’s prior scheduled fight due to coronavirus restrictions in Russia. Now, facing Gaethje presents something of an unknown quantity, a challenge thrown from left-field. Add in the fact that Khabib has not fought since September of last year, a period that included the challenging lockdown measures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, and perhaps the outcome of this fight is not as clear-cut as one might think.

Those are the hopes Gaethje must cling to as he prepares for the biggest challenge of his professional career. He is taking on one of the greats, and the key is to cling to the positives of his victory over Gaethje, and to summon the belief that miracles are possible in the Octagon. 

Severe MMA Staff

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