Khabib's style of grappling has made him the most dominant fighter there has ever been in MMA, end of story. Yes, you're well within your rights to call Jones or Anderson Silva the GOAT, but debates will continue on Jones' first title fight with Gustafsson and whether or not he did actually beat Dominick Reyes in their controversial 2020 bout, and at the same time, Silva and the likes of Georges St-Pierre have lost fights. Khabib, however, doesn't even lose rounds, nevermind fights.
The Russian has trained a lifetime in a variety of disciplines and combines the dominant force of sambo, the technical ability of judo and wrestling with devastating ground and pound strikes to essentially create the most effective style we've seen in the UFC.
"I can't get him off me," an exhausted Poirier said so accurately at the end of round 2 as Khabib effortlessly strolled back to his corner in their 2019 fight. "Let's talk now," the Russain screamed between each dominant shot as McGregor lay defenceless on the ground back in 2018. These are just two scenarios that really put it in perspective, as both were arguably the best lightweight around after the champion, and Khabib did nothing but dismantle them both in a way nobody can match.
Usman, on the other hand, focuses less on the 'smash, smash, smash' style of grappling, and more so on the points-scoring method, for example, in his title win over Tyron Woodley and later defence of the gold against Jorge Masvidal. This does make for an incredibly intriguing battle in the grappling game, with Usman also possessing a black belt in jiu-jitsu, but his reluctancy to go to the ground when Burns was lay flat on his back at UFC 258, showed the Nigerian still doesn't want to exchange with the best in this department.
In the midst of all this, the overriding factor that might give Usman the advantage is his size, and how he clearly has to cut a bit of weight to get to 170, whilst Khabib has to do the same at 155. In fact, the Russian has missed weight numerous times and even had health scares in doing so, emphasising even more how 170 is likely his natural weight anyhow.
Usman would have a two-inch height advantage as he stands at 6 foot, and he also possesses a six-inch reach advantage over the lightweight champion. However, given the endless gym stories of Khabib grappling with men as heavy as heavyweight, it's a bit insulting to say this would be the definitive factor, given how has toyed with every man in his career and how he is clearly strong enough to compete with men bigger than him.
Then there is the stand-up game, which Usman has proved in his last three fights to be much better than previously anticipated, but still not concrete enough, as he decided to grapple with the elite striker Masvidal, rather than box with. The welterweight champion did, however, TKO both Burns and Covington, two men who were backed at as better strikers heading into these respective bouts, clearly showing the Nigerian deserves more respect in his boxing ability. Usman's magnificent ability to switch stance and deliver a jab like a piston with both hands was evident against Burns and in the final stages of the TKO against Covington, and how he further switches things up from southpaw to fire an unreadable left hand will cause trouble for anybody, especially when you're expecting a takedown.
At the same time, you have Khabib, the greatest wrestler we've ever seen. A man who has managed to knock down the likes of McGregor with a right hand and stand and trade with the fighters such as Poirier, Gaethje and Edson Barboza and perform arguably better than Usman in the stand-up department.
Pound for pound, there is perhaps only one winner: Khabib. But when you throw in Usman's bigger frame, similar grappling pedigree and potential greater strength in each movement, it really does make this fight 50/50 and one which is the ultimate bout for legacy, stylistically and for either fighter embracing another challenge, and most notably for Khabib, dominating a division just like he did at lightweight and undisputedly becoming the GOAT.