UFC Fight Night: Gaethje vs. Vick Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, set to take place in Lincoln, Neb.

Updated: Aug. 16, 2018 • 8:06 PM ET


Lincoln, Neb. will host UFC Fight Night on Saturday.

Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb. will host UFC Fight Night on Saturday and feature a lightweight bout between a fighter known for brawling, and a fighter who wants to make the most of his first main event. No. 7 ranked lightweight Justin Gaethje will face No. 10 James Vick in a fight that will surely produce back and forth action.

Gaethje is 1-2 in the UFC since making his debut a year ago, but all three fights were must-see battles. He successfully debuted with a second-round knockout of Michael Johnson, but not before being badly hurt in the first round of what was a Fight of the Year type fight. He followed the victory with a war against Eddie Alvarez, but was eventually KO’d in the third round by a vicious Alvarez knee. And most recently in April, Gaethje was TKO’d by Dustin Poirier in the fourth round of an outstanding, fan-pleasing main event that saw both fighters badly hurt.

The 29-year-old Gaethje is known for taking just as much punishment as he inflicts, and the strategy has proven to be rough. It’s difficult to assume that he’ll take a safer approach against Vick on Saturday, especially in a main event, as Gaethje has quickly become a fan favorite due to his brawling style. Another loss, however, could ruin Gaethje’s chances of competing in another big fight or main event in the near future.

Yet in still, Gaethje is fully confident that he’ll emerge victorious this weekend.

“I know I’m so much better than James Vick,” Gaethje said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show last month. “It sucks to say, but if I was to go out there and get outclassed by James Vick, I’d have to hand them up because he’s not good. He’s slow.”

Most recently defeating Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision in February, Vick (9-1 in the UFC) is riding a four-fight win streak. His only loss came to Beneil Dariush in 2016, which was a step up in competition for him at the time. Gaethje ultimately represents the same step up and although Vick has some great wins on his record, a win on Saturday would represent the marquee victory that he has needed to climb the rankings.

The rankings, though, is a place where Vick feels he is disrespected and Gaethje is favored.

“It’s sad that the dude’s 1-2 in the UFC and he’s still gonna be ranked above me when I’m 9-1 in the UFC,” Vick said in April on Submission Radio soon after Gaethje’s loss to Poirier. “And a lot of people want to say, ‘Well, he’s lost to top guys.’ The only guy you beat was on a three-fight losing streak when you came in, and now the guy’s not even in the top 10 at featherweight. The one guy you beat was on a three-fight losing streak and the other two guys you lost to, dude.”

The winner of this fight should expect a matchup with one of the lingering top contenders in the lightweight division, arguably the UFC’s deepest and most competitive weight class. Both Gaethje and Vick have brought up fighting other names in the division, and that certainly won’t change with a victory for either fighter.


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a featherweight fight between Michael Johnson and Andre Fili.

Once considered a top contender in the lightweight division, Johnson is 1-5 in his last six fights, including three straight losses, and always seemed to fall short in chances to fly up the rankings. He most recently lost to Darren Elkins by second-round submission in January in his featherweight debut. Johnson had a long run at lightweight, and his last victory came in 2016 against possibly the next man to challenge for the lightweight title, Dustin Poirier.

Johnson has had tough losses to top names in the UFC, including to Gaethje, Dariush, Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Aside Poirier, he has earned victories over other top names such as Edson Barboza, Joe Lauzon, Tony Ferguson and Gleison Tibau. Johnson has proven that he’s skilled, but he has fallen victim to fighters finding the holes in his game. He’ll also have no easy task against Fili.

For the first time his UFC career, Fili is riding back-to-back victories after defeating Artem Lobov by unanimous decision last October and Dennis Bermudez by split decision in January. Despite his inconsistency, though, Fili is 6-4 in the UFC and 18-5 overall. He has an experienced resume with fights against Bermudez, Lobov, Yair Rodriguez and champion Max Holloway. With a win over Johnson, however, Fili will prove that he should be taken seriously.


Also on the FS1 Main Card

Women's strawweight fight - No. 11 Cortney Casey vs. No. 14 Angela Hill

Welterweight fight - Jake Ellenberger vs. Bryan Barberena

Flyweight fight - No. 6 John Moraga vs. No. 14 Deiveson Figueiredo

Middleweight fight - Eryk Anders vs. Tim Williams


FS2 Prelims

Welterweight fight - James Krause vs. Warlley Alves

Bantamweight fight - Cory Sandhagen vs. Iuri Alcantara

Middleweight fight - Andrew Sanchez vs. Markus Perez

Welterweight fight - Mickey Gall vs. George Sullivan


UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims

Women's flyweight fight - No. 15 Joanne Calderwood vs. Kalindra Faria

Lightweight fight - Drew Dober vs. Jon Tuck

Bantamweight fight - Rani Yahya vs. Luke Sanders

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