When the 2020 UFC season eventually commences again it promises to be a big one for Justin Gaethje and his backers, with the fighter set to star in some massive bouts over the summer and early autumn. At 31-years-old, it is perhaps quite easy to overlook the threat that Gaethje poses in the Octagon and, with limelight in short supply for those who aren’t Conor McGregor or Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s easy to see how the American is left to fly under the radar.
That could all change with a few big results over the back end of the year, and it’s quite possible to imagine a scenario where Gaethje is the man to beat come 2021. With that in mind, what type of fighter is the 31-year-old, and what can the world expect to see when UFC 249 eventually goes ahead?
First off, the Arizona-born fighter comes from a background in wrestling, which obviously suggests that he specializes in takedowns and holds – but that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, it is quite far from it when you consider that 18 of his 21 wins have been by knockout or technical knockout.
Indeed, Gaethje prefers to stay on his feet and fight it out with an effective combination of punches and knees. The big stage doesn’t seem to intimidate the 31-year-old either, as he won his first-ever UFC fight in 2017 after a second-round TKO win. Basically, when it counts and it’s all on the line, Justin Gaethje always seems to show up and produce the goods. Which begs the question; can he get the better of the big names in the UFC when given the chance later this year?
The jury may still be out on that as far as betting goes and whether or not he is the favourite to do so. For instance, if you look at the latest UFC betting, you will only see a handful of fights there with the earliest scheduled for the 10th of May between Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer, with nothing currently lined up for Justin Gaethje. Naturally, that will all change at the appropriate time but, for now, we don’t have the option to see what chances the bookies give the American. However, if general talk is anything to go by, he’s looking to be high up in those rankings – so it’s best to keep an eye out.
One year ago today, @Justin_Gaethje knocked Edson Barboza out cold in the UFC Philly main event 🥶
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 30, 2020
Regardless of the absence of odds at the moment, however, a quick delve into the archives will show that this is a fighter not to be underestimated.
When you take the time to look back at these six fights that Gaethje has been in, you’ll soon realize why they have nicknamed the Arizona native the ‘highlight’, given how box office his fights are. It’s not only his punching power that sets him apart, but also his ability to take a punch and somehow stem the onslaught when it looks like his race is run.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 7, 2020
He is as hard as nails and has only lost twice in his career, which suggests that it takes a herculean effort to see the back of him. Now, the same can obviously be said for a fighter like Tony Ferguson who Gaethje was scheduled to fight before their bout was called off but, interestingly enough, Ferguson has lost just once more than Justin Gaethje has in his career. That didn’t stop Ferguson from being touted as the better fighter by bookmakers in the build-up to their fight, which does lead you to believe that Gaethje is often not given enough credit.
But, make no mistake, Justin Gaethje’s time is coming and he will be given a chance to finally silence the doubters.