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UFC 254 viewers information – Khabib will get the challenger he desires in ‘high-level’ Gaethje

One of my favourite issues anybody has mentioned within the buildup to the UFC 254 foremost occasion this weekend got here from Khabib Nurmagomedov as he was discussing being on “Fight Island.”

Nurmagomedov (28-0, 12-Zero within the UFC) might be trying to unify his light-weight championship in opposition to interim belt holder Justin Gaethje (22-2, 5-2 UFC) on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — in an occasion that can occur within the afternoon, U.S. time (pay-per-view foremost card at 2 p.m. ET). In a latest interview with ESPN, the champ mainly outlined all of the the explanation why he should not be there. Those included COVID-19 testing, weight reducing, interviews and stress. Frankly, loads of stuff he might do with out.

“Why I come here?” Nurmagomedov mentioned. “Everything that is occurred the final 4 months, the whole lot happening with COVID, why I would like this struggle? I already one of many biggest, among the best fighters of all time. I’ve cash. I’ve identify. I’ve enterprise. I’ve household, children. I’ve the whole lot. Why I would like struggle?

“I’ve just one factor why I’m right here. I actually wish to compete with high-level fighters on the earth. Justin Gaethje, proper now, interim champion, lot of individuals speak he can beat me. OK, that is why I come right here, even after what occurred final 4 months.”

Yes, Nurmagomedov is the undefeated champion, the one trying to transfer to 29-Zero this weekend after which, probably, 30-Zero earlier than retirement. Everyone loses in MMA — that is what we all the time say. It’s nearly inconceivable to stroll away from the best degree with an ideal report. But Nurmagomedov is difficult that assertion, and that makes each considered one of his fights vital.

In a really huge manner, although, this struggle at UFC 254 feels huge additionally due to Gaethje. Who would have ever thought, in the beginning of 2020, we might transfer on from a canceled struggle between Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson and by no means look again? We had waited five years for that Ferguson struggle, which was booked 5 occasions, and it by no means occurred. But we’re OK with it due to what Gaethje did to Ferguson again in May.

Bad blood won’t have drawn Nurmagomedov again to the Octagon in 2020 after the dying of his father. Money wouldn’t have drawn Nurmagomedov again to the Octagon. Justin Gaethje did, as a result of Nurmagomedov perceives Justin Gaethje as an actual risk.

And by the way in which, remember that Gaethje nixed the thought of preventing Conor McGregor this summer season as a result of a title struggle in opposition to Nurmagomedov was way more necessary to him. How about that? Just about each fighter on the earth would like to face McGregor, besides the 2 who’re preventing this weekend, Nurmagomedov and Gaethje.

In a sport that’s pushed by storylines, rivalries and sometimes the “cash struggle,” this foremost occasion feels nearly healthful in a manner. Not to say, refreshing.

By the numbers

0: Gaethje fights within the UFC which have led to any consequence aside from a KO/TKO. He has knocked out 5 opponents and been KO’d by the opposite two. The 5 knockouts go away Gaethje simply two behind the lively chief amongst lightweights, Edson Barboza (a Gaethje KO sufferer, by the way in which). Gaethje has had seven UFC bouts, Barboza 24.

57: Takedowns within the light-weight division by Nurmagomedov, essentially the most amongst lively UFC 155-pounders. And the champ does one thing with these takedowns. He has landed 308 floor strikes throughout his UFC profession, essentially the most ever by a light-weight.

12: UFC victories for the unbeaten Nurmagomedov. A win Saturday would put him in a tie with Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson and Max Holloway for the second most all time, behind Anderson Silva (16).

7.74: Significant strikes landed per minute by Gaethje, essentially the most in UFC historical past. And the challenger is correct, too, touchdown 59.2% of his makes an attempt, greatest ever for a light-weight. That accuracy is necessary in opposition to a forward-moving takedown machine like Nurmagomedov. A swing and miss might lead to Gaethje being taken to the canvas and smothered for the remainder of the spherical, if not worse.

17: Seconds that Gaethje has spent in backside place throughout his seven UFC fights (two takedowns). That is simply 0.4% of his whole struggle time, giving him the third-smallest share of backside place time in light-weight historical past. Gaethje’s takedown protection and talent to scramble again to his ft are going to be examined early and sometimes Saturday.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats

The most necessary variety of all for MMA followers:
UFC 254’s uncommon morning begin time — do not miss it

11: Morning kickoff (ET) for early prelims on ESPN+, with extra prelims at midday on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+, adopted by the six-fight foremost card at 2 p.m. on pay-per-view (which fans can purchase via ESPN+).

A glance again

Five vs. 5

Khabib Nurmagomedov’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Dustin Poirier (SUB3, Sept. 7, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Conor McGregor (SUB4, Oct. 6, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Al Iaquinta (UD, April 7, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Edson Barboza (UD, Dec. 30, 2017)
Win: Michael Johnson (SUB3, Nov. 12, 2016)

Justin Gaethje’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Tony Ferguson (TKO5, May 9, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Donald Cerrone (TKO1, Sept. 14, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Edson Barboza (KO1, March 30, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: James Vick (KO1, Aug. 25, 2018)
Loss: Dustin Poirier (TKO4, April 14, 2018; watch on ESPN+)

Dom & Gil’s movie examine

Gilbert Melendez on Nurmagomedov’s tight takedowns:

Dominick Cruz on Gaethje’s ahead stress:

And the winner is …

If you go by the betting odds, oddsmakers don’t see Gaethje as Nurmagomedov’s biggest problem. The champ is a much bigger favourite now than he was in opposition to Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor in his final two fights, and even Edson Barboza years in the past. But to me, Gaethje poses the largest risk thus far. And I feel a part of that is because of timing. Gaethje appears to be on the absolute pinnacle of his profession. I’m undecided he’ll ever be any higher (or extra assured) than he’s proper now. And as dominant as Nurmagomedov is, I can see a transparent path to victory for Gaethje. He has the cardio, the ending capacity, the wrestling background. I cannot be shocked if Gaethje wins this struggle. I can not guess in opposition to Nurmagomedov, although; it is inconceivable to do. In his hardest struggle thus far, Nurmagomedov by way of resolution.

Saturday’s struggle card

PPV (by way of ESPN+), 2 p.m. ET
Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) vs. Justin Gaethje (ic) | Lightweight
Robert Whittaker vs. Jared Cannonier | Middleweight
Alexander Volkov vs. Walt Harris | Heavyweight
Jacob Malkoun vs. Phil Hawes | Middleweight
Lauren Murphy vs. Liliya Shakirova | Women’s flyweight
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cuțelaba | Light heavyweight
ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/ESPN+, midday ET
Stefan Struve vs. Tai Tuivasa | Heavyweight
Nathaniel Wood vs. Casey Kenney | 140-pound catchweight
Alex Oliveira vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov | Welterweight
Da Un Jung vs. Sam Alvey | Light heavyweight
ESPN+, 11 a.m. ET
Liana Jojua vs. Miranda Maverick | Women’s flyweight
Joel Álvarez vs. Alexander Yakovlev | Lightweight
(c) = defending champion; (ic) = interim champ

How to observe the fights

Watch the prelims on ESPN2 or ESPN Deportes: Download the ESPN App | WatchESPN | TV

Don’t have ESPN2 or ESPN Deportes? Get instant access.

Don’t have ESPN+ for the prelims and PPV? Get it here.

Purchased the struggle in your cellphone and wish to stream in your TV? Find out how here.

There’s additionally FightCenter, which presents reside updates for each UFC card.

Three extra issues to know (from ESPN Stats & Information)

1. Jared Cannonier, who faces former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker within the co-main occasion, has an 84.6% end price (11 finishes in 13 wins). Nine of these finishes have been knockouts, together with in his three most up-to-date fights. Champion Israel Adesanya has already mentioned he wish to subsequent face Cannonier, No. 5 within the ESPN middleweight rankings, if he can get previous the second-ranked Whittaker, whom Adesanya beat for the title final October.

2. Walt Harris has 13 knockouts in 13 profession victories. That’s perfection. Perhaps associated to that, he has the third-shortest common struggle time amongst lively UFC heavyweights (6 minutes, 41 seconds). His opponent, Alexander Volkov, is ESPN’s eighth-ranked heavyweight. Volkov has the third-highest vital strike differential in division historical past (2.35 landed for each one absorbed), in line with UFC Stats.

3. Lauren Murphy, No. 6 within the ESPN girls’s flyweight rankings, was scheduled to face fifth-ranked Cynthia Calvillo, however Calvillo dropped out due to a constructive COVID-19 check. She was changed by Liliya Shakirova, who might be making her UFC debut. Shakirova (8-1) is on a three-fight successful streak. Murphy has gained 4 of 5 since shifting down from bantamweight, the place she was 1-3.

ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this struggle preview.

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