WHO, WHAT & HOW: Henry’s preview of Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje

Cole Henry, MMATorch live event reporter

Cerrone vs. Gaethje

UFC Fight Night 158 will take place tomorrow in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and will be broadcast on ESPN+. The headliner is a fight that has all the potential to be a classic. Former title challenger and perennial top contender Donald Cerrone will return to action to face former WSOF champion, and real-life Mortal Kombat character, Justin Gaethje.

The co-main event pits a rising light-heavyweight contender against a former champion, we will also see a former Ultimate Fighter wunderkind, as well as a slew of other prospects and contenders.

Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje Preview 

Main Event

The event will be headlined by a fight that could have major title implications in the lightweight division.

Donald Cerrone has been a monster in the division for years, he has victories over several notable contemporaries and several over a number of current-day prospects and contenders. His “Dad” Cerrone persona has seemingly given him a second wind, that along with his already formidable skill set of course. That skill set is very well rounded, you can often expect to see his precision-based Muay Thai, along with fantastic setups, and combos. He has added an arsenal of takedowns to his game in his later career, and that along with his submission skills makes for a dangerous Cerrone, no matter where the fight goes.

But as we all know; Father Time waits for no man. At thirty-six years of age, Cerrone has not shown much skill deterioration, in fact, he is just around four months removed from one of his career-defining performances, a five-round thrashing of Al Iaquinta.

However, standing across from Cerrone will be a very rare breed.

Justin Gaethje first came to prominence in the WSOF, where he reigned over the lightweight division for his entire tenure. Since moving to the UFC, Gaethje has found mixed results, winning three of his five bouts. The one constant, despite winning or losing, is that Gaethje comes to fight. Despite a noted background in collegiate wrestling, Gaethje is far fonder of testing his opponents will, as well as their chins, with his chaotic striking attack, and his penchant for absorbing ungodly amounts of punishment.

What’s at Stake?

Donald Cerrone has been a mainstay of the UFC for some time, but despite years of success, he has never held a world championship in the UFC. A win here will keep Cerrone in the conversation, and he could easily find himself in a title eliminator type bout down the road if he can defeat Gaethje. But the clock is ticking, and beating Gaethje is no easy feat.

For Gaethje, this win will help to legitimize him a bit more. Regardless of his popularity, and exciting fighting style, he is 0-2 in the two largest profile fights of his career. He is currently riding an impressive two-fight win streak, but a potential win over Cerrone would be the biggest of his career, and it could potentially propel him into a talked-about fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Who Wins?

This is a difficult fight to call.

Cerrone has gained a reputation as a bit of a slow starter, which could be an issue against a guy like Gaethje. Gaethje turns it up to 100 at the start of the fight and he doesn’t turn down until somebody has fallen.

Cerrone usually looks to get into a rhythm, and when he does he becomes deadly accurate, and it is difficult for opponents to escape his range. I would give the edge to Cerrone in terms of BJJ and submissions, but Gaethje is probably the better wrestler and more powerful striker overall.

My belief is that the fight will be determined in the early going. If Cerrone can set the pace, he is likely to win a decision similar to his showing against Iaquinta. But if Gaethje gets the upper-hand early, it will only be a matter of time before he earns a stoppage win.

I will go with the young gun here, Gaethje will get it done late in round three or early in round four, but Cerrone has proven time and again that writing him off is a costly mistake.

Justin Gaethje Breaks Down First Round KO of James Vick at UFC Lincoln

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