By: Jesse Donathan
UFC Fight Night 158 will take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Saturday, September 14, 2019 live on ESPN+ and will showcase a main event fight between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje. In many ways this is a new blood versus old blood matchup, with the exciting Gaethje being a relative newcomer to the Octagon sporting a 3-2 record overall and Cerrone having competed more times in the UFC alone than Gaethje has fights total, highlighting just what kind of career the crafty veteran from the BMF Ranch in Colorado has had in the worlds premiere mixed martial arts organization.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is a veteran mixed martial artist (36-12, 10 KOs) who has fought in the UFC an astounding 32 times coming into Saturday night’s lightweight contest against Justin Gaethje (20-2, 17 KOs). The very definition of a company man, Cerrone has alternated between the 155-pound lightweight and 170-pound welterweight divisions where he regularly steps up to the plate when the organization finds itself in a tight situation. Considering the frequency Cerrone fights, his willingness to alternative divisions and fight opponents who themselves likely belong in the 185-middleweight or even 205-pound light heavyweight divisions, Donald Cerrone is a member of my First Team All-Violence selections for being a fighter’s fighter in an era where cutting weight to be the bigger man in the Octagon is the road most well-traveled.
“Just two years ago we were all asking ourselves if “Cowboy” was destined to spend the rest of his UFC career being fed to an increasingly violent pack of up and coming wolves. Now, refocused and back at 155 pounds where he belongs, he is once again the hunter stalking his prey,” writes author Ryan Harkness in his May 25, 2019 MMAMania.com article titled, “Donald Cerrone earns new records, pulls ahead of the pack at UFC Ottawa.”
The keys to victory for Cerrone will be remaining mobile in the cage and maintaining distance against the aggressive Gaethje. Donald cannot afford to be caught flat footed in the Octagon, his tendency to wait for his opponents to make the first move could cost him dearly in this fight. It won’t be hard to find Gaethje in the Octagon, his plan will be to knock Cerrone out cold with his devastating Muay Thai based style of attack. This kind of fan friendly aggressiveness from Gaethje all but guarantee’s opportunities will be available to exploit if the veteran Cerrone is still sharp enough to capitalize on them at this point in his career. If Cerrone is able to prevent the surging Gaethje from effectively closing the distance on him, this is likely Cowboy’s fight to lose.
Justin Gaethje is as game of a fighter as you’re going to find in the UFC, this guy comes to bang and is not afraid to wade into the danger zone under heavy fire in order to bomb his opponents into unconsciousness. A former Division 1 All-American wrestler from the University of Northern Colorado, Gaethje is a fierce striker on his feet who throws devastating leg kicks and has a right hand that has taken more than one high level mixed martial artist out. Among the regular criticisms levied against Gaethje is his lack of defensive mindedness as he looks to bang with his opponents and his near utter refusal to his use his collegiate wrestling background for anything other than defensive purposes.
Not afraid to jump right into the deep end of the pond, Gaethje is going to have to weed through Cerrone’s long, piston like jab and teep front kicks in order to close the distance. The keys to victory for Gaethje will be to utilize his speed, athleticism and explosiveness in order to turn this fight into a brawl. “Cowboy” Cerrone is not hard to find in the Octagon himself, he has a rather slow, patient and methodical approach to fighting in the cage that can be exploited by a more athletic, explosive fighter. If Gaethje wants to make this a kickboxing match, it is entirely possible he will come out on the wrong end of this contest. Constant pressure, leg kicks and attempting to close the distance with athleticism and explosive power are exactly how Gaethje gets it done in the Octagon this weekend, anything less and its quite likely he walks away from this fight on the wrong end of a decision.
This fight is going to come down to whether or not Cerrone has an answer for a Justin Gaethje who is simply not afraid to wade into heavy fire in order to display his own lethal arsenal of brutal leg kicks and thunderous power shots. Gaethje is going to need to be cognizant of Cerrone’s proficient head kicks and ever-present jab, and if “Cowboy” fails to maintain a comfortable striking distance and remain mobile throughout much of the fight it’s very possible he goes to sleep Saturday night. In a battle of experience versus youth and unbridled violence, its anyone’s guess who is going to come out the ultimate victor Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 158 but it’s going to be a fight well worth watching to find out.