Friday, July 7th, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada for the TUF 25 Finale: “Johnson vs. Gaethje” by Daniel Tom

The opinions expressed in this free content are for entertainment purposes only, as my goal here is to provide analysis for those who enjoy the technical or gaming aspects of our sport. If you choose to gamble, I recommend doing so responsibly and legally as it is at your own risk. Enjoy the fights!

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Michael Johnson (17-11)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Sub loss / K. Nurmagomedov (11-12-16)
  • Camp: H Kickboxing (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   TUF 12 Finalist
+   8 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Aggressive pace & pressure
^   High-volume striker
+   Good footwork & distance management
^   Pivots, angles, sticks & moves
+   Accurate L. cross—R. hook
^   Dangerous off the counter
+   Solid wrestling base
^   79% takedown defense
–    Struggles shown from bottom
^   Submission defense & get-ups

Justin Gaethje (17-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 28 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Luiz Furmino (12-31-16)
  • Camp: Grudge Training Center (Denver, CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   WSOF Lightweight Title
+   Div. 1 All-American Wrestler
+   14 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   6 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Relentless pace & pressure
+   Heavy right hand
^   Variates between overhands & uppercuts
+   Hard leg kicks
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Good hips & dirty boxes
+   Strikes well off the break
+   Excellent wrestling & scrambling
–    Propensity to brawl
^   Traditionally takes damage


The main event for the TUF 25 Finale is the definition of a banger as Michael “The Menace” Johnson welcomes Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje to the UFC.

A TUF Finalist over twelve seasons prior, Michael Johnson has since come a long way. Looking to bounce back from a loss to division standout Khabib Nurmagomedov in November of last year, Johnson will get his chance to reaffirm his Top-5 ranking when he meets Justin Gaethje.

A longtime prospect who has been building his name by defending the WSOF Lightweight Title, Justin Gaethje has finally signed with the UFC. And with a nickname that is appropriate to his fighting style, the stage is seemingly set for Gaethje to make a statement under the spotlight.

In a matchup that will likely play out on the feet, we have a battle of two pressure-fighting strikers who apply their trade in different ways.

Gaethje, the more pronounced forward mover, embodies the phrase “a bull in a china shop” with his unabashed aggression. Doing his best work when on the attack, Gaethje will gain his opponent’s respect with hard hooks and crosses as he looks to punctuate with crushing uppercuts and leg kicks when appropriate.

Heavily relying on his double-forearm guard—like a Spartan to his shield in a phalanx—Gaethje will commit to his cause as he plants and looks to counter with immediacy. However, outside of his shelling defense, Gaethje admittedly puts little regard or priority to defending what his opposition throws at him.

And despite this “all-offense, all the time” approach working for Gaethje thus far in his career, we have been reminded time-and-time-again that everything in this game has a cost.

Enter Michael Johnson.

Although Johnson is known for his pressure-fighting abilities, it is his application of said pressure that ultimately opens up his counter game. Stalking forward and taking more traditional attack angles, Johnson will force his opponent into an uncomfortable range as he throws hard, and at high volumes.

When Johnson can establish his pressure-fighting rhythms, we have seen him turn into a runaway train that can overwhelm superior strikers(as seen in his fight with Edson Barboza). However, if a fighter can disrupt Johnson’s rhythm as Nate Diaz did, then he can become more susceptible to frustration and fatigue.

Justing Gaethje arguably has the attributes to make this a frustrating fight for Johnson, especially should he force the issue of clinch fighting.

An unforgiving clinch fighter, Gaethje has the hip triggers to shut down deep takedown attempts, but also has the aggressive wherewithal to throw uppercuts and leg kicks in small spaces, consistently striking and making his opposition pay off the breaks.

Should the former WSOF champ successfully force his kind of fight, he should increase his chances as the bout draws on, especially if Gaethje dusts off his wrestling chops.

A Division 1 All-American wrestler in college, Gaethje demonstrates the hand-fighting and scrambling savvy, both defensively and offensively as it will be interesting to see if he pushes for the latter. That said, Johnson will be no slouch in that department as the only opponent to take him down in his last 8-matchups has been Khabib Nurmagomedov.

In a fight that promises high-action and almost heavyweight-like swings, I suggest staying away from any major plays on this one. Though both fighters possess the durability to go the distance, they also are both likely one strike away from seriously swaying this matchups momentum and trajectory.

And regardless of the fact that I am a fan of Justin Gaethje’s fighting style, I feel that the footwork and counter striking of Johnson can make for a tough matchup on paper, particularly if Gaethje fails to shore up his defenses. Nevertheless, both men are built to compete as I expect this fight to be competitive until the bitter end.

Official Pick: Johnson – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Gaethje – TKO (round 2)

Main Card Predictions:

  • Johnson def. Gaethje
  • Taylor def. Lima
  • Diakiese def. Klose
  • Cannonier def. Roehrick
  • Tavares def. Theodorou (*Xtreme Couture bias)
  • Johnson def. Fortuna

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Hill def. Yoder
  • Krause def. Gallicchio
  • Herman def. Dolloway
  • Ladd def. Eye
  • Maynard def. Ishihara(*Xtreme Couture bias)
  • Torres def. Lima

Dan’s Plays:

(*like my breakdowns, these are for your reference & entertainment)

Props worth looking at(@

-M. Johnson ITD -121 (0.5 Unit)
-J. Johnson by Decision +121 (0.5 Unit)
-T. Torres by Decision -190 (0.5 Unit)

Playable parlay pieces(My most confident favorites within play):

-Tecia Torres
-Jordan Johnson

Fights to avoid(live dogs, inflated lines, high intangibles, etc.):

-Cannonier vs Roehrick
-Ladd vs Eye
-Krause vs Gallicchio
-Lima vs Taylor

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