Undefeated former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion Justin Gaethje made his Octagon debut against Top 10-ranked Lightweight contender Michael Johnson tonight (July 7, 2017) at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 25: “Redemption” Finale inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, airing live on FOX Sports 1.
Gaethje brought with him a reputation for violence, but Johnson promised to be a difficult stylistic match up with his speed and footwork-heavy style. Johnson was coming off a devastating loss Khabib Nurmagomedov, but his fight before that was a knockout win over Dustin Poirier. The pair had been talking trash back-and-forth since the summer kickoff press conference, ending in a heated staredown and middle finger at the weigh ins.
There was no glove touch to start tonight’s main event. Gaethje ate a right hand that sent him backwards almost immediately, and they proceeded to exchange, Johnson showing off tremendous hand speed. Gaethje pressed forward and landed a combination of his own. Johnson countered and circled. Gaethje landed a right hand, keeping his hands high, landing low kicks while taking Johnson’s shots on his forearms. Johnson countered a leg kick with a right hand. Gaethje dug in a hard right hand to the body. He landed another leg kick that Johnson countered with a blistering combination. They traded hooks, and Johnson looked wobbled. They traded combinations, one getting the sense both men could go lights out at any time. Gaethje was getting the fight he wanted, and Johnson, though landing quite a bit, was having a hard time moving on his front leg. They clinched and traded knees in the open space of the cage. Gaethje pressed forward, and they traded punches from the single collar tie. Johnson rocked Gaethje with a right uppercut! Gaethje was very hurt, and Johnson took him down. When Gaethje stood back up, Johnson teed off, nearly stopping the fight, but Gaethje took it and threw back as the round ended.
Johnson opened the second round with more blistering combinations, Gaethje walking him down with leg kicks and right hands. Johnson ate a jab, then rocked Gaethje with another right hand! Johnson swarmed, then pushed into the clinch. He looked for elbows, and Gaethje somehow survived, pushing off. Johnson dug to the body, Gaethje still looking very flat-footed, but still landed a right hand. What a wild fight. Johnson dug to the body and Gaethje covered up, taking Johnson’s shots on his arms. Gaethje hurt Johnson with a knee to the ribcage! Johnson stumbled back, his face a mask of pain, and Gaethje walked him to the fence, landing his signature uppercuts from the single collar tie. Johnson stumbled to the canvas, laying on his back, and Gaethje motioned him to stand back to his feet. Gaethje kept up the relentless onslaught, landing a flying knee, and Johnson crumbled against the fence! As Johnson sat down under the onslaught, the referee stepped in! What a fight! Gaethje took a moment to grab his breath before climbing the fence and celebrating with his signature flip off the cage.
Love it. That's how tired you should be after a badass performance. pic.twitter.com/1FjWeR2jR7— Chase Sherman (@ChaseShermanUFC) July 8, 2017
UFC’s Lightweight division has a new contender. And 2017 has a strong contender for “Fight of the Year.” It was impossible to capture the drama of that fight in a few paragraphs. Unbelievable.
“Whose next? Whose next? Where’s my equal at, that’s what I want to know?” demanded Gaethje before any questions in his post-fight interview. He shouted out his coach Trevor Wittman for telling him if he wanted a knockout, to go to the body first, then the head. “Octagon jitters, what??” he proclaimed. I would watch Gaethje fight absolutely anyone in the Top 10 ... or otherwise. That was tremendous. What a UFC debut for “Highlight!”
Final result: Justin Gaethje def. Michael Johnson by TKO (4:48 of round 2)
For full TUF 25 Finale results and play-by-play click here