LAS VEGAS — International Fight Week kicks off Friday night at T-Mobile Arena with newcomer Justin Gaethje’s UFC debut against confident veteran Michael Johnson in the Ultimate Fighter Finale main event, and NESN.com will be on hand for all the action.
Gaethje dominated the World Series of Fighting and is known as an aggressive fighter who inflicts “carnage,” as he told UFC.com.
“I just really give people no time to rest,” said Gaethje, who’s 17-0 as a pro. “They want to rest, and I give them no time. My pressure is what people don’t understand until they fight me.”
Johnson, the UFC’s fifth-ranked lightweight contender, presents quite a challenge for Gaethje. Johnson has been on big UFC cards throughout his seven-year career, although he lost his previous fight on a third-round submission to Khabib Nurmagomedov in November, and he’s banking on that experience under the bright lights to have an effect.
“He has to dread the experience of facing somebody that’s been in the big shows for as long as I have,” Johnson told UFC.com of Gaethje. “He has to dread that level of competition. If he’s coming in here thinking that I’m just the easiest guy in the top 10 for him to face, which is how I think he’s feeling, he’s in for a rude awakening.”
Follow this live blog for all the results from the TUF Finale and round-by-round analysis of Johnson vs. Gaethje.
MICHAEL JOHNSON VS. JUSTIN GAETHJE: ROUND-BY-ROUND ANALYSIS
After a slow start, with each fighter measuring up the other, Johnson lands more wicked punches to stagger Gaethje and drive him to the cage. Gaethje is taking a lot of punishment and looks winded, while Johnson appears just fine.
Gaethje throws a strong right-hand jab, and Johnson misses with a lunging punch that almost causes him to fall down. Gaethje then connects on a combo of punches that severely wobbles Johnson, and he goes to the ground, where the ref tells him to get up. Gaethje connects on a flying knee, drives Johnson to the cage and works him over.
The ref stops the fight with 12 seconds left in the round, and Gaethje is the winner. What a stunning debut!
Johnson and Gaethje start the fight trading salvos while standing up, and Gaethje sneaks in a leg kick or two. Johnson lands a hard right midway through the round, and Gaethje, with a bloodied lip, returns the favor with a punch right to Johnson’s face.
With one minute left, the fighters clinch, then break away, before Gaethje works Johnson’s legs some more. With the crowd chanting Gaethje’s name, Johnson lands a devastating combo, and the UFC rookie looks like he’s in trouble. Johnson wails away at Gaethje against the cage — and he even tries a flying knee — but Gaethje (somehow) makes it to the bell.
FS1 MAIN CARD
Jesse Taylor def. Dhiego Lima by submission, rear naked choke (second round)
Drakkar Klose def. Marc Diakiese by split decision (29-28, 28-20, 29-28)
Jared Cannonier def. Nick Roehrick by TKO (2:08 into third round)
Brad Tavares def. Elias Theodorou by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jordan Johnson def. Marcel Fontana by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Angela Hill def. Ashley Yoder by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
James Krause def. Tom Gallicchio by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
CB Dollaway def. Ed Herman by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
Tecia Torres def. Juliana Lima by submission, rear naked choke (:53 into second round)
UFC FIGHT PASS EARLY PRELIM
Gray Maynard def. Teruto Ishihara by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Thumbnail photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images