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.

Covering The Cage Videos
Covering The Cage Live: UFC 220 and Bellator 192 Recap
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap UFC 220 and Bellator 192.
Covering the Cage: Recapping 2017
Heidi Fang and Adam Hill go over their favorite moments of 2017 and pick their favorite fight, knockout and submission of the year.
Covering The Cage: UFC 219 Recap
Covering The Cage hosts Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap tonights fights at UFC 219.
Covering The Cage: UFC 219 Picks
Covering The Cage hosts Adam Hill and Heidi Fang give their picks for the main card fights at UFC 219.
Covering The Cage: UFC 219 Preview
Covering the Cage hosts Adam Hill and Heidi Fang preview UFC 219 including Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm.
UFC 219 media day staredowns
Ahead of UFC 219's pay-per-view on Dec. 30, the stars of the main card faced off at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Cris "Cyborg" Justino will face Holly Holm in the main event for the women's featherweight belt.
Covering the Cage: UFC fighter Julian Marquez talks debut victory
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk with UFC fighter Julian Marquez. They discuss the beard competition between Marquez and Tyron Woodley, and the unexpected passing of longtime MMA coach and trainer Robert Follis.
Covering the Cage: Julian Marquez interview
Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk about all things going on in the world of MMA and talk to Julian Marquez about his upcoming fight in Winnipeg.
Covering The Cage Live: UFC 218 Recap, TUF 26
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap The Ultimate Fighter 26 and UFC 218.
Covering The Cage: TUF 26 Recap, UFC 218 Preview
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap The Ultimate Fighter and preview UFC 218.
Covering the Cage: UFC 218, TUF 26 Finale preview
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang make their picks for the "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 26 Finale and UFC 218. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Covering the Cage: Kyra Batara interview
Adam Hill and Heidi Fang talk to Combate Americas Womens Atomweight Kyra Batara about her upcoming fight in San Antonio as well as Conor McGregor's potential incident at a bar and UFC 218.
Covering the Cage Live: Conor McGregor Apologizes
Adam Hill and Heidi Fang discuss Conor McGregor apologizing on Instagram for jumping in the cage, shoving a referee at Bellator 187, recap of Anthony Pettis vs. Dustin Poirier, preview Fabricio Werdum vs. Marcin Tybura as well as Michael Bisping stepping up on less than 30 days notice to fight Kelvin Gastelum in China.
Roxanne Modafferi previews her fight with Emily Whitmire on TUF 26
The Ultimate Fighter 26 features a Las Vegas showdown between Syndicate MMA's Roxanne Modafferi and Xtreme Couture's Emily Whitmire. Modafferi previews the fight with CoveringtheCage.com.
Covering The Cage: UFC 217 Recap
Review-Journal reporters Adam Hill and Heidi Fang recap tonight's UFC 217 main card title fights between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rose Namajunas, and the return of Georges St-Pierre.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like