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UFC Vancouver results: Justin Gaethje demolishes ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone with vicious first-round TKO

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Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Justin Gaethje always lives up to his nickname.

“The Highlight” added another knockout to his resume on Saturday night after sending Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone face first to the canvas to finish the UFC Fight Night main event from Vancouver at 4:18 into the opening round.

“He’s so tough,” Gaethje said about Cerrone afterwards. “That was my friend. I didn’t want to keep punching him, I’ll be honest with you.”

Ahead of the fight, Gaethje noted how he’s altered his output to be smarter with his strikes rather than just throwing a flurry of power punches in every exchange. The strategy paid off as Gaethje was able to counter Cerrone’s jab with a series of overhand punches that were consistently finding a home.

Cerrone did his best to deal with Gaethje’s power by keeping him on the end of his straight punches but he was constantly eating the same right hand that kept coming over the top and connecting.

As Gaethje continued to ratchet up the pressure, he was landing with more and more regularity and it was clear that the damage was really beginning to mount on Cerrone.

Finally during a fiery exchange, Gaethje crushed Cerrone with another of those overhand rights followed by a flurry of uppercuts that left the WEC veteran on wobbly legs. Another right hand followed that sent Cerrone down to the canvas but referee Jerin Valel was hesitant to step into stop the contest.

That forced Gaethje to reluctantly unleash a few more punches before the referee finally decided he saw enough to call an end to the fight. Gaethje was visibly upset with the referee afterwards before turning his attention to a well-deserved celebration after his third straight knockout win.

The victory also puts Gaethje in an advantageous position in the lightweight division with very few options ahead of him before he could compete for the title. A potential matchup against Conor McGregor was mentioned to him but Gaethje blew off that suggestion and instead turned his attention to the championship instead.

“The Irishman’s retired. I want a real fighter,” Gaethje said, referencing McGregor. “I want the winner of Tony (Ferguson) and Khabib (Nurmagomedov).

“I want to fight Khabib before he’s gone and if Tony wins, nobody’s going to miss that fight.”

It’s hard to argue with his logic. Then again, considering Gaethje’s style inside the Octagon, there’s not a fight he could have in this division that doesn’t instantly become must-see TV.