He calls himself “The Highlight,” and Justin Gaethje’s forthcoming arrival in the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been greeted with widespread anticipation.
The undefeated former World Series of Fighting champion will meet Michael Johnson in “The Ultimate Fighter 25” Finale main event on Friday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, a reputation for unbridled violence preceding him. Their five-round battle at 155 pounds tops a lineup that features everything from top-shelf prospects to grizzled veterans.
Gaethje has compiled a perfect 17-0 record with 15 finishes since turning professional in 2011. The 28-year-old Safford, Arizona, native established himself as one of the premier flyweights outside the auspices of the UFC while competing under the WSOF flag, racking up 10 consecutive victories. Johnson figures to provide him with the sternest test of his career. A finalist on Season 12 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” he has gone 9-7 in the UFC, with high-profile wins over Tony Ferguson, Edson Barboza and Dustin Poirier.
With the Johnson-Gaethje clash front and center, here are 10 facts surrounding “The Ultimate Fighter 25” Finale:
FACT 1: Despite his affinity for engaging opponents in entertaining standup wars, Gaethje was an NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Northern Colorado.
FACT 2: The seven men to whom Johnson has lost in the UFC -- Jonathan Brookins, Paul Sass, Myles Jury, Reza Madadi, Beneil Dariush, Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov -- own a cumulative record of 117-34.
FACT 3: Former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion Marc Diakiese has stopped six opponents inside the first round. His run includes 24-, 30-, 36- and 87-second finishes.
FACT 4: Based in Anchorage, Alaska, light heavyweight contender Jared Cannonier works as an airway transportation systems specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration.
FACT 5: Dhiego Lima is one of three fighters who have captured the Titan Fighting Championship welterweight crown. Belal Muhammad and Jason Jackson are the others.
FACT 6: “The Ultimate Fighter 11” semifinalist Brad Tavares ranks sixth among active UFC middleweights in significant strikes landed with 509, according to FightMetric. Only Michael Bisping (1,350), Chris Camozzi (800), Anderson Silva (678), Rafael Natal (642) and Nate Marquardt (582) have connected with more.
FACT 7: Gray Maynard has gone 2-6-1 since starting his career 10-0.
FACT 8: Team Quest’s Ashley Yoder graduated from Indiana University with bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and African-American Diaspora Studies.
FACT 9: Ed Herman has 13 submission wins on his resume: eight by armbar, two by rear-naked choke, one by heel hook, one by triangle choke and one by keylock. However, he has not tapped an opponent in more than five years.
FACT 10: When Strong Style Fight Team export Jessica Eye climbs into the cage to face Aspen Ladd on the undercard, two years, seven months and 22 days will have passed since her most recent win. She has not tasted victory since she popped Leslie Smith’s cauliflower ear with a punch at UFC 180 on Nov. 15, 2014 in Mexico City.