Justin Gaethje is a nasty individual! "The Highlight" entered tonight's main event at UFC 249 as the underdog against fearsome No. 1 lightweight contender Tony Ferguson, but he showed his class in no uncertain terms from the jump. In every round, Gaethje dictated the pace with crisp, punishing strikes that Ferguson ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He couldn't knock him out cold, but late in the fifth and final round, referee Herb Dean had seen enough. Ferguson had taken too much punishment. The fight was stopped, and the 155-pound interim strap went to better fighter on the night.
"El Cucuy" hadn't lost since 2012, and owned one of the greatest resumes of any lightweight mixed martial artist in history. But instead of getting the long-awaited, long-delayed date with Khabib Nurmagomedov for the championship of the world, it's Gaethje who will have that privilege.
In a way, that hurts for fight fans who wanted Khabib vs. Tony for all these years only to be denied by fate and circumstance. But now, we have a different exciting throwdown to look forward to.
Gaethje kept landing shot after shot, and in so doing, he made a stunning statement about what he's capable of on the big stage. And perhaps we've only begun to see the very best of his handiwork.