UFC Vancouver: Gaethje dismisses McGregor as he aims for title shot

Justin Gaethje delivered his case for a shot at the UFC lightweight title last night, and he doesn’t care who’s holding the belt when he gets his chance

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Gaethje bludgeoned fellow fan-favourite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone with uppercuts to earn a first-round TKO finish in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Vancouver, Canada on Saturday night, then dismissed the possibility of a fight with Conor McGregor, saying he wants the winner of the not-yet-booked, but surely inevitable lightweight title clash between current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former interim champ Tony Ferguson.

“The Irishman’s retired, I want a REAL fighter!” he told Daniel Cormier after his win.

“I want the winner of Tony and Khabib. I want to fight Khabib before he’s gone. And if Tony wins, nobody’s going to miss this fight, we could put a million people in a stadium!”

PaddyPower.com’s MMA odds are a knockout

That might be a bit of a push, Justin, but we get where you’re coming from. Gaethje versus Ferguson would be an insane matchup, especially if the UFC title was on the line. A fight with the all-conquering Khabib would be a fascinating watch, too, with many believing Gaethje’s combination of heavy-handed punch power and collegiate All-American wrestling chops could prove to be Khabib’s Kryptonite if the pair ever met inside the octagon.

Khabib vs Tony surely HAS to happen next, but when it does, the UFC has a man ready, willing and able to step in there and take on the winner.

TEIXEIRA EDGES OUT KRYLOV

Call me a curse if you must, because I may have put the mockers on the co-main event clash between Glover Teixeira and Nikita Krylov.

I made a big point of the fact that Ukrainian star Krylov had never been to the scorecards in his entire MMA career, and against another noted finisher in Teixeira I was pretty sure the judges wouldn’t be needed when they faced off in Vancouver.

Yep, you guessed it. They went all the way to the scorecards, and it was the Brazilian who edged a razor-thin split-decision, with scores of 28-29, 29-28, 29-28 giving the evergreen 39-year-old the 30th win of his professional career.

EYE POKE SCUPPERS DUFFEE-HUGHES CLASH

Things were just starting to get tasty during the heavyweight matchup between the returning Todd Duffee and Jeff Hughes, as the two men began to connect with some seriously heavy shots in the opening round of their main card bout. Then after an innocuous moment against the cage, Duffee got the referee to halt the action after an accidental eye-poke.

He claimed he was seeing double and wanted time to recover, but after taking some time – and being checked over by the cageside doctor – the bout was waved off, with fight declared a no-contest.

It was a hugely disappointing way for the fight to end, as it was shaping up to be an entertaining slugfest for the fans, but hopefully the fight can be re-booked for a future event we can watch the two heavyweights going toe-to-toe once again.

CONNELLY SHOCKS PEREIRA IN GRITTY DEBUT WIN

Perhaps the biggest highlight aside from Gaethje’s main event victory came earlier in the main card, when Vancouver’s own Tristan Connelly claimed a huge victory on his short-notice UFC debut.

Lightweight fighter Connelly answered the call on just five days’ notice to step up and fight at welterweight against the hulking Brazilian wild man Michel Pereira, who proceeded to miss weight at Friday’s weigh-ins.

It took six minutes for Pereira and his team to dance their way to the cage, before the Brazilian proceeded to pull out a dazzling array of spectacular techniques during the first round.

It was one of the most spectacular, bizarre and crazy displays we’ve ever seen inside the octagon. Notably, it was also completely unsuccessful.

After a round packed with flips, jumps and video-game moves, Pereira was, not to put to fine a point on it, knackered. And Connelly went to work as he piled on the pressure against his much bigger opponent, pushing the pace and taking over the fight with his BJJ black belt-level ground skills. And when he finished the fight on top of the Brazilian, raining down punches, the crowd in Vancouver were at fever pitch.

When the final buzzer sounded, the crowd knew their local boy had done it, as he picked up a unanimous decision before joking afterwards that if the UFC gave him SIX days’ notice next time, he’d deliver an even better performance.

PaddyPower.com’s MMA odds are a knockout