5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) / 155 lb (70 kg; 11 st 1 lb) / Lightweight
Justin Gaethje or many would call him the human highlight is one of a kind fighter. Win, Lose or Draw, Gaethje is ready to put on a show for the fans. You can never Gaethje, a boring fighter. If you can recommend one fighter to watch among the casual fans, it is hard not to pick Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje started his base with wrestling, even went on to become a D1 wrestler which makes him one of the elite college wrestlers in the country. Even Gaethje has said that it was fun but he is glad it is now over.
WSOF Lightweight Champion
He made his big MMA leap when he joined WSOF (now known as PFL), Gaethje already showed high reel finishes with either a brutal slam, knockout, and even submission. One of his best assets is his powerful leg kicks that make his opponent slow down as the fight progresses.
In just his 5th WSOF fight, he fought for the WSOF lightweight champion against Richard Patishnock and won via TKO. For his first defense, he faced Nick Newell who was a great MMA fighter despite having one arm.
Gaethje was beating everyone, he went on to beat former UFC fighter, Melvin Guillard and had that great back-to-back war against Luis Palomino. Gaethje may not always have the most dominant fights but you can never take away that his fights always deliver.
In his early rise, one thing that Gaethje had was he was willing to go to war and hurt himself just to deliver a great fight. He would rather lose via knockout than go to a boring decision win, that is just his style. He became the face of WSOF, being an undefeated champion and defending it numerous times.
Signing with the UFC
After a few more title defenses, Gaethje has signed with the UFC where it is considered the big league for MMA. Being an undefeated champion, he was set to face Michael Johnson. Not an easy opponent to face for a UFC debut, considering Johnson has wins over Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier.
They were set to headline TUF: Redemption Finale, and the fight definitely delivered as well. Gaethje suffered major adversity in the early parts of the fight, was almost stopped but he managed to survive and went on to fight back. Both fighters were exhausted at just the second round, but it was Gaethje that rallied through it and ended up stopping Johnson at last minute of the second round.
His next fight was against former UFC champion, Eddie Alvarez. Again, coming off a close fight, he was thrown to the top lightweights already for his second fight. It was ruled as the fight of the most violent man.
Gaethje was chopping Alvarez’s legs off and both were in a war pretty even. They had back and forth well until both fighters were exhausted and one strike could end it. Both fighters were busted up and Alvarez managed to land a knee that knocked Gaethje out. Although Gaethje protested about the stoppage, he later realized it was a great decision by the referee.
Dustin Poirier was then booked for Gaethje’s next fight, it was also an even fight with Gaethje investing with the leg kicks. It was a back and forth war and it looked like Poirier’s leg was pretty damaged but he landed a counter that led to a finish. In an interview, Poirier has said that Gaethje had the most powerful leg kick.
With back-to-back losses, Gaethje had his back on a corner, and losing another one could potentially have him removed from the UFC roster. He was set to face James Vick who was a rising contender at that time. Gaethje was applying the pressure and managed to catch Vick with a brutal punch that put Vick to sleep. It was a great career revival for Gaethje.
He then went on to win his next three fights via knockout. In an interview, it was revealed that Gaethje changed his approach and did not want to become the most exciting fighter but a future UFC champion.
Gaethje then finished Barboza and Cerrone in under one round. He gained his confidence back and the main difference is that Gaethje takes zero to less damage compared to his previous fights.
Interim Lightweight Champion
Due to the pandemic, Gaethje was offered to step in on short notice and face Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight belt. Gaethje executed a great game plan and landed many bombs against Ferguson that the referee decided to stop the fight, making him the interim lightweight champion.
His next fight is obviously for the unification against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Many were excited because of the match-up it gives, Gaethje being a D1 Wrestler with great striking. Could it possibly be able to stop the champion?
In the early parts, Gaethje managed to land his uppercut combo but it did not stun Khabib. He was also aware of not putting his back on the fence but the problem was Khabib won’t stop taking his opponents down.
And when Khabib takes Gaethje down, the grappling difference was massive. Gaethje couldn’t defend the submissions well. In the second round, Khabib took Gaethje down for the second time and locked in a triangle choke that ended the bout.
Gaethje vs Chandler WAR
It was not until a year later that Gaethje booked a fight against Michael Chandler. It turned to be a back-and-forth war, but it was Gaethje who managed to win via unanimous decision.