It didn’t take Justin (The Highlight) Gaethje long to take care of business at UFC Fight Night Saturday.
Gaethje, ranked No. 5 in the world, used a thundering right hand to knock Donald (The Cowboy) Cerrone to his knees before stepping in to land blows before the referee stopped the match at 4:18 of the first round of the scheduled five-round lightweight bout.
It was the 18th time Gaethje, of Arvada, Colo, has won by knockout. His record improved to 21-2-0.
Cerrone, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was hoping to use the fight to re-assert himself as a title threat. He holds the UFC record for wins (23) and finishes 16. His record dropped to 36-13-0.
It also was a Cinderella night for Tristan (Boondock) Connelly. The Vancouver-based fighter who was a late addition to the card, defeated Brazil’s Michel (Demolidor) Pereira in a unanimous decision in a welterweight bout.
Connelly, who is originally from Victoria, stepped in just last week after Pereira’s original opponent Sergey Khandozhko dropped out due to visa issues. The crowd at Rogers Arena roared their approval when the win over the flashy Pereira was announced.
“I knew I was going to win,” said the Victoria native who last competed as a lightweight. “I was expecting more flash from him.
“He fought a lot smarter than I thought he would. His jiu jitsu was better than I thought it would be. He wasn’t transitioning much. I thought I’d be able to finish him a lot quicker, but he defended well. This is just what happens when you fight a guy in his hometown.
Connelly, who last competed as a lightweight, improved his record to 14-6 while Pereira is 22-10.
In another bout with Canadian content light heavyweight Misha Cirkunov used a chock hold to force Australia’s Jimmy Crute to tap out just 3:38 into the first round of their match. The No. 15-ranked Cirkunov is from Riga, Latvia, but now fights out of Toronto
“I dedicated my entire summer for this moment, I worked like a dog,” said Cirkunov who improved to 15-5-0.
“I know I have a bright future in UFC, I know it’s just a matter of time until I’m in the top 5. Taking out someone like Crute is proof to myself and UFC fans to not count me out.”
It was Crute’s first loss in 11 fights.
It was a tough night for Canadian fighters.
Cole (The Cole Train) Smith of Squamish, B.C., suffered his first loss in split decision against Miles (Chapo) Jones of Dallas in a battle of undefeated bantamweights. There were chanted of “Cole Train” from the crowd but it wasn’t enough as Johns improved to 9-0-0 while Smith dropped to 7-1-0.
Austin (Thud) Hubbard of Denver, Colo., won the night’s opening lightweight bout in a unanimous decision over Kyle (Killshot) Prepolec of Windsor, Ont. Hubbard improved to 11-3-0 when all three judges scored the fight 29-28. Prepolec’s record dropped to 12-7-0
In another unanimous decision, Winnipeg’s Brad (Superman) Katona lost to Hunter Azure of Phoenix in a bantamweight match. Katona, The Ultimate Fighter season 27 winner who finished the fight with a bloody face, dropped to 9-2-0. Judges scored the fight 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28.
Azure remains undefeated at 7-0-1.
In the fight before the main event Glover Teixeira of Brazil won his fourth straight match with a split decision in a light heavyweight match against Nikita (The Miner) Krylov of Ukraine. The No. 9-ranked Teixeira improved his record to 30-7-0. Krylow, who had never gone the distance in a fight before, is 26-7-0.
In other fights, Louis (Da Last Samurai) Smolka of Kapolei, Hawaii, improved to 16-6 with a TKO victory against Ryan (Main Event) MacDonald (10-2-0) of North Platte, Neb., in a bantamweight bout. Smolka won the fight with a vicious left hook that dropped MacDonald at 4:43 of the first round.
“I hit that left hook and it felt like it went right through his head,” said Smolka. “It felt amazing.”
Chas (The Scrapper) Skelly of Arlington, Tex., improved his record to 18-3-0 with a unanimous decision over Jordan (Native Psycho) Griffin of Milwaukee in a featherweight fight. Griffin dropped to 17-7-0.
It took Brazil’s Augusto Sakai just 59 seconds to drop Marcin Tybura of Poland in a flurries of punches to win their heavyweight battle with a knockout. Sakai, ranked No. 15, saw his record improve to 14-1-0. Tybura, ranked No. 14, is 17-6-0.
Uriah (Prime Time) Hall of Kingston, Jamaica, earned a split decision over Anton (Cara De Sapato) Carlos Junior of Rio de Janeiro, in a middleweight fight. Hall, ranked No. 12, has a 16-9-0 record while No. 13 Carlos Junior is 11-4.
A heavyweight bout between Todd Duffee and Jeff (Lights Out) Hughes was ruled a no contest. A doctor stopped the fight early in the first round after Duffee was poked in the eye.