Lightweight fan-favourites will collide in the UFC Vancouver main-event, a fight that many are singling out as a potential Fight Of The Year in the making.
Understandably dwarfed by last weekend’s UFC 242 and the return of Khabib Nurmagomedov, it was almost easy to forget that we were being served up this potentially volatile five-rounder so soon after.
It doesn’t matter who comes out on top here, this contest is going to be violent, it’s going to be high-paced, and for the winner, it’s going to be the perfect springboard for a massive outing next time around.
Justin Gaethje, in his opening trio of UFC fights, stood as something of a puzzle to solve – a challenge that saw divisional elites Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez pushed to their very limits before eventually securing the TKO finish late.
Now, though, on the back of a pair of hugely impressive first-round KO’s, Gaethje is very much a player in the 155lb title-picture.
I mean, who knocks out Edson Barboza like that?
We’re seeing an evolution in Justin Gaethje – even if he still doesn’t intend on leaning on his wrestling too much. All things considered, what he’s doing is working and this recent run has seen many point to him as a potential foil for the champ, Nurmagomedov.
Donald Cerrone is an incredible mixed martial artist.
It almost defies logic how he has been able to fight so frequently – lose his fair share – and still end up, at 36, looking better than ever.
A surging run at 170lbs eventually led to a trio of back-to-back defeats – the type of form that would indicate a downwards slide for most fighters.
And yet, here we are. Cowboy is once again showing all of the signs of a fighter who is still improving, still hungry, and to be honest, that in itself is nothing short of astounding.
So how does this one go down?
Well, both guys have wrestling in their locker – especially now that Donald has added one of the best power doubles in the game to his repertoire but if I had to guess, we’re going to see this one primarily contested on the feet.
I think the power advantage is on the side of The Highlight but do not for one second sleep on Cowboy’s ability to shut your lights out.
His muay-thai background could well make him a nightmare in the clinch for Gaethje too if he can exploit some of the holes that Eddie Alvarez found and utilised during their UFC 218 clash.
All in all, I just think Justin has too much power in his locker and given Cowboy’s reputation as a slow starter who needs to be hit to ‘wake up’, I honestly believe that the fight will end with that exact shot.
Cerrone has truly been on a tear in recent times, but as the past will show you, these wars take their toll – in particular, the drubbing he received courtesy of Tony Ferguson in his last outing.
I’m not counting him out entirely, though, and it truly is one of those fights that you wish no-one would lose but if I’m putting head before heart, I can see Gaethje ending this in quick and brutal fashion – exploiting Cerrone’s somewhat lacking boxing defense with a hard overhand early on.
Prediction: Justin Gaethje via first-round knockout
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena