When Justin Gaethje came over to the UFC from the Professional Fighters League, formerly known as the World Series of Fighting, expectations were through the roof and warnings were issued on the chaos that Gaethje would bring to the Octagon. Well, he hasn’t disappointed so far.
Gaethje’s UFC debut was massively successful. After eating huge shots from hard-hitting Michael Johnson in both the first and second round, Gaethje was eventually able to break Johnson and stop him via strikes at the end of round two.
The win, which earned multiple bonuses, propelled the former WSOF lightweight champion all the way into the top five of the very competitive UFC lightweight division. His performance in the outing immediately marked him as one of the most dangerous guys in the division.
This earned Gaethje a shot at former UFC champ Eddie Alvarez at UFC 218 in December. It was a real opportunity for “The Highlight” to show that he can beat the top-level guys and present a different type of threat to UFC superstar Conor McGregor. However, Gaethje fell just short of defeating Alvarez. Instead, he was stopped in the third round after eating a massive knee from Alvarez. The fight was a back-and-forth war while it lasted, but Gaethje left the Little Caesars Arena a disappointed man.
Despite the loss, Gaethje’s exciting and chaotic fighting style earned him another headlining slot, this time against Dustin Poirier in April. It was a highly anticipated clash. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this fight was going to deliver as one of the best fights of the year. While the fight delivered, it also served Gaethje his second loss in a row via TKO.
The two losses brought some changes to Gaethje’s name. Though he remained as one of the must-watch guys in the sport, the word is that he’s been figured out. This is surely what Gaethje’s next opponent, James Vick, must think as well after seeing the 25th anniversary press conference in Los Angeles. The two men didn’t waste any time getting in each other’s face at the staredowns or the presser.
“I’m not the Homer Simpson of MMA like you are, bro. I’m not gonna take a beating, but you will get knocked the fuck out,” were Vick’s words at the presser. While Vick is absolutely entitled to be confident about his upcoming fight, which is set for UFC Fight Night 135 on Aug. 25, it would be foolish to underestimate Gaethje’s firepower simply because he has lost two straight.
Gaethje lost against the top of the food chain only. Alvarez and Poirier are both world-class fighters on the brink of challenging for the title, and they remain two of the very best talents showcased by lightweight division.
Furthermore, while Gaethje did lose both of those fights, he gave his opponents hellfire before he fell. Both Alvarez and Poirier were barely able to walk by the end of their fights against Gaethje, and they testified to not being able to walk well for even a couple of weeks after their respective encounters with the former WSOF champ.
Opponents might beat Gaethje, but they will never be able to do it easily. If Vick goes into his fight against Gaethje thinking that he’s just going to be able to make easy work of “The Highlight,” then it would be the most foolish mistake of his life. In order to beat someone like Gaethje, Vick has to be willing to suffer. That’s the only way he’s going to be able to get through the brutal leg kicks and relentless pressure put on by the All-American wrestler from Arizona.