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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday will return to Vancouver with UFC Fight Night 158, an event headlined by Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje.
Who Has the Most to Gain?
Justin Gaethje: Since his Octagon debut, Justin Gaethje has been nothing short of a lightning rod for the lightweight division. Going into his fifth main event in six total UFC fights, Gaethje is in prime position to stake his claim to a title shot with an impressive win over Donald Cerrone. Coming off of back-to-back knockout wins, Gaethje has been crystal clear regarding his trajectory; its title shot, Conor McGregor or bust. What Gaethje consistently brings to the table is pressure unlike any other fighter on the roster, coupled with a powerful leg kick and a wrestling game to back it all up. While “The Highlight” is already on his way to becoming a fan favorite, this fight about is Gaethje’s true opportunity to break out and find his space in the shark tank that is the lightweight elite.
Nikita Krylov: After an early three-year stint in the UFC, Nikita Krylov headed back to the regional circuit to refine his skills in route to a real run at the light-heavyweight gauntlet. After just over a year away, “The Miner” found himself back in the big show and after a stoppage victory over division mainstay Ovince St. Preux, Krylov is looking primed for a breakout campaign. Krylov is matched up with a weathered veteran in Glover Teixiera in what is looking like the biggest fight thus far in Krylov’s career. A win here likely launches Krylov into the division’s Top 10 for the first time in his career.
Jim Crute: Just two fights into his UFC tenure, Crute is getting an early opportunity against Top 15 opposition in Canadian submission specialist Misha Cirkunov. Crute, a Dana White Contender Series veteran has yet to see the judge’s scorecards under the UFC banner, would be wise to approach his fight with Cirkunov like an encounter with a wounded animal. Cirkunov has lost three of his last four and with his back against the wall will be coming out in his home country looking to save his job. A win here could act as a catalyst to a title campaign for Crute and at just 23 years of age, has yet to even hit his physical peak. Keep your eye on this one as we may just see a title contender emerge before our eyes.
Who Has the Most to Lose?
Donald Cerrone: Following a return to the lightweight division, Cerrone quickly picked up steam with back-to-back wins over ranked contenders in Alexander Hernandez and Al Iaquinta. Since then, Cerrone has had a momentum-halting loss to Tony Ferguson and will be fighting to maintain divisional relevance against an opponent as tough as they come in Gaethje. This matchup may prove to be one of the most important in Cerrone’s storied career. A win keeps him locked into the title race, but a second straight loss will most definitely see him thrust into irrelevance when just months ago “Cowboy” was the top candidate to welcome McGregor back to the octagon. At 36, Cerrone’s reign as the UFC’s most active attraction may soon be coming to a close, but a finish over Gaethje can help turn back the clock, if only just for a bit, on what has made for a storied career.
Glover Teixeira: Closing in on the ripe age of 40, Teixeira has shown veteran savvy in his last two outings, churning out back-to-back stoppages over promising young contenders. In Teixeira’s quest back to title contention, he’s faced with yet another young gun in Krylov. The young Ukrainian boasts a 100 percent stoppage win percentage, but Teixeira’s experience should help him weather the early storm and keep on trucking.
Uriah Hall: It’s been tough sledding for Hall of late, although coming off of a come-from-behind knockout victory over a fast-rising prospect in Bevon Lewis, the fact the remains that Hall has won just two of his last six and has failed to put together back-to-back wins since 2015. A loss over Antonio Carlos Jr. likely knocks Hall out of the Top 15 and as “The Ultimate Fighter” veteran approaches 36, it’s unlikely “Primetime” would be able to work his way back into relevance. With his back against the wall will Hall be able to deliver another jaw dropping knockout win, or is the last we’ve seen of him as a middleweight contender?