On Saturday night the UFC on ESPN 2 returned to Philadelphia with a stacked card including a lightweight main event that guaranteed fireworks.
The promotion’s first show in the city of brotherly love since 2011 proved to be worth the wait, as the fans in attendance witnessed some top quality MMA action.
Gaethje VS Barboza
In the main event of the UFC on ESPN 2, the UFC’s undisputed king of violence Justin Gaethje lived up to his reputation with a stunning first-round knockout of fellow lightweight contender Edson Barboza.
Justin Gaethje came into the UFC in 2017 riding a perfect 17-0 start to his career, bringing a reputation as a man who fought with a kill or be killed attitude. He started strong with a fight of the year contender against Michael Johnson but lost back to back fights after that.
He was able to right the ship against James Vick last August and was looking to get himself back into the conversation at the top of the UFC’s crowded 155 lbs division against longtime contender Edson Barboza.
Barboza is a man known for his lethal leg kicks, but it was Gaethje who came out attacking his opponent’s legs, landing two heavy leg kicks in quick succession. Barboza fired back with leg kicks of his own then one to the head that landed.
Gaethje was unfazed as he returned with a left hook, an uppercut and a right hook that hurt the Brazilian. Gaethje smelled blood and chased Barboza down, firing off combinations against the fence but the Brazilian momentarily weathered the storm
As Gaethje pushed forward Barboza landed a big left hook off the back foot, and another as Gaethje whiffed on an uppercut. At that point, both fighters just start swinging in the pocket, with Barboza seemingly coming off the worse as stumbled along the cage.
Gaethje pushed forward again, with Barboza trying to keep him at bay with leg kicks. Gaethje threw a right hand, and as Barboza backed away, he left his chin exposed and Gaethje cracked him with right hook that sent Barboza crashing to the mat.
In a manner reminiscent of his own knockout of Terry Etim, Barboza stiffened up as fell and was out before he hit the mat. Referee Keith Peterson dived in straight away, calling off the fight at 2:29 of the first round.
Branch Vs Hermansson
In the co-main event, former Cage Warriors middleweight champion Jack ‘The Joker’ Hermansson scored the biggest win of his UFC career with a quick submission win over Dave Branch.
If you had said prior to this contest that it would end in a 48-second submission, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Branch, a Renzo Gracie black belt, was the victor. Yet, it was the Swede who came out on top with his aggression and underrated grappling.
The fight started and Hermansson immediately rushed forward, throwing one-two combinations and inside low kicks. The two clinched up and Hermansson hit a huge foot sweep to send Branch to the mat.
As Branch climbed up to his knees, Hermansson snuck his left arm over Branch’s right shoulder and clasped his hands together. Branch tried to stand up but fell into the trap as Hermansson sat to half guard and squeezed the arm-in guillotine, forcing the tap from Branch.
Hermansson is now riding a three-fight win streak and will likely crack the UFC’s top 15 with the victory.
Waterson VS Kowalkiewicz
Also on the main card, fan-favourite Michelle Waterson put on a patient, mature performance to outclass and outlast Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a pivotal strawweight clash.
The first round started with both fighters exchanging leg kicks. Waterson looked the more comfortable on the feet, switching stances, throwing combos and flashing front kicks. Kowalkiewicz was chasing after the American, but only throwing single shots, allowing Waterson to counter.
Kowalkiewicz started round 2 with a big right hand and was starting to look more comfortable. With Kowalkiewicz starting to find her rhythm on the feet, Waterson tied her up in the clinch and landed a trademark headlock throw.
From side-control Waterson showed great patience, applying textbook pressure and hip control, while also throwing huge elbows and looking for wrist control to set up a kimura. With 25 seconds left in the round, Waterson sat up for the near side armbar.
Waterson had the arm fully extended and it looked like game over, but somehow Kowalkiewicz was able to turn up to her knees to escape the immediate danger. Kowalkiewicz tried to step over to escape but Waterson kept applying pressure from the bottom until the horn sounded to save Kowalkiewicz.
After her success on the ground in round 2, Waterson was looking for the takedown early and often in round 3. Kowalkiewicz pressured, clinching against the fence, but Waterson turned her and landed vicious knees and elbows.
With less than two minutes left Waterson ducked under the Kowalkiewicz jab and picked the single leg, putting Karolina on her back again. Kowalkiewicz threatened with submissions from the back and upkicks enough to make Waterson stand back up.
With the clock ticking Waterson tried to put an exclamation mark on the fight with two spinning heel kick attempts that narrowly missed. Waterson had to settle for a decision victory, with all three judges scoring it 30-27 in her favour.
- Justin Gaethje def. Edson Barboza KO (punch) R1 2:30
- Jack Hermansson def. David Branch Submission (guillotine choke) R1 0:49
- Josh Emmett def. Michael Johnson KO (punch) R3 4:14
- Michelle Waterson def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Paul Craig def. Kennedy Nzechukwu Submission (triangle choke) R3 4:20
- Sodiq Yusuff def. Sheymon Moraes Decision (unanimous) (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Marina Rodriguez def. Jessica Aguilar Decision (unanimous) (29-26, 29-27, 29-27)
- Desmond Green def. Ross Pearson TKO (punches) 1 2:52
- Kevin Aguilar def. Enrique Barzola Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-29, 29-28)
- Kevin Holland def. Gerald Meerschaert Decision (split) (29-27, 28-29, 30-27)
- Casey Kenney def. Ray Borg Decision (unanimous) (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- Maryna Moroz def. Sabina Mazo Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Alex Perez def. Mark De La Rosa Decision (unanimous) (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
BONUS AWARDS ($50,000 each)
- Fight of the Night: Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza
- Performance of the Night: Paul Craig and Jack Hermansson