UFC free fight: Justin Gaethje stops Michael Johnson in thrilling debut

Those who didn’t already know quickly found out aboutJustin Gaethje’s fighting mentality when he made his UFC debut in 2017.

The former WSOF lightweight champion was matched up with Michael Johnson in what turned out to be an absolute barnburner at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale.

Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) quickly found a home for his leg kicks early, before breaking Johnson down with body shots, then going up top to round off his combinations. But, with less than 30 seconds remaining in Round 1, Johnson tagged Gaethje with a right hand that wobbled him, but “The Highlight” was able to survive the round.

That late scare didn’t deter Gaethje, who continued to walk Johnson down in Round 2. However, he was forced to dig deep once again when Johnson landed another big right and Gaethje found himself in survival mode one more time.

Gaethje’s constant forward pressure eventually paid dividends, though, as he landed a big uppercut late in the round that got a tired Johnson’s attention, and eventually brought about the finish. Gaethje poured on the pressure, backed Johnson against the fence, and finished the fight with a final salvo of shots.

Gaethje was able to show off his heart, cardio and durability on his debut by weathering the storm and completely turning the momentum in his favor in a thrilling performance.

Despite that thrilling victory, Gaethje went on to lose back-to-back fights to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier in two more instant-classic matchups, but has recently rebounded with three straight first-round knockouts, as he has surged into title contention.

Check out Gaethje’s war with Johnson in the video above.