September 17, 2019

UFC Vancouver: Justin Gaethje Deserves A Lightweight Title Shot, But He's One Win Away

By Adam Martin

Following a first-round TKO win over Donald Cerrone in the main event of UFC Vancouver, the always exciting Justin Gaethje is on the verge of receiving a lightweight title shot. "The Highlight" had another stunning performance against Cerrone, finishing the veteran in less than a round to secure his third straight first-round knockout, and closing in on the elite at 155 lbs.

This is a position that Gaethje has been in before. When he arrived to the UFC as the World Series of Fighting's longtime lightweight champion, the thinking at the time was that the promotion would immediately fast-track him towards the top of the division. After a stunning knockout win over Michael Johnson in his UFC debut, the promotion set him up for a date with former champ Eddie Alvarez at UFC 218. Unfortunately for Gaethje, things did not go his way that fight, as he was brutally knocked out in the third round, sending his rise to the top of the UFC lightweight division to a crashing halt.


In his next fight, Gaethje was given another top fighter in Dustin Poirier, where a win would set Gaethje up to jump into the title mix yet again. But for the second straight fight Gaethje faltered, getting knocked out in the fourth round, by Poirier. The two straight losses were obviously a gigantic setback for Gaethje, and the UFC decided it would build him back up by giving him a lesser fighter in the form of James Vick. Gaethje took care of business against Vick, finishing him in the first round, and that quick knockout win put him back on the path to title contention.

After finishing leg kick artist Edson Barboza in his next fight, Gaethje was once again at the same spot he was when he arrived in the UFC. And now, with the win over Cerrone, he's even further up in the standings. At this point, Gaethje is the second-most worthy contender to UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov after Tony Ferguson, the undisputed #1 contender. Gaethje admitted that he is willing to wait for Ferguson to get his title shot, but he wants the next one after that.


That means no Conor McGregor, as Gaethje shut him down as a possible opponent, despite that being a great fight. That also means no Poirier, who has asked Gaethje for a rematch. For Gaethje at this point it's title shot or bust. He wants to fight the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, and he won't take any other opponent.

But at the same time, Gaethje needs to realize that Nurmagomedov and Ferguson still haven't had their fight date booked, and at this point, that fight might take place in 2020. Instead of taking the risk of a long layoff by sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the winner, Gaethje should stay busy. He should take another fight in the meantime, whether it's McGregor, Poirier, or even someone like Anthony Pettis. Even though Gaethje likely deserves a title shot, the truth is, he probably needs one more win to secure it.


Justin Gaethje is an action fighter, and he might just be the most exciting mixed martial artist in the sport. He knows his worth, and he wants the title shot that has eluded him for a few years now. But he also needs to stay busy and not risk losing his spot in the line to a more active fighter. So instead of waiting for Nurmagomedov and Ferguson to lock horns, Gaethje should take one more fight in the meantime. And if he really wants to maximize his earnings, it should be McGregor. We'll soon find out what's next in store for Gaethje, but the safe bet is on him fighting once more before he gets his shot at UFC gold.

UFC on ESPN+ 16
Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje: Justin Gaethje def. Donald Cerrone via TKO (punches) at 4:18 of Round 1.

UFC on ESPN+ 16: Cowboy vs. Gaethje took place September 14, 2019 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 16 Post-Fight Analysis


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