UFC 254 predictions: Fighters split over Khabib vs Gaethje as McGregor backs old rival but Bisping tips American to win

KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV will put his lightweight title on the line against Justin Gaethje tonight.

The undefeated Russian, 32, enters the Octagon with a perfect record of 28-0.

But hard-hitting American Gaethje has vowed to spatter the Russian's blood on the canvas.

Gaethje boasts a record of 22-2-0 following his win over Tony Ferguson in May.

To help you decide who to cheer on, SunSport have pulled together a list of predictions from some of the biggest names in the UFC.

Conor McGregor

VERDICT: KHABIB

McGregor – who lost to Khabib in 2018 – says Gaethje could knock the Russian 'clean out'.

But the Irishman believes the odds are in Khabib's favour when the pair meet on Fight Island.

He said: "Khabib's gonna be trembling in there — like he always does.

"He's the most easily backed-up fighter in the game. Gaethje will know this and he'll get low in his stance.

"Gaethje's style is a style for getting in and beating that jab nice and low, and, while Khabib's head is up high, come in with a big shot. He can very well knock him out.

"He can very, very, very, very well knock him clean out.

"[Gaethje's] got good wrestling. Does he have grappling with his wrestling? I do not believe so. I believe if Khabib gets him down it could be over early.

"I probably favour Khabib. But Gaethje could well knock him out."

Dominic Reyes

VERDICT: GAETHJE

UFC light-heavyweight star Reyes reckons Gaethje is 'much, much' better striker than the Russian.

Speaking to Submission Radio, he said: "That's a real fight, I'm going to with my boy Gaethje though.

"I think he was the wrestling to nullify Khabib and he's a much, much clean and better striker."

Leon Edwards

VERDICT: KHABIB

Welterweight fighter Edwards believes Gaethje will put up a good fight – but can't see Khabib suffering his first career defeat.

He said: "It is hard to pick against Khabib, what he's done in his career and how he's done it in his career.

"He's only lost about one round in his whole career.

"I think it will be a hard fight for him though, not an easy one.

"Gaethje is wild, good cardio, tough, good wrestling. Good fight but I think Khabib gets it done."

Michael Chiesa

VERDICT: SPLIT

UFC welterweight star has questioned Khabib's 'mental state' and revealed how he thinks Gaethje could snatch a win.

He said: "I think the way you beat Khabib is you have to stay moving on the ground.

"You cannot accept or concede a position one time or the fight is over, the second you ease up, the fight is over.

"I think Gaethje will push Khabib in a way he hasn't been pushed and we don't know Khabib's mental state."

Michael Bisping

VERDICT: GAETHJE

Former middleweight star Bisping thinks tonight could be the night that Khabib adds a defeat to his record.

He told MMA Global: "Al Iaquinta was able to stop a lot of Khabib's takedowns, now in the end he still won a decision but Justin will have a better chance of stopping the takedown and I think he'll be more effective on his feet.

"It's going to be a great fight, very very close but we could have Khabib possibly getting beaten for the first time ever."

Al Iaquinta

VERDICT: KHABIB

Iaquinta lost to Khabib in 2018 – and can see the Russian coming out on top tonight.

He told Helen Yee Sports: "It's a really interesting match-up. Gaethje doesn't get hold down and Khabib holds everybody down.

"On the feet, Gaethje is looking scary and on the mat Khabib is always looking scary.

"I think Khabib takes it."

Colby Covington

VERDICT: SPLIT

Controversial fighter Covington remains undecided, but thinks Gaethje has the ability to stop Khabib.

He said: "I think it will be a good fight, Justin has looked good lately, but I don't know, he fights recklessly.

"But I don't know, he has the good wrestling and the accolades to maybe stop Khabib."

Tom Aspinall

VERDICT: GAETHJE

The 6" 5' heavyweight has backed the American do the business tonight on Fight Island.

He said: "I think Gaethje is the man to beat him, his wrestling is unbelievable and the pace he sets is also unbelievable so I think Gaethje can beat him."

Robert Whittaker

VERDICT: KHABIB

The No1 ranked UFC middleweight star can't see Khabib as he says he has a chin made out of 'granite'.

He said: "I don't see Khabib losing.

"With someone of that calibre and level of skill, that overwhelming level, how do you beat him?

"You catch him. You can't catch him because he's got a chin made out of granite.

"Maybe the only way to do it is meet fire with fire and out-wrestling him, but who is going to do that?"

Gleison Tibau

VERDICT: SPLIT

The Brazilian, who pushed Khabib all the way in July 2012 but ultimately lost on a unanimous decision, believes the best way to get on top is not letting the Russian grapple on the canvas.

Tibau told AG Fight: "It’s all about how well your style matches up with his.

"He’s strong, he puts on an absurd amount of pressure and he has good wrestling. He’s been dominating everyone and never has a hard outing.

"Our fight was pretty close, many think that I won. I scored more points, I took him down a few times and he never took me down. I connected some shots, too.

"I’ve always been one of the strongest fighters in the division, but when I fought him, I could tell he was a monster.

"It was like I was fighting a heavyweight. Absurd pressure.

“I’m one of the guys with the best takedown defense in MMA. That’s the secret to beat Khabib.

"In order to handle his pressure, you need to have good wrestling and takedown defense.

"If you can stop his takedowns, it gets easier. Nowadays, I think my boxing would be good enough to knock him out."

 

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