Justin Gaethje’s streak of first-round finishes continued in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“The Highlight” once again reminded the fight world why he dons the nickname by defeating a fellow fan-favorite in Donald Cerrone by TKO in round one (4:18) of their main event bout.
It wasn’t easy for these two fighters to slug it out in the Octagon. The respect between them was evident, and they shared the microphone during the post-fight interview with Daniel Cormier, trading compliments just minutes after trading leather.
Then Gaethje used his mic time to call his next shot. Now 4-2 in the UFC and riding a three-fight winning streak, the fifth-ranked lightweight wants a shot at gold.
“The Irishman [Conor McGregor] is retired,” Gaethje said. “I want a real fighter. I want the winner of Tony [Ferguson] and [UFC lightweight champion] Khabib [Nurmagomedov].
“I want to fight Khabib before he’s gone, and if Tony wins, nobody’s gonna miss that fight. We could put a million people in the stadium.”
At this time, a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has yet to be booked by the UFC. It has previously been booked on four separate occasions, but the two fighters have never shared the Octagon.
The fight in Vancouver began with a touch of gloves and a smile from “Cowboy.”
Gaethje started implementing his famous low kicks after the two exchanged pleasantries at the start of round one. Cerrone returned fire with his boxing, but Gaethje was able to sting him with a quick left hand.
Most of Gaethje’s punches early on were landing off of the counter. Cerrone came forward, often struggling to find his range, and Gaethje was able to capitalize on numerous occasions.
In close, it was the speed of Gaethje that made the difference. Cerrone tried to reach for the back of Gaethje’s head and initiate a clinch, but Gaethje stifled the attempts with close shots.
As the final minute of the opening round ticked down, Gaethje’s highlight occurred. He stumbled Cerrone with a right hand.
Cerrone tried to stay standing, but Gaethje’s dirty boxing finished the job. He held Cerrone’s head and unleashed uppercut after uppercut, sending “Cowboy” to the floor.
Gaethje continued his onslaught as Cerrone knelt in front of him. He looked over to referee Jerin Valel multiple times, pleading for him to end the fight. After a few more unanswered blows, Valel answered the call and the fight was over.
IT'S OVER! ?
— UFC (@ufc) September 15, 2019
Gaethje expressed his irritation with Valel’s stoppage immediately after it occurred, and he explained why after the fight.
“The ref, in the back he said if you fall to your face it’s over, you know,” Gaethje said. “And I thought he fell like that two times, and then I had to continue to hit him.”
“You know, it’s not his fault. He’s here to do his job. That was my friend. I didn’t want to keep punching him, I’ll be honest with you.”
The loss for Cerrone is his second in a row. He previously had his three-fight winning streak broken by Tony Ferguson earlier this year at UFC 238.
“Cowboy” was still in high spirits despite the result, however.
“God, what a cool dude. What a cool sport,” Cerrone said while embracing Gaethje. “Tomorrow I wake up and I get to go fight again, man. I love my job.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.