The newest addition to the UFC lightweight title picture, Michael Chandler rates Justin Gaethje but believes you’d be a fool to bet on him against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254. In an interview with ESPN the former Bellator lightweight king praised Gaethje who had a career-best win over Tony Ferguson last time out, he said.
“I think Justin Gaethje looked like the best lightweight in the world in May when he fought Tony Ferguson. That version of Justin Gaethje, who stepped into that cage calm and composed and confident, smart and sharp, fighting with the tenacity that he normally brings to the cage, but not the overzealous, overanxious Justin Gaethje ‘I wanna rip your head off’ fighter that we’re used to seeing – that was the best version of Justin Gaethje that we’ve ever seen.
Chandler went on to says Gaethje’s wrestling credentials make him the biggest test Nurmagomedov has ever faced.
“Now, you take into consideration that Justin Gaethje was a Division-I wrestler, you take into consideration that we haven’t seen his wrestling, but know he’s got great athleticism, great hips, great instincts inside the cage – I think he poses the best threat that we’ve seen thus far against a guy like Khabib. But I still think you’re crazy if you do bet against Khabib.”
Ultimately though the UFC 254 back-up fighter thinks anyone who actually bets on Gaethje to dethrone Nurmagomedov is crazy.
“You’re crazy if you bet against him not being able to take Justin down,” Chandler said. “You’re crazy if you think Justin is going to be able to go in there and land combinations at will like he was Tony Ferguson. The reason I like the Tony Ferguson fight is, he’s a standing target. He’s a stationary target. He takes punches in order to give punches later on down the line.
“Khabib’s not that guy. Khabib is going to be in Justin’s face. We haven’t seen Justin back up a lot. I think Justin is going to be fighting on his heels a lot, which is never something we’ve seen him able to do. His leg kicks won’t be as effective on his heels. His power punches, his hooks, aren’t going to be as effective on his heels. And I think we’re still going to see, I won’t say dominant victory by Khabib, but I think we’re going to see a lot of the same Khabib-esque type of fight, just in a less dominant fashion.”
Do you agree with Michael Chandler?