Justin Gaethje beat his friend in the main event of Saturday’s UFC card in Vancouver but took no pleasure in doing so. Shortly after finally prompting the referee to step in and stop his onslaught on a downed Donald Cerrone in the first round, Gaethje loudly complained to the official for waiting so long to halt the contest.
“Yeah, I mean. The ref in the back said if you fall to your face, it’s over,” Gaethje said after getting his hand raised for the ground strikes TKO victory.
“I thought he fell like that two times...that was my friend, I didn’t want to do that to him, I’ll be honest with you.”
Ever the professional, Gaethje did his grizzly work, nonetheless. From the start, he connected with left hooks and right crosses to the head of Cerrone, as well as rear roundhouse kicks to the lead leg of his friend and opponent.
A left hook to the head on the inside was the first big strike landed of the night for Gaethje. Cerrone would go on to counter a leg kick with punches to the head.
Gaethje landed another left hook to the head and rear roundhouse to the lead leg of Cerrone before the two traded right hands up top. Gaethje soon landed another right hand, leg kick and left hook to the head.
Setting the pace and controlling distance, Gaethje landed another left hook and right cross to the head before also landing a right uppercut and another left hook to the head that wobbled Cerrone. A check left hook and right cross punch combo stunned Cerrone, before another right dropped him to the mat.
Once face-down and turtled up, effectively defenseless, Gaethje paused and looked to the referee to stop the fight. Instead, the referee watched on and Gaethje appeared to reluctantly though still brutally land more follow-up punches to the prone Cerrone.
Afterward, Gaethje expressed his displeasure at the referee for allowing Cerrone to take far more punches than he needed to, and a stunned, dazed Cerrone complained about the stoppage being too soon, in his opinion.
The end came at 4:18 of the first round. The two then embraced and shared kind words after the fight.
For Cerrone, it is his second TKO stoppage loss in the past three months, his third fight since May and his fourth battle, overall, this year. Through a winced right eye, a wide smile and with slurred speech, Cerrone praised Gaethje.
“You did such an amazing job,” he told Gaethje, with an arm around him.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t continue. I don’t know what was going on. This kid’s a stud. It’s very hard to fight a friend.”
Gaethje also heaped praised onto Cerrone before calling dibs on the winner of the fight that should be next for the UFC’s lightweight title — Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. Despite criticizing former champion Conor McGregor publicly for his repugnant behavior leading up to this fight, Gaethje said he was now looking past “Notorious” and to winning fighters like Nurmagomedov and Ferguson.
“The Irishman’s retired. I want a real fighter,” he announced.
Cerrone’s record fell to 36-13 with the defeat. Gaethje’s win is his third-straight, and improves his ledger to 21-2.
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