UFC 268 is finally upon us and that means a return to the octagon for the true king of violence in Justin Gaethje.
It’s been over a year since we last saw ‘The Highlight’ in a UFC cage, when he was dominated and choked into unconsciousness by the consensus greatest lightweight of all-time in Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254.
Khabib’s victory proved to be the final fight of his career as he retired as the undisputed 155lbs champion with a flawless record of 29-0, with Gaethje supposed to be his toughest contender.
But on that night we never got to see the version of Gaethje that has become synonymous with entertainment and violence, as Khabib’s persistent pressure and mesmerising ground game proved too much for him.
After some time away and fights falling through for Gaethje though, he finally returns against Michael Chandler in Madison Square Garden at UFC 268 in a fight that could potentially fire him straight back into title contention.
Chandler was supposed to fight Gaethje in his debut fight after serving as back-up for the title fight at UFC 254, but he then couldn’t make the weight again at such short notice.
Then after knocking out Dan Hooker at UFC 257, Chandler was supposed to fight Gaethje again only for Khabib to cement his retirement decision and relinquish the title.
That meant the UFC offered Chandler the title fight against Charles Oliveira, who would KO him at UFC 262 to claim the belt. But after months of back and forth, Gaethje will finally settle his differences with Chandler.
This time though, we’re guaranteed violence. Both Gaethje and Chandler have got solid wrestling backgrounds but have tremendous power in their hands and have fallen in love with striking.
Gaethje once said in an interview that his career goal is to “break his shine on his opponents head”, while Chandler’s record of ten knockouts from 22 career wins is impressive to say the least.
Both men will come forward, both will look to strike first and both will throw with venom. Neither has cardio issues to deal with should the fight go to a third round and both have a point to prove after defeats in their previous outings.
This has the makings of one of the most fan-friendly fights of the year, with a true dislike between the pair and an ambition to shut each other’s lights out in the process of making an impression to those watching in the UFC hierarchy and around the world.
A win may not be enough for either to earn an immediate title shot once again following Islam Makhachev’s impressive showing at UFC 267 but it cements the fact they should be in the conversation and likely puts them just a single victory away from stepping into the cage for gold once again.
Violence is guaranteed in this one, do not miss it.