Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight knockout artists Justin Gaethje and Donald Cerrone will clash TONIGHT (Sept. 14, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 158 from inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
It’s been an excellent 13 months for Gaethje, who rebounded from the first losses of his professional career with a sharper focus. “The Highlight” still brings the violence, but he’s smart and more dangerous than ever. Meanwhile, Cerrone enters this bout looking to rebound from his latest attempt at winning a Lightweight title eliminator. It is important to remember that prior to that loss, “Cowboy” was riding high on his own career renaissance that saw him put on some career-best performances.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Edson Barboza (UFC on ESPN 2), Michael Johnson (TUF 25 Finale), James Vick (UFC Fight Night 135), Luis Palomino (WSOF 19, 23), Melvin Guillard (WSOF 15)
Key Losses: Dustin Poirier (UFC on FOX 29), Eddie Alvarez (UFC 218)
Keys to Victory: Gaethje is an absolute bruiser. He really gives opponents no option but to exchange with him, as he’s more than willing to throw himself into the fire in order to force the action. However, in his last two fights, Gaethje has better been able to force the fight without overexposing himself in the process.
I speak above about the adjustments to his game, but it’s also very much worth mentioning that Gaethje’s usual approach happened to line up well with his opponent’s historic weaknesses. Both Vick and Barboza struggle with pressure, which is precisely where Gaethje excels — a good recipe for first-round knockout wins.
Guess what Donald Cerrone struggles with?
This is a stylistic layup for Justin Gaethje, but that does not at all mean Cerrone cannot still kick his head off. To avoid such a fate, Gaethje has to remain consistent in his pressure. Cerrone does well at scoring a hard body strike and then pulling the fight back into his control as his foe takes a few moments to recover.
Gaethje has to keep his foot on the gas.
Record: 36-12 (1)
Key Wins: Eddie Alvarez (UFC 178), Benson Henderson (UFC Fight Night 59), Al Iaquinta (UFC Fight Night 151), Alexander Hernandez (UFC Fight Night 143), Yancy Medeiros (UFC Fight Night 126), Rick Story (UFC 202)
Key Losses: Tony Ferguson (UFC 238), Jorge Masvidal (UFC on FOX 23), Darren Till (UFC Fight Night 118), Leon Edwards (UFC Fight Night 132), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on FOX 17, UFC Fight Night 27)
Keys to Victory: There are no mysteries to Cerrone’s game this deep in his career. “Cowboy” is one of the nastiest offensive kickboxers the sport has ever seen, is a legitimate black belt, and underrated wrestler. However, his historic issue with fighting from his back foot remains.
Not since Stipe Miocic faced off with Daniel Cormier has there been a match up where body shots are so incredibly valuable. Attacking the mid-section is absolutely key against Gaethje — it’s largely the only proven way to diffuse his offense to some degree.
For Cerrone especially, his success with the aforementioned intercepting knee and snap kick will make-or-break him. If Cerrone can dig into Gaethje’s belly and earn himself some space while Gaethje gasps for breath, we’re likely in for a vintage “Cowboy” performance. If not, well, look at Vick and Barboza for a preview of the alternative.
Bottom Line: Someone is getting put down hard.
Gaethje’s last two wins have put him back in title contention, and a third knockout should set him up for a pretty huge fight next. It’s quite possible that a win earns Gaethje a title shot against the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, but the alternative is a money match with Conor McGregor — not a bad option, either! Gaethje has always hinted that his time as a fighter is limited, but a win here puts him in position to make the most of it.
As for Cerrone, his latest defeat was definitely a big hit to the idea that he could fight for the title again, but hope is not lost completely. He’s still ranked within the Top 5 (somehow above Gaethje?), and he has yet to face Khabib Nurmagomedov. If the top of the division shakes out correctly, “Cowboy” could still find himself in a title fighter sooner than later given a victory here.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 158 fight card this weekend right HERE, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Fight Night 158, Justin Gaethje and Donald Cerrone will go to war in the main event. Which man will earn the victory?