For all of you who don’t know, UFC 254 is having an event this weekend on Fight Island with some major matchups. We have the long awaited return of Khabib Nurmagomedov going up against Justin Gaethje to unify the lightweight championship belt.
In the co-main event, we have Robert Whittaker looking to prove himself against Jared Cannonier. The middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has publicly stated that if Jared wins, he will fight him next for the belt. So this may be the next number one contender matchup? This is a star studded card all throughout, and I’m going to dive into a few of the fights and give my predictions.
Up first is Walt Harris making his return against Alexander Volkov. Walt is coming off a knockout loss against Alistair Overeem and stepping in there with a seasoned vet in Alexander. Alex has knockout power in not only his hands, but his feet too, which Walt will have to look out for. Walt is fighting to stay off a losing streak and Volkov is fighting to become a contender. He most recently lost to Curtis Blaydes, and is looking to get his name back in the win column. I have Volkov winning this by stoppage, as he will be too big for Walt and just overpower him with his striking.
Up next is the co-main event and potential number one contender matchup. You shouldn’t bet against Whittaker in any fight if we are being honest, but especially this one. The hype has been all around Cannonier so that Adesanya can get the matchup that he wanted, but I don’t see it the same way. Jared is a former heavyweight and light heavyweight, who had a resurgence at middleweight. The weight cut shouldn’t be an issue for him anymore; however, I think Robert has too much speed for him. Robert is so good at getting in and out of pockets when he is fighting and I’m not sure Jared will be able to survive three rounds of this. If he does, and goes on to face the champion, he definitely won’t last in the match with one of the best strikers we have in this generation. Whittaker takes this one late by TKO.
Last but not least, Khabib and Gaethje for the unified lightweight championship. Everybody who has fought Khabib has suffered the same fate, except for Al Iaquinta, who still lost. When you go in there, you know you will be taken down and beaten into submission. Gaethje’s wrestling pedigree is outstanding; however, it won’t matter in this fight. He has openly said his game plan was to kick Khabib’s lead calf a few times to stop the takedown and make him a striker. This is something I am sure that others have tried, but it will not work. Khabib is just a different animal and I see him steamrolling through Justin before he even gets the chance to kick him.
One thing that will be interesting about this fight is that it seems Gaethje likes to absorb damage, so he will definitely have a lot to enjoy one way or another. If he can withstand the first 15 minutes of pressure from Khabib, congratulations. I don’t see it happening, and I think Khabib submits him before the championship rounds.