Between Rounds: “The Highlight” Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje aka “The Highlight” in fight circles stormed onto the MMA scene in 2011. Standing 5’11’ and 158 pounds many considered him a cocky kid with an attitude, and man were they right. Justin’s first pro fight was against Kevin Croom who was 4-2 at the time riding a 4 fight win streak and considered a rising prospect in the sport. Gaethje literally slammed his way to a big win over the hard hitting hillbilly and “The Highlight” was born. Gaethje is brash, bold and cocky. A natural trash talker he loves to fuel the fire of a fight. Some love him and some love to hate him and he would probably tell all of them to kiss his ass, That’s just Justin.
Winning burns in him like a raging fire and is his only option but winning in style is his deepest desire. Gaethje ran off a string of wins against some unknown fighters building his record but gaining little respect in the process. Now sitting at 5-0 and hearing all the chatter Justin signs up to fight Drew Fickett a long time cage veteran with a 42-18 record. Fickett had 60 fights under his belt and a wealth of knowledge in MMA “The Highlight” was set to get clipped out and left on the floor. Gaethje didn’t buy into that script and rewrote a fairy tale ending where he knocked out Drew in 12 seconds. After beating an outmatched Valdez to advance to 7-0 Gaethje locked into a three fight set that would make or break him as an MMA fighter.
Sitting at 11-0 the stage was set for a showdown of undefeated fighters when WSOF signed the deal between Gaethje and Nick Newell both 11-0 and riding a wave of hype from some exciting fights. Gaethje said Newell’s O had to go and it did in electric fashion as Justin finished Nick in round two via TKO by punches. Household names like Melvin Guillard 32-13-2 and Luis Palomino 23-9 fell to Justin. Palomino swore Gaethje got lucky in his third round finish and demanded a rematch. Not one to back down “The Highlight” agreed and this time finished Palamino in round two. Wins over Brian Foster 26-8 and Luiz Firmino 19-7 left Gaethje sitting at 17-0 and punched his ticket to a shot at the UFC.
The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale found Gaethje against Michael Johnson and a wicked series of punches and knees ended Johnson’s night in round two as “The Highlight” now 18-0 had clearly arrived on the scene and wanted the best UFC had to offer right out of the gate. That fight fans might have been a mistake. Eddie Alvarez 28-5 not only ended Gaethje’s undefeated streak he finished him round 3 with his own combo of punches and knees oddly familiar to Justin’s win over Johnson that got him this fight. Now at 18-1 Gaethje was set to fight Dustin Poirier 22-5 in what many were expecting to be an all out war. Poirier showed off his punching power and delivered not only another loss but another finish to “The Highlight”.
Justin knew things had to change, while he might have been humbled in those two fights he was still that brash young man with one helluva attitude and losing wasn’t acceptable. Justin bounced back in the best shape of his life and finished James Vick 13-1 with a first round knockout. Enter respected veteran Edson Barboza 20-6 where Justin continued to show his brutal attack and power with another first round finish via a devastating right hook. Now sitting at 20-2 he would face one of the best to ever strap the gloves on in “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone 36-12. Cerrone had a reputation for bringing the fight being able to take an absurd amount of punishment and keep moving forward. This would be the toughest fight to date for Gaethje. In true “Highlight” fashion Gaethje finished the legend in the first round with a barrage of hooks and uppercuts.
Gaethje was back and once again asked for the best UFC has to offer and once again they have stepped up with an absolute monster in “El Cucuy”. Tony Ferguson is also coming off a big finish of Cerrone and the two meet May 9th at UFC 249. Justin Gaethje 21-2 will wage a war with Tony Ferguson 25-3 for the interim lightweight title. “El Cucuy” vs “The Highlight” in what should by all accounts be fight of night on one of the hottest MMA cards I’ve seen in a long time. Two absolute monsters in the cage one mission and only one belt tells the story between two of the best lightweights in MMA. May 9th the story has been written and the ending is taking shape buckle up fight fans for some fun for, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE…
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