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Dan Hooker Outlines Why He’s “Leaning” Toward Justin Gaethje Beating Khabib Nurmagomedov

The consensus seems to be that Khabib Nurmagomedov will beat Justin Gaethje, and the betting lines reflect that. But, Dan Hooker believes Gaethje could hand the UFC's lightweight champ his first defeat.

Although Justin Gaethje has been on a ridiculously, impressive roll, it seems like most people are expecting Khabib Nurmagomedov will remain undefeated, after they fight.

But, recently lightweight contender Dan Hooker was asked to weigh-in on the expected bout, and “The Hangman” is “leaning” towards Gaethje.

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Hooker thinks Gaethje could hand Khabib his first loss

Gaethje is expected to fight the undefeated, UFC lightweight champ later this year, since he is now holding the interim belt. Gaethje outscored Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in May to win the title, which was also his fourth straight win.

Well, in advance of Hooker’s bout this Saturday with fellow contender, Dustin Poirier, he was asked about Nurmagomedov versus Gaethje. Here’s what the New Zealand fighter had to say (quotes via MMA Fighting).

“I’m definitely interested,” Hooker said. “Gaethje, if you’re describing a skill set that would give Khabib trouble, it is Gaethje’s skill set.

An incredibly strong defensive wrestler who’s very handy on his feet and can dish out a lot of damage. Great cardio being five rounds. Very comfortable being in a main event spot.

“He has the game you would put together to definitely give Khabib his toughest test. I’m leaning more towards Gaethje in that fight.”

There you have it. While the consensus appears to be that Khabib will retain the belt, Hooker’s not the only person who has argued Gaethje could give him some serious trouble.

After all, and as Hooker alluded to, Gaethje is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, he hits ridiculously hard, and his striking has never looked better. Just ask Ferguson.

If you’re curious, right now Gaethje is a fair-sized underdog on the betting lines for the planned fight, with odds ranging from +250 to +280.

Hooker hopes to face Gaethje for the belt

If Hooker can get past Poirier this Saturday, he will have won four straight, and perhaps most importantly, he will have defeated the #3 ranked lightweight. While talking about his wish to fight Gaethje, and for the belt, Hooker said this.

“That sounds like a perfect way to cap off the year,” Hooker said. “I’ll stay ready, I’ll stay sharp, but I’m looking for that next title shot.

I feel like this win, especially a knockout win, really solidifies my spot as the next No. 1 contender.”

Would a KO win over Poirier move Hooker into a title fight? It might. Especially if Conor McGregor is in fact, retired. 

Currently Hookeris #5, McGregor is #4, Poirier’s #3, and Ferguson’s #2. Gaethje is of course, #1. So, the UFC could very well come calling on Hooker if he scores a big win at UFC Vegas 4. 

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