On Saturday, Justin Gaethje will face James Vick in the main event of UFC Fight Night 135. This will be Gaethje’s 4th fight in a little over a year. Given Gaethje’s volatile fighting style style, each of his fights pass so quickly. Therefore, now is as good of time as any to look back Gaethje’s anticipated UFC debut.
On an International Fight Week that was marred by a glut of underwhelming fights, a cancelled main event and Dana White verbally trashing one of his champions, the main event of TUF Redemption between featherweights Justin Gaethje and Michael Johnson became a true diamond in the rough.
Taking place on July 7, 2017 Justin Gaethje was set to make his UFC debut against lightweight gatekeeper Michael Johnson.
With all due respect to Eddie Alvarez, Gaethje was “The Underground King” in 2017. After a posting an unblemished record in the now partially defunct World Series of Fighting, Gaethje’s violent fighting style made him a favorite among the hardcore MMA contingency.
While Johnson was coming off a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 205, there remained questions as to viability of Justin Gaethje’s style within the UFC.
What ensued was one of the best fights of 2017 and one of the most memorable debuts in UFC history.
Here is Michael Grocke’s fight night report with analysis:
(11) Michael Johnson (18-11) vs. Justin Gaethje (17-0) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
ROUND ONE: Johnson lands two left hands that stagger him. Gaethje eggs him on. Johnson lands a combination. Gaethje lands a big right hand and follows up with a solid knee. Gaethje is doing a great job cutting off the cage. Gaethje lands a big leg kick. Gaethje goes to the body and lands a punch and follows with another leg kick. Another leg kick. Gaethje lands a big left hand and rocks Johnson. These guys are standing in the pocket and throwing hands! I’m surprised to see Johnson engage in a fire fight with Gaethje, but here we are. Both fighters landing big shots. A huge uppercut drops Gaethje and Johnson is on top of him. Johnson takes his back. Gaethje stands and Johnson is unloading with big shots and Gaethje is in big trouble here. Somehow Gaethje survives as the horn sounds to end the round.
ROUND TWO: They come out firing to start the second round. Leg kick for Gaethje. Johnson is bouncing on his toes here and moving better now. He can’t let Gaethje walk him down. They trade left hands. Johnson rocks Gaethje again with a huge left hook and Gaethje is in trouble again. Johnson is all over Gaethje with punches and knees. He has Gaethje pinned against the fence now. Gaethje fights back with an elbow and a big knee. They are back to center. Johnson starts working the body and Gaethje looks like he can go at any time. Both guys swinging wildly. Gaethje’s output is slowing considerably here. Gaethje lands a jab and Johnson goes back to the body. Big uppercut rocks Johnson and Gaethje smothers him Two more big uppercuts land on Johnson flush with his back to the fence. Johnson covers up as Gaethje lands more punches. Johnson goes down, but Gaethje tells him to get up. Johnson is barely able to get up and Gaethje walks him down and starts unloading on him. Johnson is isn’t fighting back and just covers up. That’s it, Big John stops it!
Result: Gaethje by TKO (4:48 of Round 2)
Grocke’s Viewpoint: Words can’t describe what just happened. This man is unbreakable. Just an unbelievable debut. The majority of tonight’s card was underwhelming. The main event saved the event and it’s a must see fight. I don’t know how long he’s going to be able to fight like this, but I can’t wait to see him again. This has to be one of the best UFC debuts of all-time. Kudos Mr. Gaethje.
Watch the full fight here: