A first-round knockout of Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 158 on Saturday edges Justin Gaethje closer to a title shot, and the Arizona fighter wants the winner of KhabibNurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
Gaethje saw off Cerrone with relative ease in Vancouver. Cowboy looked unsettled by the power and forward pressure of Gaethje, who dropped Cowboy twice before the ref called a stop to the fight near the end of the first round.
A 21st professional win for Gaethje, and a third straight win by first-round stoppage. Now a top 4 contender in the lightweight division, Gaethje wants a shot at the title – namely the winner of the as-yet-unconfirmed Khabib-Tony fight.
Red Panty Night for Justin Gaethje?
Overtaking Cerrone to go fourth in the division, only Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier stand between Gaethje and the number one contender Tony Ferguson.
In an interview with ESPN last month, McGregor told Ariel Helwani that he was due to fight Justin Gaethje in June this year but for a hand injury. Gaethje later said that he was unaware of this scheduled ‘fight’ with the Irishman, which now seems unlikely to happen.
The next most likely fight for McGregor is Poirier. The pair exchanged tweets after Poirier loss to Khabib at UFC 242 last month, and fans seem keen on a rematch between the two before the end of the year. That clears the way for Gaethje to fight the winner of Khabib-Tony next year, but is Gaethje ready?
It’s been a turbulent two years for Gaethje. Having won at the TUF Finale against Michael Johnson in 2017, he suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Poirier before concluding a three-run streak last weekend.
At only 30-years-old, is Gaethje ready for a shot at the title? He was stopped in his two UFC losses but has come back with three exciting and promising wins. But maybe he needs one more stepping stone on his road to being lightweight champ?
A possible match-up could be against the winner of Al Iaquinta and Dan Hooker at UFC 243 this weekend. Fifth-ranked Iaquinta will be expected to beat Hooker, and with similar brawler-mentality to Gaethje it could make for an enthralling contest.
Justin Gaethje is ranked up their with the top lightweight fighters in the world. He still has the fighting world at his feet and could go on to achieve great things in the sport. Realistically, the winner of McGregor’s next bout will have the next shot at the title, which may leave Gaethje needing another win to earn himself that shot.
On Saturday, Vancouver was the host city for a UFC lightweight title eliminator bout between Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje. In a contest that was highly touted as a fight of the night contender, both fighters carried exciting styles into the cage with them, that tend to keep fans on the edge of their seat. Within four minutes and 18 seconds of the opening round, it was Gaethje who came out the victor, earning his third consecutive finish by KO/TKO.
Gaethje found himself early on being the one just a little bit quicker to the punch, and carried on with the same rhythm as the round was coming to an end. ‘The Highlight’ showed that quickness again, right on time to close the show, catching an oncoming Cerrone with a sharp right hook which sent his opponent face first onto the mat. A tough ‘Cowboy’ looked to stay in the bout, getting back to his feet while still eating some tasty uppercuts, but it was the end of the night for the Colorado native when he received one more viscous right hook from Gaethje that sent him back down to the canvas. The referee would then step in and call a stop to the bout after Cerrone suffered some extra unnecessary shots to head. A late stoppage would be an understatement, which seemed to bother Gaethje, while Cerrone protested the referee’s decision.
While Justin Gaethje is now on a three fight win streak, this is Donald Cerrone’s first time suffering consecutive losses since his winless year in 2017, when he was on the receiving end of three defeats to top contenders such as Jorge Masvidal, Robbie Lawler, and Darren Till. It should come as no surprise to hear Donald Cerrone’s name being mentioned in another highly ranked contest in the next few months though, as we should all know by now that ‘Cowboy’ isn’t one for shying away from battle despite having competed four times this calendar year already.
This win now puts Gaethje in a great position amongst the other top challengers in the 155lbs division. By right, three wins against top ten contenders should be enough to be in contention for at least a number one contender slot, but it would be almost criminal to deny Tony Ferguson his opportunity against the kingpin of the lightweight division, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Immediately after his impressive performance, Gaethje used his mic time in the octagon to make it clear what his plan is next.
“The Irishman’s retired, I want a real fighter, I want the winner of Tony and Khabib,” Gaethje exclaimed. “I want to fight Khabib before he’s gone, and if Tony wins, nobody’s gonna miss that fight, that will put a million people in a stadium.”
Although dismissing the opportunity of squaring up against Conor McGregor, ESPN’s Ariel Helwani announced post fight that it was in fact Gaethje who was scheduled to be Conor McGregor’s comeback fight this past summer, but all negotiations came to a brief end as the Dubliner broke his hand in sparring. With Poirier just coming off a defeat to Khabib, and the champ probably set to fight Ferguson at some point towards the end of the year or in early 2020, it leaves Gaethje free, and I don’t think it’s out of the question for the UFC to offer Gaethje a lucrative contract to welcome “The Notorious” one back to the octagon at the start of next year.
Donald Cerrone suffered his second consecutive loss when he fell short against Justin Gaethje in Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 16 headliner.
After putting together a strong run in his return to lightweight, Cerrone (36-13 MMA, 23-10 UFC) has now dropped back-to-back fights after succumbing to a first-round TKO defeat to Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in their lightweight main event, which took place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and streamed on ESPN+. With the result came some questions about Cerrone’s future.
“Cowboy” has been the most active member of the UFC roster since he joined the organization in 2011, but at 36, he’s hit unfamiliar territory in his career.
What does the loss mean for Cerrone? Watch the video above for thoughts and analysis on his future.
What mattered most at UFC on ESPN+ 16 in Vancouver? Here are a few post-fight musings …
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1. Justin Gaethje finds his happy medium
I’ll be the first to admit that when Justin Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) talked about altering his style to favor accuracy over output, there were concerns about whether he would be moving too far away from what got him to the dance as a lightweight contender. But who can argue with these results?
Since dropping back-to-back fights and becoming more conscious of his approach to fighting, Gaethje has picked up three consecutive first-round knockout wins, with the latest, of course, coming at the expense of Donald Cerrone (36-13 MMA, 23-10 UFC) in their main event encounter.
Gaethje appears to have found the perfect balance to maximize his skillset, and that should be a scary proposition for everyone at 155 pounds.
The UFC made its return to Canada on Saturday with UFC on ESPN+ 16, which took place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, with a 12-fight card that streamed entirely on ESPN+.
Justin Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) continued his emergence as a top lightweight contender in the main event when he scored a first-round TKO of Donald Cerrone (36-13 MMA, 23-10 UFC) to extend his winning streak to three fights.
“The Highlight” made some history with his win, but he wasn’t the only one to put his name in the record books. For more, check below for 35 post-event facts to come out of UFC on ESPN+ 16.