Justin Gaethje thinks Charles Oliveira will have to implement a similar game plan as Khabib Nurmagomedov to beat him.
Nurmagomedov walked Gaethje (32-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) down in their UFC 254 title unification bout, eating some heavy leg kicks and big shots to work his way into takedowns. Nurmagomedov submitted Gaethje in Round 2 to retain his title.
So Gaethje thinks in order for lightweight champion Oliveira (32-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) to find success against him when they square off in Saturday’s UFC 274 main event, he’ll have to do the same – but isn’t sure if he has the ability to do so.
“I’m going to be perfect, and I’ll be perfect for 25 minutes,” Gaethje told ESPN. “If he can beat me, then kudos to him. But he’s going to have to walk through hell like Khabib did. He’s not as powerful, he doesn’t have the structure, he doesn’t have the frame, and he doesn’t have explosive takedowns.
“He’s going to have to find me making a mistake, overreaching, and try to get into a grappling situation. Outside that, he better be praying every day that he gets me to the ground, because if not, it’s going to be the same night as Chandler, except five rounds. And if I went five rounds with Chandler, he would have died – and that’s the truth.”
Gaethje accused Oliveira of having quit him in the past, and while he acknowledged that the Brazilian is a changed man, he thinks he’s the right person to bring out that tendency in him.
“He’s not the same man (now) that I was referencing. But again, deep down, once it happened once, it’ll happen again, and I’m the perfect guy to show it to him,” Gaethje said. “I will show it to him (Saturday). I’ve got to stay out of grappling positions, obviously, but I’m going to put a hole right in his face and it’s going to be glorious.”
UFC 274 takes place Saturday at Footprint Center in Phoenix. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.