If UFC president Dana White really wanted to do something cool for his fans, he’d figure out a way to put lightweight Justin Gaethje on every one of his cards.
Gaethje is quickly earning the title as the UFC’s most exciting fighter, despite fierce competition, with yet another jaw-dropping performance. While most Gaethje bouts are toe-to-toe slugfests, his bout Saturday with James Vick was not.
It was far from boring, however.
Gaethje did as he said he would and he cut the distance and got in front of the taller Vick. When he came there, he arrived with sinister intentions and finished the fight violently. He fired a left hook that touched Vick on the chin, but then connected with a thunderous right hand that put Vick out cold at 1:27 of the first.
It was the first of his four UFC fights that Gaethje didn’t earn the Fight of the Night bonus, but that was largely because he ended it before a big-time fight could break out. But he did earn a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus and further cemented his reputation as MMA’s human-highlight film.
“I’m a fighter and I’m here to become a legend and put it all on the line,” Gaethje said on the Fox Sports 1 post-fight show. “That’s how you become a legend. Fighting. I love this. I love it so much.”
And those of us who get to see him love it just as much. He’s a whirlwind of activity, attacking from the word go. He has an unbelievably good chin to go with heavy hands and he fights at such a frenetic pace he makes television play-by-play announcers quickly lose their breath.
Gaethje won his UFC debut last year with a typically wild and entertaining win over Michael Johnson, before suffering back-to-back losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. They didn’t hurt his status much — though they did hurt his pride — because they were such memorable battles and among the best fights the UFC has staged.
Nonetheless, he was hungry for a win on Saturday, particularly after Vick talked a lot of trash pre-fight.
“I’m the least fake person in this sport,” Gaethje said. “I take everything personally. I took everything he said personally.”
He channeled his anger the right way and blew out Vick, who had entered the bout with a 13-1 mark and 10 finishes. He didn’t have a chance to do much Saturday, though, because he was hit with a blitzkrieg from Gaethje.
Vick was so out of it that when Gaethje went over to shake hands while Vick was on the stool, Vick tried to take him down.
“God, I love this stuff,” Gaethje said, beaming.