There’s a scene in Michael Mann’s Ali. Ali and his crew are waiting for the Frazier rematch. One day, they are watching a fight, and they see the champ get throttled by Foreman. They realize that Ali’s next big challenge won’t be Frazier; it’ll be George—a different, but equally scary challenge. I feel like that’s the best parallel for Gaethje-Khabib.
How will it play out? By my measure, Gaethje is the best wrestler Khabib has ever fought and the second best striker. That makes him a uniquely difficult match up. Justin’s greatest weapons against Khabib are his TDD, his power, and his excellent lateral footwork. This isn’t Raging Al. Khabib can’t pepper Justin with sloppy jabs if the takedown fails.
One other factor: Unlike RDA, Justin doesn't square up his hips too much when he throws a cross. This is one big reason why RDA has been to vulnerable to good wrestlers.
What are the big questions? To me, there are a few:
(1) What does Justin look like on bottom? Does he adopt a defensive guard ala Anderson Silva or even Conor? That might be the safest option. Does he use his folk style hopes to get back to his feet ala RDA? Great, if it works. But, Khabib has become so much more dangerous on top since the RDA fight and Justin risks the fight looking like Khabib/Porrier if he opens up from guard too much.
(2) What role does leg kicks play? I’ll probably not find much support not this, but I think Justin should utilize leg kicks in the fight. Khabib does not have a power double. His takedowns are best from the clinch. Justin can throw quick, low leg kicks without too much risk. Does he?
(3) How good is Khabib’s chin? We’ve seen him rocked a few times. What happens if Justin puts some real damage on him?
(4) Does Justin have the cardio to include even more lateral movement than he did in the Tony fight? IMO, that is his best method to keep Khabib off him.
At the end of the day, Khabib takes great fighters down. His top game gets more devastating every fight. The most likely option is that Justin gets Porriered.
But, Justin just destroyed Tony Ferguson. I am not counting that guy out for one second.