Cowboy vs Gaethje: A Dream Fight That Makes Little Promotional Sense
By James Lee
September 14th will see a dream lightweight fight take place in Vancouver. No specific reason for it. No title implications behind it. Just two of the best and most exciting lightweights of all time fighting five rounds for fan pleasure.
The fight however, could come at a future cost for the UFC but they are willing to take the risk.
Victory for Justin Gaethje will see him believe he deserves a title shot. That will put him amongst Tony Ferguson and Conor McGregor who both believe they should be next, hence a potential log jam could form.
The lightweight division has been confusing for the past two years now and the best in the world hasn’t yet been cleared up with a fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson still yet to take place. The main event this weekend further adds to the confusion.
In terms of rankings, the pair are fighting for the number #4 spot. Anything higher would be surprising, as the winner is unlikely to move McGregor from his number #3 spot despite his varied absence from the sport.
In any other division, Gaethje’s resume and fighting style would earn him his shot at the title, but as Ferguson has consistently found out, the lightweight division is different.
Usually somebody with three straight dominant victories over top ten contenders would earn a title shot but UFC matchmaking is based on circumstance. That circumstance is clearer at 155 lbs than any other.
Cerrone would also be pressuring for a title shot with his emergence to win a title over the past year a main priority for him.
But, the UFC are willing to take the headache later, in return for a special fight in Canada.
In terms of fight quality, there are very few fights that compare in excitement to this one.
Two ultra-aggressive fighters at the highest level in the sport in an expected fight of the year candidate. Usually hyping a fight in terms of guaranteed pure excitement can jinx it, but as the pair have shown so many times, that won’t be the case with them.
Since his arrival to the UFC, Gaethje has quickly established himself as the most exciting fighter in the sport. He has never and will never have a boring fight. His style wouldn’t allow it. Even the whole 150 seconds of his fight with Edson Barboza was edge-of-the-seat action and the fight with Cerrone won’t disappoint, no matter how long it lasts.
One factor that will make the fight exciting is the leg strikes of both men. Both have had major career success using their legs, but in different ways. Gaethje leads with his leg kicks early and constant whereas Cerrone has multiple head kick finishes and is dangerous when combining his hands and feet. If Gaethje can hurt Cerrone’s legs early, he could prevent one of his opponent’s biggest assets.
Cowboy is the most experienced fighter in the lightweight division and has found a rejuvenation in the past two years with wins over Alexander Hernandez and Al Iaquinta being his most impressive. The experience he carries is incomparable to most fighters in the world, but any amount of experience isn’t enough to prepare for Gaethje.
His kill or be killed style has rarely ever been seen. The Colorado fighter takes no time in warming into a fight. His recent knockout wins over James Vick and Edson Barboza in a combined four minutes show his early danger and knockout power.
Since his first two career losses, Gaethje looks as devastating as ever. A vicious power puncher, with unmatched grit if necessary. Power that could cause trouble early, especially with Cerrone being known for a slow start.
Generally, the stakes for this fight aren’t high in terms of contendership. But in terms of fight legacy, the stakes are huge. Victory would be notable on their record long after they retire.
Ultimately, the man with six performance bonuses in five UFC fights and the most exciting fighter in the UFC today and maybe ever versus the always-exciting, most experienced fighter in UFC history Donald Cowboy Cerrone is set to a fight of the year contender.
A fight that makes little sense and could compromise the UFC in the future, but makes every sense for the fans.