- No. 4-ranked lightweight Donald Cerrone vs No. 5 Justin Gaethje headlines Saturday’s UFC FIght Night 158 fight card
- Can Cerrone avoid a slow start?
- Will Gaethje add to the six fight-night bonus awards he’s accumulated in his last five UFC outings?
The UFC returns to Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the first time in more than two years this Saturday (Sept. 14). In the main event, the offensive-minded Donald Cerrone meets the even-more-offensive-minded Justin Gaethje in a battle of top-five lightweights.
The main card for UFC Fight Night 158 streams on ESPN+ at 8:00 PM ET, following prelims on ESPN+ at 5:00 PM ET.
CERRONE VS GAETHJE ODDS
|Fighter||Odds (as of Sept. 10)|
Cerrone has been with the UFC for ages. In 2016, after a long run at lightweight, he moved to welterweight. Things went okay for him there. He put on exciting fights and kept busy, but went just 6-4 at 170 pounds. He dropped back to 155 pounds in 2019 and won two fights in a row. Then, in 2019, the current No. 1-ranked lightweight, Tony Ferguson, scored a TKO win over Cerrone.
In his past four fights, Cerrone has won five fight-night bonus awards. Cerrone holds the record for most wins (23), finishes (16), and fight-night bonuses (18) in UFC history. Saturday’s bout will be Cerrone’s 33rd UFC fight, which ties him with Jim Miller for most in UFC history.
Gaethje joined the UFC in 2017. To do so, he relinquished the World Series of Fighting lightweight title, which he had successfully defended five times. Gaethje’s record at the time was a perfect 18-0.
He opened his UFC run with a knockout of Michael Johnson, but he was knocked out in his next two fights. Gaethje followed those setbacks with two knockouts wins.
The former WSOF champ has only gone to decision twice in his career and not since 2014. Gaethje has won at least one fight-night bonus award in each of his five UFC bouts. He holds the UFC record for highest significant strike rate. Gaethje also holds the UFC lightweight record for landing percentage at 54.7%.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|Donald Cerrone||Category||Justin Gaethje|
|4.35||Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute||8.50|
|4.18||Significant Strikes Absorbed Per Minute||10.23|
|1.22||Takedown Average Per 15 Minutes||0.00|
|1.3||Submission Average Per 15 Minutes||0.0|
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The welterweight division is hopping right now. Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has run roughshod over most of the division; Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal are meeting in the main event of UFC 244 in November; and Conor McGregor could return before the end of the year and compete at lightweight or welterweight. Then there are fighters like Paul Felder and Gregor Gillespie itching to move up the rankings.
The winner of this bout won’t get the next title fight … but could find himself in a title-eliminator matchup in his next outing.
The winner of this bout won’t get the next title fight, that bout is likely earmarked for Ferguson, but could find himself in a title-eliminator matchup in his next outing.
The numbers tell the tale of these fighters. Cerrone ranks fourth in UFC history in significant strikes landed with 1,518. Gaethje ranks first in UFC history in significant strikes landed per minute at 8.50.
Cerrone has the most finishes in UFC history. Gaethje has yet to go the distance in the UFC. In his five UFC contests, he’s absorbed an astonishing 10.23 significant strikes per minute, while Cerrone is above average in the category at 4.18. Gaethje, despite his wrestling background, has never shot for a takedown or attempted a submission as a UFC fighter. In short, expect this to be a remarkably fast-paced striking battle.
One of the reasons Cerrone can’t afford a slow start is due to Gaethje’s leg kicks. He loves to pick apart the lead leg of his opponent with some of the most brutal blows this side of Charles Oliveira.
In his matchup with Dustin Poirier, Gaethje landed 50 of 57 leg kicks before Poirier knocked him out in the fourth round. Those kicks did a ton of damage and severely hampered Poirier throughout the contest.
The big concern about Cerrone is the same thing that has plagued him for years — slow starts. He knows this is a problem, but yet he can’t seem to get going early in his fights. After so many bouts, don’t expect that problem to get solved ahead of this matchup. If Cerrone does start slowly, he might never recover and either get knocked out or end up on the wrong side of a lopsided decision.
The worry about Gaethje is going to be his chin. His style is to take two or three massive head strikes to land one blow of his own. He has been remarkably resilient over the years, but with two recent knockout losses, there has to be a worry that all the head blows are catching up with him.
With his propensity for slow starts and Gaethje’s ability to come out of the gate like a man possessed, it’s hard to pick Cerrone in this battle. Cerrone is the more technically sound fighter, but if he can’t employ his skills from the start and he gets bombarded in the early going, it’ll be hard for him to make up the ground he loses to Gaethje.
I see Gaethje’s output, striking accuracy and pace carrying him to victory in Vancouver.
There’s an outside chance Cerrone can catch Gaethje at distance with a head kick, but I don’t think the odds favor that happening. I see Gaethje’s output, striking accuracy and pace carrying him to victory in Vancouver.
Pick: Gaethje (-190)