For the most part, UFC Philadelphia was not a very good card. Even some of the fights that had finishes were tedious to sit through. It’s not like there were a slew of awful bouts per se, but I know what I was watching wasn’t particularly captivating high-level MMA.
...But you know who is really good and extremely violent and never tedious to watch? Justin Gaethje. He walloped Edson Barboza in two-and-a-half minutes. Gaethje was poised, sharp, and Barboza for the most part was overwhelmed. Barboza is a tough guy to render unconscious, and Gaethje did just that with a giant right hand that had the Brazilian out cold. That’s the second straight brutal KO win for Gaethje in which he took very little damage. Needless to say, this is one way to avoid getting hit 150+ times per fight.
Barboza got some licks in but Gaethje for the most part imposed his game and Edson’s historic tendency to look ineffective fighting off the backfoot was exploited once again. I thought Barboza would find a way around this... he didn’t come close.
Justin Gaethje is one of the most entertaining fighters combat sports has ever seen. I do not care if he wins a UFC title. Just enjoy what he brings to the table, because you always get your money’s worth and then some. And you know what? In this muddled lightweight title picture, he may only be a win or two from a title bout.
- Don’t listen to my picks ever again because I went zero for the entire main card.
- Edson Barboza needs a very long break from this sport. Three of his last four bouts have been the Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee thrashings, and then this KO defeat. That’s a lot of damage to incur to the head over a fifteen month span.
- Who saw David Branch getting guillotined in just 49 seconds by Jack Hermansson? MAN! That’s not some every day feat to tap Branch out like that — Rousimar Palhares is the only other fighter to submit Branch — and the Swedish-Norwegian middleweight has just notched himself the biggest win of his UFC career.
- Josh Emmett vs. Michael Johnson went from boring and uninspiring to violent in the blink of an eye. Emmett has a powerful right hand, Johnson shrugged of Emmett as a “knockout artist,” and that take did not age well. Out like a light. Johnson was winning that fight (at least to me) prior to getting KTFO in the final round, so props to Emmett to returning from that face-breaking KO loss to Jeremy Stephens with a highlight-reel finish of his own.
- Michelle Waterson might have cemented herself a title shot with a comprehensive shutout decision win over former strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She outstruck Karolina and nearly submitted her in round two. I know Tatiana Suarez vs. Nina Ansaroff is a de facto #1 contender bout, but Waterson is a WME fighter and on a genuinely impressive three-fight win streak so don’t be shocked if she’s fighting the Rose Namajunas-Jessica Andrade winner next.
- Paul Craig did it again! In what has to be one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen, the Scottish light heavyweight pulled off a triangle choke with 40 seconds left in what would’ve been a loss vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu. It was a sloppy, foul-filled, unwatchable mess, and then Nzechukwu finally got caught in a submission that he couldn’t escape. Craig has twice won via Hail Mary submission with seconds left, with the other one with one-second remaining vs. Magomed Ankalaev. Anyway, I never ever want to see this bout again.
- Featherweight prospect Sodiq Yusuff was on his way to losing a decision against Sheymon Moraes, but he unleashed a powerful and precise right hand knockdown in the final minute of the third-round to swing things in his favor. It was a compelling, closely fought battle and props to Yusuff for digging deep for that fight-changing strike.
- Jessica Aguilar took one hell of a beating. Marina Rodriguez was docked a point for multiple eye pokes in round one, but outside of fending off an armbar in between eyepokes, she dominated the former WSOF strawweight champion. Round two in particular was just a vicious onslaught of strikes to the head and body, leaving Aguilar a bloody mess. The Brazilian gets the win, while Aguilar is 1-4 in the UFC.
- I don’t think anyone banked on Desmond Green as getting the card’s first finish, but he did just that. Ross Pearson got taken down and bashed in the face 5000 times before the fight was stopped. It’s Green’s first UFC finish and frankly I wouldn’t be shocked if Pearson retired, as he’s extremely shopworn and that was kinda sad to see.
- Former LFA featherweight champ Kevin Aguilar made it nine wins in a row, as he showed exemplary takedown defense and had the superior striking to hold on for a decision against Enrique Barzola, who did make a late charge in round three, but it wasn’t enough.
- Kevin Holland and Gerald Meerschaert engaged in maximum “awesomely bad” MMA. Whatever the hell it was, it had a lot of grappling, weird failed submission attempts, complete disregard for “position before submission,” and rapidly emptied gas tanks. Holland won a split decision and then said in the post-fight interview he wanted someone who would bang with him, as well as to be in the EA UFC video game. That was peak middleweight right there. I’m glad to have witnessed it.
- On the ESPN+ prelims, Alex Perez’s move back up to bantamweight saw him comfortably dispatch Mark De La Rosa via shutout decision, former LFA women’s flyweight champion Sabina Mazo lost her UFC debut by decision to Maryna Moroz, who shut off her offense through two rounds before Mazo got into a rhythm in the final round. In the featured ESPN+ bout, ex-men’s flyweight title challenger Ray Borg was so unfortunate not to get the nod against short-notice newcomer Casey Kenney. I fail to see how Kenney won two rounds, let alone a complete shutout that one judge had it. Given what Borg has been through with the health problems of his infant son, along with multiple fight cancellations in 2018, I was really hoping he’d win. It wasn’t great in-fight strategy he showed against the LFA two-division champion, but Borg did enough to win and he got a raw deal in what was a highly entertaining scrap.