waya wrote:True, but how many of those opponents can we say are exceptional grapplers? Aldo, Stephens, Cub, Pettis, etc are all primarily strikers. Not to mention they're all smaller than Khabib. And a lot of people brought up Michael Johnson/Edson/Iaquinta's takedown defense but all that seems to get thrown out the window against Khabib. Only guy that that neutralized him was a juiced up Tibau, but that was over 5 years ago.
I feel like the guys Khabib could have similar trouble (difficulty taking them down) against are Lee and Gaethe.
Cub and Aldo are both excellent grapplers, especially Aldo, but they're predominantly strikers for sure. The thing you look for though is the takedown attempts (of which we could go over nearly 40) and then the techniques Max uses to defend them. Max is GREAT defending against takedowns when backed up against the cage, Khabib's most effective takedown offense is when opponents are against the cage. Johnson and Barboza are both solid defensive wrestlers but no where near "great" at takedown defense for different reasons.
Now Iaquinta is really good defensive wrestler but he also stuffed 9 out of 15 takedown attempts. So we're best off looking at how Al defended the takedowns and see if Max can match it. Al's defense started with a low stance and a jab to keep space. Khabib was shooting from distance thanks to the jab and Al's low stance allowed him to drop and block the majority of the attempts. Max is better at controlling space, has a better jab and punishes distance takedowns with front chokes (Tony and Ortega do as well). That all bodes well for Max's style against Khabib because Khabib eschews technique to get his hands on guys and then lets his chain wrestling do the work. Now if Khabib takes Max down, he'll probably be able to pass and do damage but getting there isn't a sure thing by a longshot.
(Sidenote: For the closest comparison to Conor's TDD, which tends to be pop back up as soon as his back hits the mat; I'd point to Khabib vs Trujillo but Conor would have to tweak his game a bit to match it).
The other thing is Khabib hasn't fought anyone with truly good footwork. Barboza flashes good footwork until pressured and then habitually does straight line backward movement but when he did use lateral movement Khabib would whiff. Think Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey, Holm is not a great defensive wrestler (see Miesha Tate shooting from outside into an immediate backtake one fight after). But Rousey's footwork wasn't good and Holm kept a disciplined gameplan. Holm damaged and slid out the side while Rousey bull-rushed. Every one of the elite lightweights has to be looking at Khabib plodding forward, chin up high and then shooting from outside like Carla Esparza looking to snatch even a foot or ankle....and they're all thinking, if I use my footwork I can make him whiff. That's the big test left for Khabib and when you combine Max having superior footwork to his ability to defend takedowns along the cage; we'll assume that he can be taken down but I'd also guess that Max can delay these takedowns and do damage beforehand. If Max took it to deep water, I think he can win that fight.
PG - Payton/Taylor/Goodwin
SG - Ntilikina/L Williams/Clavell
SF - MKG/Bogdanovich/Hezonja
PF - Saric/Bertans/Lydon
C - Gobert/Mahinimi/Zbo
Ex A. Kaba, Monte Morris, Hartenstein
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