Image licensed from USA Today Sports
In what is guaranteed to be an explosive war, surging contender, James Vick, takes on Justin Gaethje, a fearless warrior that never fails to entertain. This fight has serious implications for the lightweight division and the winner will surely be close to a title shot. Whichever fighter is able to successfully implement their game plan will come out on top.
A Gigantic Lightweight
James Vick is absolutely enormous for the division. Standing 6’3 with a 76 inch reach, James Vick towers over all of his opponents.
Over the years, Vick has developed into an excellent outside fighter. In addition to his footwork, Vick has an array of offensive weapons in his arsenal for striking at distance. His front and side kicks as well as straight punches constantly allow “The Texecutioner” to hit his opponents while remaining elusively out of range.
Like many fighters who are used to battling shorter opponents, Vick’s defense primarily consists of range management and little else. If you’re able to work your way inside against him, he’s extremely hittable.
Against Beneil Dariush, Vick looked clueless fighting up close. It remains to be seen if he’s corrected these flaws.
While Vick has some dangerous knees in the clinch, I’m not convinced by his abilities in the pocket - and that’s where his opponent, Justin Gaethje, really shines.
Vick can latch onto a guillotine to punish you for a sloppy shot, but his takedown defense is not great. While Gaethje is a decorated college wrestler, we rarely see him shoot on his opponents.
Can Gaethje Fight Intelligently for Once?
You wouldn’t know Justin Gaethje was an All-American Division 1 wrestler by the way he fights.
Never taking a backward step, Gaethje looks to move forward, throw hands and chop your lead leg down with thudding kicks. While he eats a lot of shots, he’s typically able to impose his will and break his opponents
Against Michael Johnson, a boxing stylist that needs space to operate, Gaethje was able to cut off the octagon, close the distance and force Johnson to exchange with him. Relying on his durability, Gaethje withstood the punishment while Johnson couldn’t.
Against Eddie Alvarez, a fighter that is more proficient at fighting at close distance, Gaethje went blow for blow until he was eventually finished. That being said, the lead leg of Alvarez was annihilated by the time the fight ended and very few lightweights could take the same amount of damage.
Which Strategy Will be Successful?
It’s no secret Vick will be on his bicycle, seeking to land potshots while avoiding a brawl at all costs.
Gaethje on the other hand will look to cut the octagon off and force Vick to exchange with him in the pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised of Gaethje shoots takedowns for once, since wrestling would represent the path of least resistance here.
While he may struggle with the long range punches of his opponent, Gaethje’s leg kicks will help him to attack at range.
If Vick’s lead leg becomes compromised, this will diminish his mobility. If Vick is unable to fight long, he’s not going to survive the offensive onslaught from Gaethje.
I think Vick will be able to dance for a round or two, but eventually I see the offensive pressure from Gaethje being too much. I see value on the underdog.
Pick: Justin Gaethje +150
Check out my other predictions for UFC Fight Night 135.
Free Ultimate Guide to MMA Betting
Free Ultimate Guide to MMA Betting
You want to win? This guide was created for you as The Bible for the MMA Sports Bettor. The most compherensive collection of strategies, tips, and techniques to consistently grow your bankroll.Download it now!
You want to win? This guide was created for you as The Bible for the MMA Sports Bettor.
Download it now!