Gaethje KOs Cowboy in first round for LW contender spot
As they circle into the center of the Octagon, Cowboy uses his jab and teep kick to keep Justin at distance, but Gaethje responds by breaking out the lead leg kicks. Gaethje showcases some improved footwork fluidly shuffling left and right, yet always on the backfoot anticipating the loaded counter shot. He finds he way inside early and connects with a left hook. The shot lands solidly and encourages Gaethje to continue sliding his way inside and then return to chewing up the lead leg. Cowboy has yet to find his timing and sets up his counter shots by walking through and eating a heavy leg kick. Gaethje continues to connect with his punches and as Cowboy recoils onto the backfoot he combos into the leg kick once again.
Cowboy is now respecting the low kick and lifting his left knee to check yet continuing to switch to the right leg for his push kicks. It is around this point, about two minutes into the bout that Gaethje starts to tap into Cowboy’s timing. You can sense a subtle confidence in the way he toys with his feints, as if just double checking what he already expected. When he believes that he’s figured out Cowboy’s rhythm, he opens up and lets his instincts take over. He can devote more of his mind to the counter and power, confident of his path inside.
Cowboy tends to break away from the clinch by dropping low for the overhand punches off the separation, but it is putting him in range of Gaethje’s counters. Even when Gaethje slides inside with a level change, if the overhand shots aren’t there, he still has the presence of mind for the body shot before slipping back to the outside. Always capitalizing on what targets are available in the exchanges.
As the intensity and volume of the striking exchanges continues to escalate, Gaethje begins to incorporate his upper cut punches to keep Cowboy off kilter in the clinch. As the upper cut continues to land it only encourages Gaethje who is now lurking just outside Cowboy’s reach and side steps his way into powerful right hand that drops Cowboy to one knee. Cowboy is stung, but even while down on his left knee he never looses eye contact with Gaethje. Off balance and down, Cowboy still has his right hand hovering in the air, as if it’s loaded up with a power shot. He is stung bad, but still in kill mode.
As he stands to recover Gaethje returns to the clinch and a series of uppercuts. Those uppercuts are essential to the finish and set up the left hook that again drops Cowboy, but this time to both knees as he turtles up. This leads to an awkward sequence of events as the official steps in close awaiting the finish. Gaethje feels he has done enough and is reluctant to continue punching his friend and former training partner.
The referee is giving Cowboy the fighting chance he would want before stepping in, but it wasn’t enough to stop Gaethje from yelling and throwing a punch in the air towards to official. He later would concede the Official was just doing his job and that he really didn’t want to hit his friend anymore.
The fight comes to an official stoppage by TKO with :41 seconds left in the first round for Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje.