April 29, 2017

UFC: Violence Master Justin Gaethje A Great Addition To the Lightweight Division

By Adam Martin

After a short dabble in free agency, former WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje has agreed to a contract with the UFC, and the violence master will soon make his way to the Octagon. Gaethje, who is only 28 years old and in the prime of his career, is undefeated at 17-0, including a 10-0 record in WSOF with nine knockouts. He is nicknamed “The Highlight” because of his highlight-reel finishes, as he’s won 14 fights via knockout and one via submission, setting numerous WSOF records in the process, including the most title defenses and most knockout wins in WSOF history. He has been a pro since 2011, and though he hasn’t fought in the UFC yet, most observers of the sport consider him one of the best lightweight fighters in the world, and a welcome addition to the UFC’s stacked 155-pound division.
Gaethje signing with the UFC is a win for everyone involved. With WSOF, Gaethje was destroying every opponent the promotion put in front of him -- including former UFC fighters Melvin Guillard, Dan Lauzon, and Brian Cobb -- and after cleaning out WSOF’s lightweight division, there wasn’t really anyone left for him to fight there. With WSOF turning into the Professional Fighters League, and with Gaethje a free agent for the first time in his career, the timing made sense for the promotion to let him go without a fight, and for Gaethje to sign a deal with the UFC, where the majority of MMA’s top lightweight fighters reside.

In the UFC, there is going to be no shortage of opponents for Gaethje to test his skillset against. A deadly striker with a wrestling background, Gaethje is one of the most well-rounded lightweights in the sport, and there are some amazing possible matchups on deck for him when he comes to the UFC. Considering he was the WSOF champion and is undefeated at 17-0, there’s no need to bring Gaethje along slowly, so the UFC should match him up with a top-10-ranked opponent for his Octagon debut.

Considering Gaethje’s best weapon is his leg kicks, a matchup against fellow leg kick extraordinaire Edson Barboza makes a lot of sense. Barboza is coming off of a highlight-reel win over Beneil Dariush, is ranked in the top 10, and is currently without an opponent. With UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor holding up the lightweight division, and with Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Nate Diaz kind of in a holding pattern, Barboza’s next-best option for an opponent would definitely be Gaethje. I feel like this would be an amazing fight for the fans and a perfect introduction for Gaethje into the UFC.

But really, this is just the beginning. Gaethje has the potential to challenge for the UFC lightweight title within a year or two and has a very good chance of winning it. Don’t forget how many people thought Eddie Alvarez was going to get eaten alive in the UFC after coming over as the Bellator lightweight champion, but then he went and won the UFC lightweight title. I really think Gaethje has the potential to follow in Alvarez’ footsteps and win the UFC belt, and it’s great that he’ll have every opportunity to do so now that he’s in the Octagon.

Since WME-IMG bought the UFC, the promotion hasn’t been spending much money in free agency but Gaethje in particular is a great one to sign. He’s one of the most violent, exciting fighters at any weight class competing in the sport today and will be a welcome addition to the UFC lightweight roster. Give the UFC brass credit here, they identified their man and went out and got him. Now, let the violence begin.

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