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Main Card (FS1, 9 PM ET)
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson
Dhiego Lima vs. James Krause/Jesse Taylor winner
Marc Diakiese vs Drakkar Klose
Steve Bosse vs Jared Cannonier
Elias Theodorou vs Brad Tavares
Jordan Johnson vs Marcel Fortuna
Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje Live Stream:
Main Event – Lightweight – Michael Johnson vs Justin Gaethje
Johnson Notable Fights: Khabib Nurmagomedov (L), Dustin Poirier (W), Nate Diaz (L), Edson Barboza (W).
Gaethje Notable Fights: Melvin Guillard (W), Luis Palomino (2W), Nick Newell (W), Drew Fickett (W).
Johnson Stat: He has fought 5 of the top-15 ranked lightweights.
Gaethje Stat: He is unbeaten in 17 fights with 14 wins inside the distance.
The Match Up
In the UFC it’s very odd to find a situation where a fight at the top of a strong division like lightweight pits a man with almost no elite experience against someone who is ranked. But that’s exactly what you have when Justin Gaethje takes on Michael Johnson. Gaethje dominated in World Series of Fighting but his biggest wins came against a level opposition significantly lower than that of Johnson. But in MMA, it isn’t the level of prior opponents which wins fights. It’s your own level. And Justin Gaethje is a fantastic fighter.
On his day, he is up there with the most exciting fighters in the world. He strikes hard with reckless, swinging punches followed by kicks of all sorts and a similarly wild ground game. That makes him dangerous for anyone but also leads to huge defensive openings and the extension of what’s a very good cardiovascular backbone.
Johnson is a much more orthodox fighter. Where Gaethje throws cartwheel kicks and flying knees, Johnson sets up his jab and follows it with rapid, powerful combinations. He has had big problems in the past with his wrestling but improvements in that area, as well as his striking technique, make him one of the most formidable fighters in the division today.
When looking at who might win this fight you must take both of the above points into account. Yes, Gaethje has been wrecking house in WSOF, but can he do the same in the UFC? Is his game complete enough? Well, some people will tell you for sure that it either is or isn’t but they, like me and you, don’t really know.
But you came here for a prediction, so here it is.
Justin Gaethje is a real oddity in MMA today. Lots of fighters proclaim to fight for the fans, but he genuinely does. And in all honesty, I think that will lead to his downfall here. Now, if he catches Johnson or forces him into a war, Gaethje will almost certainly win. But if he doesn’t, I don’t think he will.
I think Gaethje could wrestle his way to victory here if he wanted, but that’s just not in his nature anymore. He’ll come out swinging for the ropes. He knows it; and Johnson knows it.
For me, Johnson is just too quick with his feet to get caught cold even with the utter insanity Gaethje usually throws. I think he’ll fight from long range, wait for Gaethje to enter, use his speed and tag the former WSOF champ when he leaves himself open. It’s impossible to predict if Gaethje will, or even can, refine his game for this level but from what I’ve seen I’m picking Johnson to win and I’m picking Johnson to win early.