UFC 254: Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje Betting Odds & Picks

  • Date & Location: Saturday Oct. 24 @ Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi
  • Odds: Khabib Nurmagomedov (-285) vs. Justin Gaethje (+235) via Bovada
  • Prediction: Nurmagomedov via submission

On October 24, Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to make his third defense of the UFC lightweight title and his first since his father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died of COVID-19 complications in July. Abdulmanap was 57.

Nurmagomedov won the vacant 155-pound title in April 2018. His first two defenses came against Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round of their bout. He submitted Poirier in the third stanza. Nurmagomedov has not fought since he stopped Poirier in September 2019.

Nurmagomedov’s opponent is former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje. Gaethje won the interim UFC lightweight title in May of this year with a fifth-round knockout of Tony Ferguson. Gaethje joined the UFC with a 17-0 record. He won his promotional debut, but he was knocked out in his next two outings. Gaethje is on a four-fight winning streak.

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Fighter Odds (via Bovada)
Khabib Nurmagomedov -285
Justin Gaethje +235


The knee-jerk reaction is to go with the defending champion. Nurmagomedov is undefeated and has run over almost every opponent he has faced in the UFC. Normally I would agree with that. I don’t agree when it comes to this matchup.

Gaethje is a hard-hitting fighter who can knockout any lightweight. He was also an All-American wrestler with the University of North Colorado. Once known for his willingness to get into slugfests, Gaethje has become a much more reserved competitor over the past few years. That change in style has served him well.

With all that being said, I am still going to pick Nurmagomedov because even though Gaethje seems built to give the champ a struggle — and I think he will give Nurmagomedov some problems — I just don’t see him stopping all the champs takedown attempts and all Nurmagomedov needs is to get the fight to the mat once to finish it.

Pick: Nurmagomedov (-285)



The breakdown of Nurmagomedov’s victories looks like this: 8 knockouts, 10 submissions and 10 decisions. Things get a little clearer when looking at his UFC results, which are: two knockouts, four submissions and six decisions. Nurmagomedov’s goal is to get a takedown, establish wrist control and open up with heavy ground strikes to set up a submission. However, if he can tie his opponent up and crush him with ground-and-pound, Nurmagomedov will forego the submission attempt. He is relentless in going for takedowns and has landed 57 during his UFC career.

I could see this fight going the distance, but with two straight submission wins, I favor Nurmagomedov making that three in a row against Gaethje.

As for Gaethje, a knockout win for him is not out of the question as Nurmagomedov sometimes gets a little sloppy and  tends to keep his chin exposed when he rushes in during striking exchanges.


Gaethje has the edge in power and he will be the best fighter Nurmagomedov has ever faced when it comes to wrestling and takedown defense, but Nurmagomedov has scored a whopping 20 takedowns in his past four fights on 43 attempts. As I said, he is relentless in his takedown attempts and defending takedowns takes an incredible amount of energy, even for the best fighters.

If the fight goes to the mat, Nurmagomedov’s wrist control is second to none.

The wildcard in this contest is Nurmagomedov’s father. The champ was very, very close to his father and with his recent passing I think we will see a different Nurmagomedov in this contest, someone who is dialed in and motivated to honor his father and coach with a memorable victory.

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Khabib Nurmagomedov Category Justin Gaethje
32 Age 31
28-0 Record 22-2
8 Knockout Wins 19
10 Submission Wins 1
10 Decision Wins 2
5’10” Height 5’11”
155 Weight 155
70″ Reach 78″
Orthodox Stance Orthodox
4.11 Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute 7.74
49% Striking Accuracy 59%
1.65 Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute 8.37
67% Striking Defense 54%
5.35 Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes 0.00
47% Takedown Accuracy 0.00%
84% Takedown Defense 80%
0.70 Submission Average Per 15 Minutes 0.0


Nurmagomedov’s goal is to retire as the undefeated UFC champion and he is nearing the end of his career. He does not want to lose this title and he will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening.

Gaethje has two goals in this fight, end the winning streak of a fighter who is considered one of the best to ever compete in the UFC and become a champion in the UFC.


Trent Reinsmith

Trent covers UFC and MMA for MTS. He has written for USA Today Sports, Vice, Bloody Elbow, Fight! Magazine, UFC 360, and Narratively among others. He has been involved with MMA since he and some friends threw some money together to purchase the pay-per-view of UFC 1, and the rest is history.

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