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UFC Fight Night 135 card: Justin Gaethje vs James Vick full fight preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight bruisers Justin Gaethje and James Vick will clash TONIGHT (Aug. 25, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 135 inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After an incredible and lengthy undefeated run to begin his professional career, Gaethje has now come up short by the slimmest of margins twice in a row. Make no mistake, they were violent losses to a pair of the division’s best, but each fight saw Gaethje finished just as he moved to pull ahead.

Meanwhile, Vick has been steadily picking up wins and separating himself from the pack at 155 lbs. Quite possibly the biggest man in the division, Vick has a unique fighting style and usually brings the excitement.

Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:

Justin Gaethje
Record: 18-2
Key Wins: Michael Johnson (TUF 25 Finale), Luis Palomino (WSOF 19, 23), Melvin Guillard (WSOF 15), Brian Foster (WSOF 29)
Key Losses: Dustin Poirier (UFC on FOX 29), Eddie Alvarez (UFC 218)
Keys to Victory: Gaethje is a brawler. A smart one, maybe, but a man who loves to walk into the center of the Octagon and let his hands fly. It’s a questionable choice for an All-American wrestler, but no one can question his overall success thus far.

Vick stands in a very boxing orienting manner and jabs a lot: a pair of factors that should leave his lead leg vulnerable to Gaethje’s brutal low kicks. Gaethje tries to separate all opponents from their legs, but it would be wise to double down here against Vick.

Even with the low kick, range will be a problem for Gaethje, as clubbing hooks from the shorter man have far less reach than the lanky man pumping jabs. To help negate Vick’s advantage, I’d like to see Gaethje shoot a few takedowns. Landing them would be great, but driving into the clinch would be a stellar result as well. At that range, Gaethje is a savage with his kicks and elbows.

Gaethje will make this a war of attrition no matter what, but small adjustments can decide who remains standing at the final bell.

James Vick
Record: 13-1
Key Wins: Joseph Duffy (UFC 217), Francisco Trinaldo (UFC Fight Night 126), Jake Matthews (UFC Fight Night 65), Polo Reyes (UFC 211)
Key Losses: Beneil Dariush (UFC 199)
Keys to Victory: Vick is a very dangerous combination of physical attributes: giant for the division, durable, and very well-conditioned. He compliments this physicality with a rangy mix of boxing and Muay Thai, as well as some sneaky front chokes.


As always when facing Gaethje, Vick will be forced to walk a fine line: he has to actively land shots on Gaethje without falling away from his game plan. Worse still, Vick is a very high output fighter who tends to create exchanges at every possible chance, which will likely give Gaethje the chance to trade that he desires.

Luckily, Vick can land from a far greater distance than Gaethje, as even just jamming his face with straight punches will make “The Highlight” absorb a lot of damage while trying to close the distance. Once Gaethje does manage to get closer, Vick should be looking for uppercuts and knees all night long. Not only does Gaethje stand somewhat hunched, by his earmuff guard leaves a definite opening for attacks up the middle.

Bottom Line: This is an incredible action fight, and the winner should find himself in title contention.

There’s a lot of pressure on Gaethje here, not only to win but to show improvement and development. I’ve written this before, but I believe Gaethje’s brawling approach can work at the highest level: he needs to make smarter offensive choices more than anything else. Vick is a crafty and rangy opponent, a perfect foe for Gaethje to mix it up against. Anyone who is a fan of MMA would like to see Gaethje in the Octagon with someone like Tony Ferguson, but Gaethje needs to put on an inspiring performance tonight for such a match up to happen.

If not, dreams of Gaethje as a contender or champion look pretty dead.

As for Vick, this is a massive opportunity. The only two to defeat Gaethje are well established members of the top five — a group Vick would definitely like to be a part of. Capping off his excellent win streak by defeating Gaethje would be huge for Vick, who is definitely in his prime right now and looking to make a title run.

TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 135, Justin Gaethje and James Vick will square off. Which man will have his hand raised?

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