He ended up accomplishing both.
Gaethje (19-2) snapped a two-fight skid in emphatic fashion at UFC Fight Night in Lincoln, Nebraska, as he knocked out Vick with a crushing overhand right at 1:27 of the opening round. It was Gaethje's fourth UFC appearance in a span of 14 months -- three of which were knock-down, drag-out affairs.
It was a satisfying result for the 29-year-old Gaethje, who went back and forth with Vick in the media in recent weeks.
"This game is unforgiving, man," Gaethje said. "That could easily be me right now. It's what we do. I am the least fake person in this sport. I take everything personal. I took everything he said personal. I'm glad I put him to sleep.
"You can talk all the crap you want about me. I see punches. I take them on the forehead, and I'm not going to take them moving backwards."
Known for his ultra-aggressive fighting style, Gaethje marched through Vick's attempts to keep him at bay with straight kicks. The overhand right was a beautiful shot, and it sent Vick sprawling to the canvas with his eyes glazed over. Gaethje landed one follow-up punch, before climbing onto the cage and leaping into his signature backflip.
Vick, of Mineral Wells, Texas, sees a four-fight win streak come to an end. He had been outspoken in recent years, demanding a high-profile fight. Saturday was his first opportunity to compete in a UFC main event, in 11 appearances with the company.
Johnson picks up first win at featherweight
Two judges awarded the featherweight contest to Johnson 29-28, while a third had it 30-27 in favor of Fili. The fight was definitely close, and it came down to the third round. According to Fightmetric, Johnson comfortably outlanded Fili in strikes 65 to 37 but had to fight off a rear-naked choke attempt in the second round.
Fili, who fights out of Team Alpha Male, threw a handful of dangerous head kicks, but he failed to match Johnson's output of leg kicks and straight left hands. The loss snaps a two-fight win streak for Fili. And for Johnson, it was his first victory since September 2016. He moved down from the lightweight division earlier this year.
"I knew I had to stay in here and be tough," Johnson said. "I learned from my last fight with his teammate [a loss to Darren Elkins]. He got my back, but I defended it well. We did what we had to do. I can't call anybody out after a split-decision win. I've got to get back to my coaches, work on the game plan and go from there."
Barberena scores knockout, Ellenberger announces retirement
Ellenberger, 33, symbolically placed his gloves in the center of the Octagon. Although it was a tough result in the fight itself, Ellenberger got to announce his retirement from a 13-year professional career in his home state of Nebraska, where he also attended college.
Barberena hurt Ellenberger with a short right cross on the feet and dropped him along the fence with a follow-up left hook. Ellenberger tried to score a takedown to slow things down, but Barberena sprawled on the attempt. As Ellenberger got to his feet, he tried one last haymaker of a right hand, but Barberena slipped it and caught him again.
Ellenberger retires after having faced some of the best of his era, including names such as Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, Diego Sanchez, Rory MacDonald, Robbie Lawler and Josh Koscheck. He struggled during the later years of his career, falling to a 2-9 record in his last 11 bouts.
Barberena, who fights out of MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, improves to 5-3 in the UFC.