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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday touched down in Vancouver, British Columbia, with UFC Fight Night 158 at Rogers Arena. The event was headlined by a pivotal lightweight affair between Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje. Some stocks rose and others fell.
Justin Gaethje: “The Highlight” stayed true to his nickname, took home his third first-round finish in as many fights and perhaps put himself in position for a shot at the lightweight title or a blockbuster tilt against former champion Conor McGregor. Over the course of Gaethje’s last three fights, he has been much more measured, and the return on investment has been exceptional, resulting in less wars and more finishes. While Gaethje refuses to comment on “the retired Irish man,” it has been reported that negotiations had previously taken place for a matchup between Gaethje and McGregor. Following this latest win, it will be interesting to see if talks for a fight of that stature heat back up.
Glover Teixeira: The 39-year-old Teixeira is on his first winning streak since 2016 and proving he still has plenty of fight left. What stood out in Teixeira’s co-main event with Nikita Krylov? The veteran savvy in weathering Krylov’s early onslaught and coming back to apply a balanced pressure boxing game to take over in the latter portion of the fight. With this latest win, Teixeira is in prime position to call his shot for a Top 5 opponent in a division as shallow as light heavyweight. Afterward, Teixeira was adamant about another run at the 205-pound title, and with his combination of durability and Octagon awareness, the notion may not be far-fetched.
Uriah Hall: In a competitive split decision win over Antonio Carlos Jr., Hall preserved his position among the middleweight elite. Early on, Hall established a laser-accurate jab that immediately began to give Carlos Jr. fits, busting his nose and causing a significant amount of bleeding. Hall did well to work his way out of takedown attempts and back control, and as his Brazilian counterpart began to empty his gas tank, the fight drifted out of reach. The victory gave Hall his first winning streak since 2015, and in a spot where his Top 15 ranking was on the line, he showed up. Now that Hall has some momentum going, look for him to return next against a Top 10 opponent as he attempts to inch his way back into contention.
Donald Cerrone: While back-to-back wins over Alexander Hernandez and Al Iaquinta put him back on the lightweight map, Cerrone now finds himself in contender purgatory following his second straight stoppage loss. Early on, “Cowboy” had a difficult time dealing with the pressure and leg kicks Gaethje brought to the table and failed to get anything significant going before absorbing the finishing blow that put him down for the count. With this loss, Cerrone drops out of the lightweight title picture -- a much different position than the one in which he put himself six months ago when he appeared primed for a blockbuster fight with McGregor. At 36 years of age and coming off two straight stoppage losses, Cerrone’s durability has become a serious question and one has to wonder how much more he has left in the tank.
Michel Pereira: In a fight where Pereira entered the cage as a massive favorite, he underwhelmed against a short-notice replacement in Tristian Connelly. On top of missing weight, Pereira opted for backflips and cage jumps in place of a legitimate offensive attack, and after gassing in the first round, he offered little in terms of a game plan. Even in defeat, Pereira has grown into a fan favorite due to his ability to excite and entertain, but at some point, results matter -- especially when he come in overweight and takes on a substitute opponent. Whether or not Pereira and his team look to cut back on the in-cage antics in favor of a more practical plan of attack will be interesting to monitor going forward.
Jim Crute: In what could have been the coming-out party for Crute, he lost composure with his opponent on the ropes. It cost him dearly, making way for the first loss of the young Australian’s career. Crute’s fight with Misha Cirkunov was a back-and-forth affair from the opening bell, with each man lobbying for position in grappling exchanges. The bout swayed when Crute managed to land on top following a transition and began landing heavy ground-and-pound. However, it created an opportunity for Cirkunov to roll into the second Peruvian necktie in UFC history. This will serve as a learning experience for Crute, who never took the time to ease of the gas and analyze the situation. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back following his first career loss.