Justin Gaethje made his resume not just one of the best in the lightweight division, but in all of the UFC after he finished Donald Cerrone in the main event of UFC Vancouver on Saturday night. The win gives Gaethje his third consecutive win by first round finish – the last two of which have come against fighters who have rarely been finished (Cerrone and Edson Barboza).
“Cowboy” said before the event that if he beat Gaethje he is next in line for the title after Tony Ferguson. That spot, Gaethje believes, now belongs to him.
“I’m No. 5, Cowboy was No. 4 and No. 3 (Conor McGregor) is retired,” Gaethje said. “So I’ll take the winner of the championship fight.”
Gaethje’s math seems to make sense. But as has been the case in the past, the lightweight division is stacked and unpredictable.
The buzz wasn’t in Misha Cirkunov’s corner in the buildup to his fight with budding up-and-comer Jimmy Crute. But Cirkunov showed the fans of Vancouver there are levels to the game.
Cirkunov wanted to prove that he wouldn’t be a steppingstone for Crute’s rise. He earned an impressive takedown in round one when Crute threw early. Then the two scrambled back-and-forth for a few minutes before Cirkunov sunk in one of the rarer chokes you’ll ever see: a Peruvian Necktie. It was just the second in UFC history.
Tristan Connelly did what many didn’t think he could do: as a +420 underdog against one of the UFC’s rising stars, Connelly defeated Brazil’s Michel Pereira via unanimous decision.
Pereira spent the majority of the first round – and Friday’s weigh-in – flipping and throwing strikes that have never been seen in the Octagon.
None of this fazed or intimidated Connelly - he knew it would affect Pereira’s gas tank. The plan worked as Connelly dominated a majority of the final round, which was enough to win over the judges and provide the most electric moment of the night.
Making the win all the sweeter: Connelly collected both fighter's bonuses since his opponent had missed weight a day earlier.
Sakai said before UFC Vancouver that his plan was to finish Marcin Tybura and make up for his previous fight (a decision win). Sakai did just that.
The Dana White’s Contender Series product KO’d Tybura just 59 seconds into their tilt and cemented himself as a name to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division.
“I knew I could knock him out; it was a result of hard training with my coaches, I knew this would happen,” Sakai said. “I wanted to show off my power in the last fight, but I couldn’t manage my distance, but I got it done today.”
Sakai is now 3-0 in the UFC and sure to draw another ranked opponent to attempt to continue his ascent.