Forget 155, Usman v Khabib is the Perfect Fight to Make for Many Reasons

Khabib Nurmagomedov v Justin Gaethje odds
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Khabib v Usman makes more sense than people are making out

Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement following his victory over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 which made the Russain the joint-most successful lightweight champion of all-time with three title defences to put him on an unrivalled 29-0 in MMA.

Talks have continued between himself and Dana White, with the UFC president seemingly confident he will return to get to the more aesthetically pleasing 30-0 his father so desperately desired and retire "like Mayweather in MMA," as he so told Yahoo Sports back in October.

Fans have since discussed who he could fight should he return after Dustin Poirier blew the lightweight division wide open by beating Conor McGregor, which ultimately prevented the Khabib v McGregor 2 so many of us wanted to see. And, at the same time, Khabib beat Poirier less than two years ago which likely means Charles Oliveira is in the Russain's vision at 155 more than anybody else at that weight class.

But, with the lightweight future impossible to figure out, there is one man who is also striving for GOAT status and a man in which should Khabib beat, could turn the 155 champion into the very best we've ever seen: Kamaru Usman.

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There's only one way to make a point in the GOAT debate; beat a fellow contender

Usman is coming off the back of a well-executed performance against Gilbert Burns, which whilst not perfect after he was hurt in round one, was another argument to further bulk up his GOAT status at welterweight and future argument to be the undisputed greatest of all-time.

After UFC 258, Usman has now practically wiped out the entire division, with Stephen Thompson, Neil Magny and Michael Chiesa the only men inside the top 10 he is yet to face, but heading into a fight with each, he will be the clear favourite.

"The Nigerian Nightmare" has now put himself into GOAT contention in the future, and in terms of pure dominance from a fighter inside the cage, it's tough to bid against him, as he has rarely looked in doubt in the UFC, with the odd shot from Burns and Covington a forceful example of how he has been damaged in his career. At the same time, bar Khabib's fight with McGregor, the lightweight king has not lost a single round in his entire UFC career and dominated absolutely every single man that has stepped into the octagon with him.

We now sit in a time where the GOAT arguments are flying in from all angles and whilst this could all be put to bed if Jon Jones wins the heavyweight title, for now, how on earth do you back against a man who is 29-0 and lost a mere round in his entire UFC career?

Jones can become a two-division world champion this year, and if Khabib wants that GOAT status all to himself, he might need to do the same against Usman, making this fight perfect for his legacy. As for Usman, is there a better way to argue your own case than beating the man many call the GOAT in Khabib? Not really.

In truth, there are a few things that are separating Khabib from being the undisputed greatest of all-time, but none more so than the idea that Jones has a resume and domination throughout the 2010s that is simply untouchable. And, if "Bones" is to seal heavyweight gold as he so intends, it'll be seriously hard to back against him in this argument. So, it's pretty simple for the Dagestan-born to get this mantle all to himself: take over the 170 division.

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A 50/50 fight on so many levels

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.

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