Gaethje smokes Johnson in 'Fight of the Year' candidate

All it took was one UFC fight for Justin Gaethje to show everyone why he's called "The Highlight."

Gaethje capped off a surefire "Fight of the Year" candidate with a scintillating second-round TKO of Michael Johnson in the lightweight main event of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale in Las Vegas on Friday.

It was an outrageous first impression for Gaethje, who was making his UFC debut after a notable reign as the 155-lb champion of the World Series of Fighting (now known as the Professional Fighters League) promotion. Gaethje entered the fight with a 17-0 record and a reputation for all-out wars, but there were questions about how he would handle such a significant step up in competition.

Those doubts were silenced in resounding fashion.

Johnson was the perfect dance partner for the striking-minded Gaethje and it was actually "The Menace" who struck first, wobbling Gaethje with a flurry of punches to close out the first round.





Somehow, Gaethje hung in there to make it to the second, where he was again rocked by a hard shot from Johnson:





Despite Johnson's best efforts, Gaethje never hit the mat and he repeatedly landed strikes of his own that wore Johnson down. His leg kicks were particularly effective, as were the stiff uppercut and flying knee that led to referee John McCarthy stepping in to save an exhausted Johnson.

Johnson entered the bout with a lofty No. 5 ranking, but he has now lost four of his five contests. He'll have to settle for a bonus check from the UFC and the knowledge that he was one half of 2017's most insane brawl yet.