Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) recently said he prefers a fresh matchup in Gaethje rather than have rematches with Charles Oliveira and Arman Tsarukyan. Makhachev’s former American Kickboxing Academy teammate Thomson thinks “The Highlight” is currently his sternest test.
Gaethje (25-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) is coming off back-to-back wins over Rafael Fiziev and a head-kick knockout of Dustin Poirier to claim the “BMF” title at UFC 291.
“I believe right now out of all of them, the hardest fight for him is Justin Gaethje,” Thomson said on his “Weighing In” podcast. “You say no because of the wrestling, and I understand why you say no. But I say this: Islam has a tendency sometimes to stand in the pocket a little bit too long, and he can’t afford to do that with Justin, and his wrestling is not double-leg takedown wrestling.
“Justin’s not someone who sits in that clinch for too long. He’s good at breaking out of the clinch. He’s good at keeping you out of that clinch area and letting his hands go. Dirty boxing, uppercuts, he possesses the power to land the shot out of the break. He’s a dangerous fight for Islam, very dangerous.”
Thomson points to the success Gaethje had against Khabib Nurmagomedov in their 2020 title fight, where Gaethje won Round 1 on two of the judges’ scorecards by landing solid leg kicks and strikes. Nurmagomedov ended up slicing through Gaethje on the ground and submitting him in Round 2.
“I’m saying that we’ve seen Justin can take it. He can deliver it,” Thomson said. “His only weakness in this fight is that if his back hits the ground, it could be over quick. And I’m saying it will potentially hit there, but I say that if you’re going to look at who is the most dangerous fight for him, and we saw it with Khabib in the first round.
“Khabib took some big shots from Justin in that first round, and Khabib just walked him down. Islam’s not going to fight him that way. He can’t afford to fight him that way. He can’t afford to take the shot that Khabib took. He can’t, and he’s got to close that distance to get to that takedown.”
This story originally appeared on MMA Junkie