UFC 254 is fast approaching, and with it comes the mouth-watering prospect of Khabib Nurmagomedov taking on Justin Gaethje. Of course, Khabib needs no introduction, with the Russian unbeaten in 28 professional fights in his career, not once tasting defeat on his road to winning the UFC Lightweight Championship.
Gaethje, on the other hand, will be relishing this opportunity, after defeating Tony Ferguson back in May in a fight that was supposed to feature Khabib, but coronavirus restrictions prevented the Russian from travelling.
Now, the pair go head-to-head, and it’s no surprise that the Khabib odds on winning are significantly more favourable than Gaethje’s. However, Khabib has not fought in over a year, and his opponent will perhaps see that as an opportunity to take advantage of an opponent who may be slightly rusty. As we rub our hands in anticipation ahead of the big fight, let’s take a look back at Khabib’s last five fights.
Michael Johnson, November 2016
Khabib’s win against Michael Johnson in the autumn of 2016 was another step along the Russian’s road to success, and he defeated the American via submission in just the third round. It was the kind of performance Khabib has made his signature, grinding opponents down with his supreme power and prowess, and Johnson felt the full force of the Russian at UFC 205 in New York City.
Edson Barboza, December 2017
Khabib’s next victim was Edson Barboza, over a year after he defeated Johnson. The Brazilian proved a sterner test for Khabib, and it took a points decision for him to eventually get the result, although his win was never really in doubt. The display earned Khabib the Performance of the Night award for UFC 219, setting up a showdown with Al Iaquinta that would determine who laid claimed to the UFC Lightweight Championship belt.
Al Iaquinta, April 2018
It was just a few months later when Khabib defeated Iaquinta to become Lightweight champion. It was a seminal moment for the Russian, who proved he had the class and talent to be a serial UFC winner, and although it took another points decision for him to get the win, there was no doubt over the fact that Khabib richly deserved to earn the status of a division champion.
Conor McGregor, October 2018
This is the fight that brought Khabib into the public eye in a major way, and not necessarily for the reasons he would’ve liked. The fight against UFC legend Conor McGregor, who had previously stepped away from the Octagon to take on Floyd Mayweather Jr in a boxing match, was one of the biggest and most hotly anticipated sporting events of 2018.
It was Khabib who dominated the fight, winning by submission in the fourth round, but the event was marred by ugly scenes after the fight, as the Khabib and McGregor entourages clashed while riots broke out among spectators. But in terms of his performance, it was a display which cemented Khabib’s status as a great champion.
Dustin Poirier, September 2019
Khabib returned to the Octagon just under a year later, finishing Dustin Poirier in the third round and defending his Lightweight belt once again. That set up the slated fight with Ferguson, but Russian restrictions surrounding coronavirus prevented him from travelling for the event, so Gaethje was drafted as a late replacement.
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