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UFC Fight Night 158: Cowboy vs. Gaethje - Predictions and Picks

Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Preview
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 00:26 IST

Donald
Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone faces Justin Gaethje in what could be an instant classic this weekend

After this weekend’s blockbuster UFC 242 show, there’s no slowing down for the promotion as we’re now about to hit a run of another 10 weeks with a UFC show to look forward to. This week we’ve got UFC Fight Night 158, and while the card – which is set to take place in Vancouver, British Columbia – isn’t overly packed with talent, the main event sounds absolutely amazing.

It’s a battle of two of the most exciting fighters in UFC history as Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone faces Justin Gaethje in a Lightweight clash, and elsewhere on the card we’ve got reliable finishers like Todd Duffee, Glover Teixeira and Jimmy Crute, meaning this should theoretically be a night full of violence.

Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 158: Cowboy vs. Gaethje.


#1 Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje

Justin Gaethje has insane punching power - just ask Edson Barboza
Justin Gaethje has insane punching power - just ask Edson Barboza

Simply put, this fight – on paper at least – sounds like it has the potential to be the very best of 2019. Both Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje basically guarantee excitement when they step into the Octagon; neither man has had a dull fight in their UFC careers, and given their sheer aggression, it’s hard to imagine that this could be anything but a classic.

It’s interesting to see that the UFC has moved away from its usual matchmaking style to put this together, too; usually they tend to match winners of previous fights against fellow winners and losers against losers, but in this case, Gaethje is coming off a crushing win over Edson Barboza while Cerrone was last seen in a tough loss to Tony Ferguson. Does any of that matter come Saturday? In all honesty, not really.

So how do these two match up? Well, as a Cerrone fan I hate to admit it, but I don’t think this is a good match for ‘Cowboy’ at all. Cerrone is one of the most experienced men on the UFC roster right now with an insane 32 bouts to his name, and while he’s had more success than failure – he’s got the most wins in UFC history with 23 and the most finishes too with 16 – his ridiculous schedule means that he’s taken a lot of wear and tear over the years.

Cerrone’s game is still pretty excellent from a technical and offensive standpoint; his leg kicks are still vicious, he still times that switch knee strike perfectly, he can still crack in terms of his boxing, he knows how to use his length and he remains one of the most venomous grapplers in the Lightweight division. He’s also had a pretty strong 2019, all things said.

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He began the year with an impressive domination of prospect Alexander Hernandez, and then outstruck the always tough Al Iaquinta for a decision victory in May. June saw him lose to Ferguson, but he started surprisingly well in that fight considering his reputation for a slow opening round and took the fight to ‘El Cucuy’, only being stopped when his eye swelled shut between the second and third rounds.

The problem here however is that stylistically, Gaethje is just a bad match for him. Traditionally, the fighters to have given Cerrone the most problems in the UFC were the ones who were capable of corralling ‘Cowboy’, backing him up and forcing him to eat heavy leather before he’s able to fire back with anything of his own.

It was this issue that led directly to his losses to Darren Till, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos, and Robbie Lawler nearly put him away by rushing him in the first round of their fight, too.

The Ferguson and Iaquinta fights showed that Cerrone is still tough, but against a puncher like Gaethje – who has perhaps the heaviest hands in the division? I worry for him. Basically, nobody in at 155lbs can go power-for-power with ‘The Highlight’. We saw that when he violently turned the lights out on Barboza and James Vick with one-punch knockouts.

But Gaethje isn’t a one-dimensional power puncher. He’s also a surprisingly varied striker who loves to throw leg kicks and is quite happy to dig punches into the body of his opponent, too – another traditional weak point for ‘Cowboy’. And while he’s also been in a pretty crazy amount of brawls across his career – many of them in the UFC – I’d argue that he can weather punishment better than Cerrone at this point in their careers.

For me the Barboza fight should be a template for Gaethje here – if he can walk Cerrone down in a similar fashion, backing him into the fence with shots to the body and head, then I think he can set up a knockout similar to the one that Darren Till was able to unleash on ‘Cowboy’ back in 2017. I’d love to see Cowboy pull this one off but for me this is Gaethje’s fight to lose.

The Pick: Gaethje via first round KO

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Published 10 Sep 2019, 01:46 IST
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