Who has the advantage of the fight?

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By Dan Tom |

July 30, 2020 12:00 P.M.

While UFC President Dana White recently announced that the promotion has set up a lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje for October 24 at UFC 255, many of us, including myself, were shocked by the recent death of Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.

While I can come up with my own speculation as I desperately search for Michael Jordan’s parallels, the only real comparison worth mentioning is the fact that Adbulmanap’s death will likely bleed into much of the media coverage before it. relevant sporting future of his son. Rather than adding this inflowing boat of unfair intangibles, I’ll instead focus on the most intriguing aspect of this first look at combat: the wrestling trades.

The two fighters come from different stylistic backgrounds, applying wrestling in totally different ways. Gaethje, who has been wrestling since the age of 4, has adopted the American system of folk wrestling, which he believes could confuse Nurmagomedov.

Of course, Nurmagomedov may have a basis in freestyle wrestling (as his father was a master of freestyle sport under the USSR), but I don’t know how far the established rule regarding exposure of your back will play in interference given both. the champion’s fighting sambo background and MMA wrestling preferences.

Learning from his father, who worked with world-class sambo and judo coaches in and out of the military, Nurmagomedov eventually made a successful transition to combat sambo, showing an aptitude for aggression, as well as positional awareness. And in his MMA career, Nurmagomedov has apparently refined the metagame when it comes to positional rides and all-in returns that encourage the opposition to give each other their backs (or necks) just to get out of Dodge.

If Nurmagomedov can compromise Gaethje’s hips and force his favorite streaks, then the American’s confidence in his folk scrambling could be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, Gaethje could dust off the Granby rollers that got him out of sticky situations with grapplers like Luiz Firmino, as I suspect those scrambling options will have a lot more play against Nurmagomedov given Abel Trujillo’s success. . But on the other hand, Gaethje’s propensity to tripod and turn into opposition could play directly into Nurmagomedov’s forces.

Still, Gaethje’s initial line of defense – from difficult counter-strikes to wide ranges – will provide a stern test for the entries Nurmagomedov uses to push his opponents towards the fence.

By checking all of the boxes for a solid spread, Gaethje’s hips are wired to touch the ground whenever someone changes levels, as strong sub-hooks are usually in tow. More often than not, Gaethje will stop the pullout momentum before it gets too deep, using a lifting hook as he seeks to separate his opponent’s hold with his other arm.

Once able to face his enemies inside the melee, Gaethje intelligently frames his opponent’s hips while using a solid head position to help him point in the desired direction. While these defensive layers seem to hold up well throughout the early parts of Gaethje’s college games, the former All-American wrestler – similar to parts of his fighting career – struggled with astute opposition as he entered. in the competition.

While the weight reductions may have been a contributing factor for Gaethje in the video above, you can see some of the potential issues with giving the back or getting out of position against someone who knows how to wrap. legs and back up. Add to the fact that Gaethje himself admitted that wrestling tends to tire him out, and things could get risky the longer things go on.

Ultimately, the wrestling dynamic between these two could be tricky: I see Gaethje has an early advantage with frontline defenses and momentum, while Khabib should be able to show his mat wrestling superiority. if he can exert his pressure for long periods of time. time.

You’ll have to wait until fight week for my official prediction, as there’s still a lot to digest before UFC 255 arrives.

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