weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Justin Gaethje lives up to hype in UFC debut

Updated July 8, 2017 - 1:58 am

Former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje acknowledges his aggressive and at times reckless style eventually might lead to a knockout loss.

It almost happened about five times in his UFC debut on “The Ultimate Fighter 25” Finale card Friday night at T-Mobile Arena.

Gaethje was wobbled several times before rallying to pummel an ailing Michael Johnson at 4:48 of the second round.

“This feels fantastic,” the lightweight said after improving to 18-0 as a pro. “I love this. You cannot break me, I promise you. You better put me to sleep or else I’m coming for your head, your body and your heart.

“Who is next?”

Gaethje was in the most trouble late in the first round only to be saved by the bell. He was wobbled again early in the second as the roar of the sparse crowd grew with every crushing punch, kick and knee that landed at a frantic pace.

The leg kicks Gaethje was mixing in throughout the exchanges started to take effect midway through the round, and Johnson found himself struggling to stay on his feet. In the closing moments of the second, he placed his back on the cage in an effort to help support his weight only to have Gaethje follow up with punches and a big knee that ended the action.

“Where is my equal?” Gaethje pleaded into the microphone.

While Gaethje couldn’t have scripted a better start to his UFC career, Jesse Taylor wrote the perfect ending to the ultimate redemption story by getting through a season of second-chance contestants on the reality show and winning the title with a second-round submission of Dhiego Lima in a welterweight bout.

Taylor had made it through the tournament on Season 7 only to be removed from the championship bout when he celebrated his semifinal win with a drunken rampage at Palace Station.

“This goes out to all the people who have messed up in life but never gave up,” Taylor said. “Keep going. Just keep going.”

Taylor dominated the first round only to get knocked down by a punch early in the second. He quickly scrambled away from Lima on the mat and locked in a rear-naked choke.

“That’s a perfect example of my life,” Taylor said. “I get dropped, but I just keep going. Perseverance.”

Drakkar Klose handed lightweight prospect Marc Diakiese the first loss of his career in a bout that might have earned them fight of the night bonuses on most cards.

Klose answered Diakiese’s flying strikes and flashy submission attempts with leg kicks and takedowns and was rewarded with a split decision.

Jared Cannonier bounced back from a loss to light heavyweight contender Glover Teixeira by knocking out late replacement Nick Roehrick in the third round.

Cannonier punished Roehrick, who signed with the UFC to take the fight this week when Steve Bosse was forced to pull out, with a series of elbows on the ground that drove his head into the mat until the referee stopped the damage.

Two-time NCAA wrestling All-American Jordan Johnson took the first and third rounds on all three cards to win a unanimous decision over light heavyweight Marcel Fortuna.

Las Vegan Brad Tavares won his third fight in four tries with a unanimous decision over Canadian middleweight Elias Theodorou on the main card.

Gray Maynard, a teammate of Tavares at Xtreme Couture, grinded out a decision win over Teruto Ishihara. Maynard repeatedly took Ishihara down and never let him mount any sort of offense in dominating position for nearly the entire 15 minutes of a preliminary card bout.

Angela Hill and Tecia Torres picked up women’s strawweight wins. Hill won all three rounds of a unanimous decision over Ashley Yoder, and Torres submitted Juliana Lima early in the second round.

“TUF 25” semifinalist James Krause won a unanimous decision over castmate Tom Gallicchio in a welterweight bout, and veteran C.B. Dollaway recovered from a staggering early shot to win a unanimous decision over light heavyweight Ed Herman.

A women’s bantamweight bout between Jessica Eye and newcomer Aspen Ladd was called off just hours before the fight when Ladd was hospitalized because of illness.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Jon Jones DWI Arrest Video
Video was released on Friday from an officer's body cam of UFC champion Jon Jones going through a sobriety test and before being arrested. Jones was arrested early Thursday on charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated, possession of an open container and negligent use of a firearm.
UFC Brasilia happens in empty arena - VIDEO
Despite coronavirus canceling many other planned sporting events, UFC Brasilia went on as scheduled on Mar. 14, though no fans were permitted to attend. Charles Oliveira and Gilbert Burns took home performance bonuses for their wins in the main and co-main events, respectively. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NAC suspends combat sports through March 25 - Video
The Nevada Athletic Commission voted to suspend all combat sports licenses through March 25 in order to protect the health and safety of those working and competing in the events from coronavirus. Adam Hill and Heidi Fang discuss what this means for future events the UFC have on their schedule and more. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Adesanya-Romero defend their performances at UFC 248 - VIDEO
Israel Adesanya retained the UFC middleweight belt by defeating Yoel Romero via unanimous decision, but the fight came under criticism for there being a lack of action. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dana White says UFC 248 main event was a terrible fight - VIDEO
At the post-fight press conference UFC president Dana White expressed his displeasure with UFC 248's main event between Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 248 Official Weigh-In Results - Video
All but one fighter made weight for UFC 248. Emily Whitmire came in heavy for the strawweight limit by 1.5 pounds. All fighters involved in title fights hit the mark making Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero official. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sean O'Malley Says His Performance at UFC 248 Will Remind Everyone Who He Is - VIDEO
UFC bantamweight Sean O'Malley explains what his two-year hiatus from competing in the octagon was like, what he missed most about fighting in his time away and what he thinks his strengths are against Jose Quinonez at UFC 248. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 248 Staredowns - VIDEO
All fighters on the UFC 248 main card faced off at media day at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, including Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk who will fight for the women's strawweight title and middleweights Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero who will do battle for the division's belt on March 7 at the T-Mobile Arena.
Israel Adesanya says McGregor and Rousey's rise helped him with UFC fame
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya discusses how he's prepared to handle the fame that comes with having a title belt by studying what others like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor have done before him. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dana White says coronavirus is a global problem - VIDEO
UFC President Dana White explains how the promotion as a global brand with fight cards in all corners of the world is preparing to handle the coronavirus. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dana White says coronavirus is a global problem - VIDEO
UFC President Dana White explains how the promotion as a global brand with fight cards in all corners of the world is preparing to handle the coronavirus. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk explains her intent with gas mask meme - VIDEO
UFC Strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk posted a meme of herself in a gas mask next to her Chinese opponent Zhang Weili and later deleted it from Instagram. At a media day, Jedrzejczyk explained what her intent was with that post and fired back at Weili who had said earlier in the day that she was still angry over the joke. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zhang Weili Still Angry Over Her Opponent's Coronavirus Joke - VIDEO
UFC women's strawweight champion Zhang Weili discusses how she fled her native China to train in Las Vegas due to the spread of the coronavirus and responds to jokes her opponent, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, made about the outbreak ahead of their UFC 248 title bout. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC president says McGregor-Nurmagomedov rematch is the fight to make
After Conor McGregor's first-round demolition of Donald Cerrone at UFC 246, UFC president Dana White said a rematch between "The Notorious" and UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is the fight to make next. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 246 Ceremonial Weigh-In Staredowns - VIDEO
The UFC 246 fight card, featuring a welterweight main event between Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone, is official, minus one planned bout. In place of Claudia Gadelha vs. Alexa Grasso, a bantamweight bout between Brian Kelleher and Ode' Osbourne will move up to the pay-per-view main card. All fighters competing on the card faced off during the ceremonial weigh-ins at The Park Theater.
McGregor: "All their eyes are lighting up when 'The Notorious' name is mentioned" - VIDEO
Conor McGregor says he knows that other fighter's eyes light up at the chance of facing him as it usually means a dramatic increase in pay. Welterweights Jorge Masvidal and Kamaru Usman spoke about why they'd face McGregor next and Donald Cerrone explained how he's affected his payday for UFC 246. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Conor McGregor says he'd be honored to be the first to fight at Allegiant Stadium
Maycee Barber Doing All She Can to Become the UFC's Youngest Champion - VIDEO
As 21-year-old Maycee Barber begins her quest to become the youngest champion in the UFC, she must first face a competitor in women's flyweight Roxanne Modafferi - a veteran of the sport who is often regarded as one of the pioneers of women's mixed martial arts. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 246- Media Day Staredowns
With UFC 246 fight week underway, fighters from five featured bouts, including the co-main event women's bantamweight contest between Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington, faced off at media day in Las Vegas. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UFC 246 Press Conference: McGregor vs. Cerrone Highlights and Staredown - VIDEO
Ahead of their welterweight bout at UFC 246 on Jan. 18, Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone were respectful of one another, despite having traded barbs close to four years ago at another press conference. Their bout will serve as the five-round main event at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jon Jones’ arrest video released

The UFC star struggled to comprehend instructions and perform basic functions during a sobriety check early Thursday morning that led to his arrest in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Nevada Athletic Commission meeting canceled

The Nevada Athletic Commission’s planned Wednesday meeting has been canceled as protocols are put in place to comply with Governor Steve Sisolak’s emergency directive on public meetings.