UnderGround Forums Breaking Down Justin v. Khabib

5/26/20 1:30 AM
1/1/01
Posts: 60130

Listened to it earlier and cant remember all details but Weasle favours Khabib generally as he said Khabib's MMA wrestling/grappling is too unique that while Gaethje may have a strong US collegiate background, that may not prepare him for Khabib's against the fence.

Also, how much of Gaethje's tdd etc have we seen in MMA? How good can it be if it never gets used? Like, a strong background is still a strong background but if its not honed over and over at the current elite level, is it gonna be sharp enough?

Weasle also intelligently noted, as I am sure you have observed that, Khabibs grapple has the Dagestan wrestling/judo/sambo roots of which even the wrestling is diff from the US colleagiate alone but he has also trained for years with DC and Cain, etc as well as honed his own in the cage for all career - against the cage, etc.

What is your take on this?

Also, have you seen anything from Gaethje's MMA career that has showed good TDD, scrambling, ability to get back up?

And....as Gaethje commented directly, the wreslting cardio is diff from striking cardio which is why he would not taken a short notice fight with Khabib cuz he would need the full camp to get wrestling cardio ready. I wonder how Gaethje's striking would be after a round or 2 of fighting off Khabib if he didn't get the early KO?

5/26/20 1:58 AM
1/1/01
Posts: 7928

Stylistically, Ferguson and Gaethje are tough matchups for Khabib.

I'm picking Gaethje to stop him.

5/26/20 5:31 AM
11/16/09
Posts: 4642
androushka -

Justin's ability to move laterally is excellent and could be key to avoiding the td. For what it's worth, that was a big part of chuck liddell's sucess in keeping it standing with Randy back in the day. I was really impressed with Justin's ability to control distance and timing and deliver quality strikes. Great toolbox against Khabib imo

You know what else was a big part of Chuck keeping it standing vs Randy? Grabbing the cage, repeatedly.

5/26/20 8:08 AM
6/14/12
Posts: 6099

great thread, OP. 

 

5/26/20 9:38 AM
2/17/03
Posts: 15360
Wasa-B - 

Listened to it earlier and cant remember all details but Weasle favours Khabib generally as he said Khabib's MMA wrestling/grappling is too unique that while Gaethje may have a strong US collegiate background, that may not prepare him for Khabib's against the fence.

Also, how much of Gaethje's tdd etc have we seen in MMA? How good can it be if it never gets used? Like, a strong background is still a strong background but if its not honed over and over at the current elite level, is it gonna be sharp enough?

Weasle also intelligently noted, as I am sure you have observed that, Khabibs grapple has the Dagestan wrestling/judo/sambo roots of which even the wrestling is diff from the US colleagiate alone but he has also trained for years with DC and Cain, etc as well as honed his own in the cage for all career - against the cage, etc.

What is your take on this?

Also, have you seen anything from Gaethje's MMA career that has showed good TDD, scrambling, ability to get back up?

And....as Gaethje commented directly, the wreslting cardio is diff from striking cardio which is why he would not taken a short notice fight with Khabib cuz he would need the full camp to get wrestling cardio ready. I wonder how Gaethje's striking would be after a round or 2 of fighting off Khabib if he didn't get the early KO?


-I think the most important factor is lateral movement. In MMA, IMO, a lot of TDD is what you don't see. Does Justin's footwork make it harder for Khabib to shoot?

If he can develop that, plus what Gus used against Jones in their first fight--the ability to quickly disengage from the clinch--he can win. Khabib's only response would be to get as aggressive as he was against Edson, but that's a huge risk against Justin.

If they spend a lot of time "wrestling" it's because Justin's footwork wasn't enough. If that's the case, I pick Khabib.

-iirc, he showed good scrambling and TDD against MJ and either Eddie or Dustin. But, I don't think we've seen enough.

-I think years off from wrestling definitely hurts your wrestling cardio and wrestling strength. But, it comes back relatively quick if you wrestled your whole life.

-Can't wait to watch the Weasel video.

5/27/20 10:09 AM
2/17/03
Posts: 15366

Watched the Weasel video.

I often like his stuff. But, I thought this was not very impressive. His analysis boils down to: "Khabib wrestles like a Dagestani, not an American" and "Khabib is a different kind of fighter."

That's all well and good. But, it's not the sort of technical insight I have come to expect from him.

5/27/20 1:08 PM
2/22/09
Posts: 13592

^^^ Agreed. Not his best work IMO.

5/27/20 1:11 PM
2/17/03
Posts: 15372

The Weasel is also overestimating the importance of the differences in wrestling Wrestlers spend their whole lives wrestling against people with different matters, but wrestling is wrestling.

I've wrestled with Dagestani wrestlers who were not high level. I smashed them (in wrestling and MMA wrestling). I've wrestled with Dagestani wrestlers who were a higher level than me and they smash me.

The only time the contrast really matters is folk riding. But Khabib has spent years learning it.

5/27/20 10:35 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 60135

Justin on JRE today talked about how he was a better defensive wrestler than offensive one. I think Chael made the same comment about Romero.

5/27/20 10:38 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 60136
wiggum - 

The Weasel is also overestimating the importance of the differences in wrestling Wrestlers spend their whole lives wrestling against people with different matters, but wrestling is wrestling.

I've wrestled with Dagestani wrestlers who were not high level. I smashed them (in wrestling and MMA wrestling). I've wrestled with Dagestani wrestlers who were a higher level than me and they smash me.

The only time the contrast really matters is folk riding. But Khabib has spent years learning it.


What about the fact that Khabib's best work is against the cage which is more of an MMA I would also add that make fights even in wrestling right? Not saying that Justin can't have great fundamental wrestling defense but Khabib's strength is the mix of diff he has experience in right? Dagestani wrestling, judo, sambo, American collegiate into MMA wrestling.

5/28/20 12:43 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 60137

Didn't listen to the whole Gaethje (anyone have to think twice when they type this name btw?) Whittman podcast but def one of the best JRE MMA episodes so far.

@Wiggum - Gaethje actually references footwork as a key part to his TDD against Khabib. Whittman also elaborates on it's further importance overall. Now, I think Whittman was correct to say that he was just out of range of Tony's attacks and just in enough to attack Tony. I am curious as to what kind of general gameplan (generalship, footwork wise) they will take on Khabib though as its a much diff than Tony's.

Gaethje also commented on the lack of audience for the Tony fight and thinks it may have kept him more composed and kept him from brawling more. Although Whittman also adds that Gaethje had already been fighting that way since his 2 losses.

They are a very interesting duo. Gaethje is a good case imo of an intelligent and super mentally strong athlete but just is not able to articulate himself like a Cruz. Being able to articulate your thoughts is a whole other separate skill in general.

Gaethje also comments on how his wrestling based is used even when he's not "wrestling." I am sure every wrestler and fighter feels the same - that their base fundamentals and skills carry on into other things. For example, the clinch is a bit more obvious as its a grappling skill learned from wrestling but how you can use it to drive your opponent into a strike or to take away a favoured side, etc. Like Hendo/Shogun 2 or DC/Stipe 1 or Randy period....for wrestlers to incorporate the clinch into dirty or clinch fighting with striking is a no brainer.

Gaethje also commented on being a pitcher and football kicker (not sure if punter or field goal etc) but that those mechanics easily transitioned to punching and kicking. Gomi was also a pitcher without much fighting experience until late years. Aldo was a high level soccer player. Gomi was one of the biggest punchers of his era and Aldo was one of the best leg kickers in the game.

Weidman also said that he relies on his wrestling even when he's not wrestling. GSP famously said that he gets his td ability from his karate. I think this all means the same thing - that their base skills are used overall in MMA. I believe GSP meant that his ability to anticipate strikes to counter with tds (as he is the best at that in MMA) came from karate - the ability to anticipate strikes and counter period. Perhaps he was just able to adjust the counter with a counter strike to counter td.

So Gaethje was a wrestler, pitcher and football kicker. He became a high level MMA fighter with a wrestling base and huge punching power and top level leg kicks.

Very interesting session.

5/28/20 12:44 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 60138

Gaethje also talks about his initial reluctance to take the 2nd Tony date as opposed to the first one regarding prep time, etc.

5/28/20 12:48 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 60139

Does going back to watch any Gaethje fight give any good indication of how he can do against Khabib?

He hasn't fended off too many td attempts I don't think. Even if he has, the opponents were all primarily striking him as opposed to attempting to primarily wrestle him. Gaethje turned his game around post-Poirier and Alvarez losses. Fighting more measured will for sure help him vs Khabib but fighting more measured vs Tony is still way diff than doing vs Khabib.

Gaethje killed Tony with counters as Tony kept on coming in on him with strikes. Khabib obviously aint doing that. The model sprawl n brawl method is still the Chuck and CC imo....being able to hit without being in td range. Maybe that is similar somewhat to hit and not get hit but still a bit different. I suppose not being in range to get hit or taken down is still similar though at the end of the day.

5/28/20 1:29 PM
2/17/03
Posts: 15379
Wasa-B - 
wiggum - 

The Weasel is also overestimating the importance of the differences in wrestling Wrestlers spend their whole lives wrestling against people with different matters, but wrestling is wrestling.

I've wrestled with Dagestani wrestlers who were not high level. I smashed them (in wrestling and MMA wrestling). I've wrestled with Dagestani wrestlers who were a higher level than me and they smash me.

The only time the contrast really matters is folk riding. But Khabib has spent years learning it.


What about the fact that Khabib's best work is against the cage which is more of an MMA I would also add that make fights even in wrestling right? Not saying that Justin can't have great fundamental wrestling defense but Khabib's strength is the mix of diff he has experience in right? Dagestani wrestling, judo, sambo, American collegiate into MMA wrestling.


For sure. That is the kind of focus that I thought was missing.

IMO, if Khabib can get the fight to the fence, he wins. If Justin's footwork can keep it off, he likely wins. I have trouble imagining that Khabib can consistently win the sorts of low single scrambles he created with Conor in round 1. (Raging Al was able to avoid them, for example).

5/28/20 1:49 PM
11/24/07
Posts: 14534

I would like to see how khabib’s defensive wrestling is. I don’t think I can recall anyone turning the tables and trying to take him down. I don’t know if Justin should be the one to try but it would give khabib another problem to think about. 

5/28/20 1:49 PM
11/27/02
Posts: 18415
Good thread. I'm more confident in Justin after the Rogan appearance with Whitman.

One thing that stands out, don't quote me, but he said something to the effect that he is a great defensive wrestler. That's probably the most important "style" of wrestler you can be against Khabib. Also, I had no clue he went twice with Bouroughs and didn't get creamed. I haven't been able to find any vids of the 2 matches. Said how his sternum was sore for months defending the blast double.

5/28/20 2:11 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 2741

Great thread Wiggum. Thanks for all the insights.

Do you think Khabib will use outside shots not looking for a takedown but just to initiate a grappling exchange with the goal of either pushing Justin to the cage or to try some upper body takedowns?

5/29/20 9:34 AM
2/17/03
Posts: 15382
da Vinci 81 - 

I would like to see how khabib’s defensive wrestling is. I don’t think I can recall anyone turning the tables and trying to take him down. I don’t know if Justin should be the one to try but it would give khabib another problem to think about. 


Trujillo took him down, iirc. (Maybe he reversed him?)

Justin has gone for zero takedowns in his UFC career. But, he has lightly committed to knee taps to hit off the break. I wonder whether we might see that. It's counter intuitive, but I've never found knee taps to put someone at risk for being clinched or taken down. By definition, when you're going for a Frankie- knee tap, you're at a good distance from your opponent.

5/29/20 9:38 AM
2/17/03
Posts: 15383

supersonic: I agree about the defensive wrestling. The Burroughs anecdotes were interesting.

Balance: Because Justin doesn't appear to be a wizard on the ground, I think Khabib will take chances. Why not try a low single to see if you can create and win ground exchanges? Why not try some knee pull singles ala the Al fight? Why not shoot from a distance to see if you can bull-rush Justin back to the cage?

Justin isn't Damien Maia. A failed shot won't result in a back take and a fight ending sequence.

On the other hand, Justin has a lights out hook. If Khabib fails bad on a shot, he should fall to his back. I could see him trying to keep a high pace, failing on a shot, and trying to come up head first and Justin ending his night.

Edited: 5/29/20 11:18 AM
1/29/04
Posts: 261

I like both guys so kinda wish one didn't have to lose but after hearing Justin describe his thoughts on the fight, I think he has more of a shot than I initially anticipated.

I think if Justin can fire some kicks off, that could be a game changer, but at the same time that might give Khabib an opening for a takedown, so not sure if that would be smart to try.

With Justin's standup display and how he was describing the footwork he was going to use, to evade the takedown, and his propensity to make a scramble ensue, like he was saying he would flip through a takedown attempt or maybe he said a double, can't remember, but I'm changing my opinion and leaning to Safford's white lightning now.

5/29/20 11:39 AM
7/12/14
Posts: 1606
JThomasufc91 -

I think Justin shakes off his takedown attempts.. 70+% accuracy rate against Tony. Khabib will be easy to hit. It’s only a matter if Khabib can get him down and smother him. I don’t see that happening as it usually does for Khabib. Justin finishes him inside of 3 rounds.

Don't sleep on Khabib's footwork. He showed that he can time people very nicely and keep distance to his advantage against Conor. I can almost guarantee that if Justin starts after the legs, Khabib is gonna push hard into a clinch and go for the TD. Khabib's boxing has been improving steadily, especially since MJ rocked him in their fight. 

5/29/20 12:01 PM
2/17/03
Posts: 15386
willis007 - 
JThomasufc91 -

I think Justin shakes off his takedown attempts.. 70+% accuracy rate against Tony. Khabib will be easy to hit. It’s only a matter if Khabib can get him down and smother him. I don’t see that happening as it usually does for Khabib. Justin finishes him inside of 3 rounds.

Don't sleep on Khabib's footwork. He showed that he can time people very nicely and keep distance to his advantage against Conor. I can almost guarantee that if Justin starts after the legs, Khabib is gonna push hard into a clinch and go for the TD. Khabib's boxing has been improving steadily, especially since MJ rocked him in their fight. 


Khabib's foot work with very deliberate. He set up the low single against Conor perfectly. He approached the Edson fight very differently than other fights. Should not be slept on.

5/29/20 12:53 PM
1/12/05
Posts: 63530
Great thread.

Justin was an All-American wrestler 12 years ago. That likely has little bearing on this fight considering it's a skill he hasn't shown at all in high level MMA. His wrestling is a question mark and fans should assume anything.

It should be noted that Khabib loses a lot of steam after the first two rounds. If he's chaining takedowns together and fighting at a hard pace, he will likely gas first.

As much as Khabib's wrestling will limit Justin's striking, Justin's counter hook will limit Khabib's wrestling. IMO, Khabib has a brick for a chin, but that's not a solid strategy for closing the distance. Khabib can't grab Justin with reckless abandon or try to close the gap with goofy floppy jabs b/c Justin will counter the shit out of him. If I'm Khabib's coach, I'm working on Fedor-esque power punch to clinch. Throw kill shots, make just react, grab a hold of him, take your time and make sure you get the TD. If he happens to land, good. Khabib hits hard AF and is the bigger, much stronger man in this fight. Khabib is bigger than GSP and fighting a mid-sized LW.

Justin looked incredible in the Ferg fight, but how much of that was Tony being a shell of himself who was unable or unwilling to get out of the way of punches? Justin showed really clean, technical boxing, with snap in his shots. There's a very good chance that through footwork and quick, clean punches, Justin will turn Khabib into a Frankenstein punching bag for a period of time. Justin showed that he's willing to keep it technical and not overextending himself hunting for a KO. If Khabib is getting hammered standing, he's going to become very predictable, and through distance management and footwork, Justin should be able to have at least McGregor levels of success playing matador.

This might be an opportunity to see what Khabib does when he's behind in a fight and things aren't going his way. I'd bet that he's even better and more determined when he's behind and will eventually overwhelm Justin.

5/29/20 1:25 PM
2/17/03
Posts: 15387
Bobby Lupo - Great thread.

Justin was an All-American wrestler 12 years ago. That likely has little bearing on this fight considering it's a skill he hasn't shown at all in high level MMA. His wrestling is a question mark and fans should assume anything.

It should be noted that Khabib loses a lot of steam after the first two rounds. If he's chaining takedowns together and fighting at a hard pace, he will likely gas first.

As much as Khabib's wrestling will limit Justin's striking, Justin's counter hook will limit Khabib's wrestling. IMO, Khabib has a brick for a chin, but that's not a solid strategy for closing the distance. Khabib can't grab Justin with reckless abandon or try to close the gap with goofy floppy jabs b/c Justin will counter the shit out of him. If I'm Khabib's coach, I'm working on Fedor-esque power punch to clinch. Throw kill shots, make just react, grab a hold of him, take your time and make sure you get the TD. If he happens to land, good. Khabib hits hard AF and is the bigger, much stronger man in this fight. Khabib is bigger than GSP and fighting a mid-sized LW.

Justin looked incredible in the Ferg fight, but how much of that was Tony being a shell of himself who was unable or unwilling to get out of the way of punches? Justin showed really clean, technical boxing, with snap in his shots. There's a very good chance that through footwork and quick, clean punches, Justin will turn Khabib into a Frankenstein punching bag for a period of time. Justin showed that he's willing to keep it technical and not overextending himself hunting for a KO. If Khabib is getting hammered standing, he's going to become very predictable, and through distance management and footwork, Justin should be able to have at least McGregor levels of success playing matador.

This might be an opportunity to see what Khabib does when he's behind in a fight and things aren't going his way. I'd bet that he's even better and more determined when he's behind and will eventually overwhelm Justin.


Good stuff.

It makes me think, too, that another skill that Justin has that none of Khabib's opponents outside of Conor has: the ability to take 'just one step' out of range and then to re-engage.

Say Khabib goes for a flying knee to engage the clinch. Most fighters, even as the highest level, either get clinched from there, or they completely disengage and reset. I can imagine Justin taking just one step back and throwing two punches before reseting. He might punish Khabib in a way that no other fighter has, because only Conor has that skill, but Conor's TDD and clinch work was not good enough to use it.

5/29/20 4:42 PM
1/12/05
Posts: 63532
wiggum - 
Bobby Lupo - Great thread.

Justin was an All-American wrestler 12 years ago. That likely has little bearing on this fight considering it's a skill he hasn't shown at all in high level MMA. His wrestling is a question mark and fans should assume anything.

It should be noted that Khabib loses a lot of steam after the first two rounds. If he's chaining takedowns together and fighting at a hard pace, he will likely gas first.

As much as Khabib's wrestling will limit Justin's striking, Justin's counter hook will limit Khabib's wrestling. IMO, Khabib has a brick for a chin, but that's not a solid strategy for closing the distance. Khabib can't grab Justin with reckless abandon or try to close the gap with goofy floppy jabs b/c Justin will counter the shit out of him. If I'm Khabib's coach, I'm working on Fedor-esque power punch to clinch. Throw kill shots, make just react, grab a hold of him, take your time and make sure you get the TD. If he happens to land, good. Khabib hits hard AF and is the bigger, much stronger man in this fight. Khabib is bigger than GSP and fighting a mid-sized LW.

Justin looked incredible in the Ferg fight, but how much of that was Tony being a shell of himself who was unable or unwilling to get out of the way of punches? Justin showed really clean, technical boxing, with snap in his shots. There's a very good chance that through footwork and quick, clean punches, Justin will turn Khabib into a Frankenstein punching bag for a period of time. Justin showed that he's willing to keep it technical and not overextending himself hunting for a KO. If Khabib is getting hammered standing, he's going to become very predictable, and through distance management and footwork, Justin should be able to have at least McGregor levels of success playing matador.

This might be an opportunity to see what Khabib does when he's behind in a fight and things aren't going his way. I'd bet that he's even better and more determined when he's behind and will eventually overwhelm Justin.


Good stuff.

It makes me think, too, that another skill that Justin has that none of Khabib's opponents outside of Conor has: the ability to take 'just one step' out of range and then to re-engage.

Say Khabib goes for a flying knee to engage the clinch. Most fighters, even as the highest level, either get clinched from there, or they completely disengage and reset. I can imagine Justin taking just one step back and throwing two punches before reseting. He might punish Khabib in a way that no other fighter has, because only Conor has that skill, but Conor's TDD and clinch work was not good enough to use it.


Agree. Justin has that spatial awareness that's really rare in MMA. I'd discourage leg kicks early, just so he's able to keep moving out of Khabib range and disrupting the clinch and maul game and landing and moving.

I wonder what the speed gap will look like. I thought Conor would have been much quicker than Khabib, but it wasn't so pronounced. He looked like dogshit whether it was lack of preparation or because he spent the whole camp clinch wrestling and resisting the urge to get off his back. I think Justin's technical advantages on the feet: movement, evasiveness, and short, clean punches might make him look like the much quicker man.

I can envision a tired, frustrated Khabib down 2-0 on the cards, coming out for the third like a relentless monster.

IMO, the guy who disrupt the other guy's gameplan early in the fight will have a huge advantage. If Justin's checking Khabib's forward march with tight hooks, it's going to be a very interesting fight. I kind of hope Justin feints and shoots early just to see how Khabib reacts.