UFC Fight Night Report: Justin Gaethje knocks out Edson Barboza

John Pollock reviews Saturday's UFC card in Philadelphia where Justin Gaethje knocked out Edson Barboza in the first round of their lightweight main event.

The UFC held their first card in Philadelphia since 2011 on Saturday with the main event that promised to deliver involving two of the most exciting lightweights in the world.

A crowd of 11,123 were on hand at the Wells Fargo Arena to bear witness to the human highlight Justin Gaethje putting on another awe-inspiring performance, knocking out perennial stalwart Edson Barboza in the first round of their main event fight.

The UFC had a strong event airing on ESPN with the promotion drawing a gate of $1,102,542.16. It was only the third event the UFC has hosted in the city with the UFC 101 and 133 pay-per-views taking place in the city in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

While not long enough to qualify as a fight of the year contender, Gaethje’s knockout was every bit the highlight reel qualifier the audience anticipated with a picture-perfect right hand catching Barboza backing up as the Brazilian descended to the canvas and referee Keith Peterson halted the contest.

As the UFC’s lightweight division awaits a champion to return from suspension and the sport’s biggest star to sort out his personal issues and professional ones with the UFC, the division moves on without a clear path to the championship. Khabib Nurmagomedov has stated he will not fight until his teammates’ suspensions expire, which would mean in late 2019. Conversely, Conor McGregor remains at an impasse with the UFC while news of an investigation was reported this week by the New York Times regarding McGregor being accused of sexual assault, although the fighter has not been charged. Tony Ferguson is also out of the picture as he is dealing with his own personal issues and doesn’t appear to be fighting any time soon, nor should that even be discussed while he’s dealing with those issues.

The light at the end of the tunnel for the division’s elite is the installation of an interim title that will be decided when Max Holloway moves up in weight to fight Dustin Poirier in two weeks at UFC 236 in Atlanta. This is a case where the addition of the title is necessary to keep a division moving that has many worthy contenders in the queue. Where things will get interesting is if Holloway wins the interim title and what that will mean for his future at featherweight as the division’s reigning champion.

With Saturday’s win, Justin Gaethje continues to be a desirable opponent for many. He is guaranteed to put on an incredible show and isn’t afraid to abandon a game plan with emotion taking over. Potential opponents would include the winner of Holloway-Poirier and the winner of the upcoming Donald Cerrone vs. Al Iaquinta fight.

Gaethje and Barboza received the Fight of the Night bonus while Paul Craig and Jack Hermansson received the Performance of the Night bonuses for $50,000 each.

QUICK RESULTS:
*Alex Perez def. Mark De La Rosa by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Maryna Moroz def. Sabina Mazo by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Casey Kenney def. Ray Borg by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Kevin Holland def. Gerald Meerschaert by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
*Kevin Aguilar def. Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Desmond Green def. Ross Pearson by TKO at 2:52 of Round 1 – Lightweight
*Marina Rodriguez def. Jessica Aguilar by unanimous decision (29-26, 29-27, 29-27)
*Sodiq Yusuff def. Sheymon Moraes by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Paul Craig def. Kennedy Nzechukwu by triangle at 4:20 of Round 3
*Michelle Waterson def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Josh Emmett def. Michael Johnson by KO at 4:14 of Round 3
*Jack Hermansson def. David Branch by guillotine choke at 0:49 of Round 1 – Middleweight
*Justin Gaethje def. Edson Barboza by KO at 2:30 of Round 1

Alex Perez def. Mark De La Rosa by unanimous decision (30-27 all) – Bantamweight

This was not an exciting start to the night. They exchanged at the start, but Perez controlled this fight by repeatedly putting De La Rosa on his back. He had back control and then worked inside his guard. Perez was active in his guard with pressure through strikes.

Perez had won eight fights in a row until running into one of the best flyweights in the world last November and was stopped by Joseph Benavidez in his last outing. Perez improves to 22-5.

Maryna Moroz def. Sabina Mazo by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) – Flyweight

Moroz won the first two rounds through her work inside the clinch against the fence. Moroz bloodied the mouth of Mazo in the first round and took her to the ground. Mazo won the third round as her striking game kicked into gear. She landed several kicks to the body and was busier with combinations. I scored it 29-28 for Moroz.

Moroz was coming up from strawweight where she was coming off decision losses to Carla Esparza and Angela Hill. This was her first victory since August 2016.

Casey Kenney def. Ray Borg by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) – Catchweight

Borg missed weight at 137.75 pounds. Kenney just fought eight days ago for LFA and took this fight after Pingyuan Liu was removed.

In the first round, Kenney got the takedown with a body lock and thus began the battle of takedowns throughout the fight. Kenney won the first round on my card with back control and pressure. In the second, Borg kept reversing on the fence and then got a series of takedowns, including two slams. Borg also landed a pair of big shots to end the second round. In the third, Borg continually took him down and went for the back but would be shaken off. Kenney got control of the back and attempted a choke that Borg escaped from. The closing moments saw each throw wildly and Borg landing with his right hand repeatedly.

I had it 29-28 for Borg and the reading of the scores for Kenney was stunning, especially a 30-27 card for Kenney. The audience booed the decision loudly.

Kevin Holland def. Gerald Meerschaert by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28) – Middleweight

This fight was all over the place. Meerschaert had a mounted guillotine and could not finish Holland, who came back after slipping free of a bulldog choke. He connected with elbow and mounted the back of Meerschaert and followed with big strikes to steal the round.

Meerschaert was tired at the start of Round 2, Holland went for a variety of submissions but couldn’t finish any. Holland mounted him towards the end of the round and landed more elbows.

Meerschaert fought hard in the third and tried for a guillotine and got a takedown in the final minute.

Holland complained about the fight being boring and wants to strike with people and not wrestle.

Kevin Aguilar def. Enrique Barzola by unanimous decision (29-28 all) – Featherweight

Aguilar won the first two rounds through his better striking and the big difference was his ability to shutdown Barzola’s takedowns. In total, Barzola shot for seven takedowns and didn’t secure one. In the third, Barzola started to connect with his left hook and used his jabs to set up a nice right hand. The best shot of the fight was in the closing moments when Barzola landed a flying knee. I scored it 29-28 for Aguilar.

Aguilar has won nine straight and is 2-0 in the UFC since winning on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last July.

Desmond Green def. Ross Pearson by TKO at 2:52 of Round 1 – Lightweight

This was Pearson’s 26th fight with the UFC.

Each went after leg kicks at the beginning of the fight. Green shot and got a single-leg while grabbing the other leg for the trip. Once Pearson went down, Green attacked him with nonstop right hands and Pearson ate a lot of strikes before it was stopped.

Green dedicated this win to his former manager, the late Glenn Robinson.

Green improves to 22-8 and Pearson has now lost six of his last seven fights. Green said he would fight for free if he was booked on the Rochester, New York card in June, which is where he is from.

Marina Rodriguez def. Jessica Aguilar by unanimous decision (29-26, 29-27, 29-27) – Strawweight

In the first round, there was two eye pokes by Rodriguez and the second led to a point deduction. Rodriguez still won the round after dropping Aguilar with a right hand to the head. In the second, Rodriguez completely dominated her with her Muay Thai skills from knees inside the Thai clinch to head kicks being thrown and it was incredible Aguilar survived and I scored it 10-8.

Rodriguez won the third round continuing with the attack from the Thai clinch and attacking the body with endless knees. I scored it 29-26 after three rounds.

Sodiq Yusuff def. Sheymon Moraes by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28) – Featherweight

This was a close and competitive fight until the last minute of the fight. The split the first two rounds with Yusuff edging the first round and Moraes clearly winning the second round. Moraes was on his way to victory in the third as he faked a jab and nailed Yusuff with an elbow instead. Moraes went for another elbow strike and was countered and dropped with a right hand. Yusuff mounted him briefly and sealed the round and fight.

It was Yusuff’s second win in the UFC and improves to 9-1.

Paul Craig def. Kennedy Nzechukwu by triangle at 4:20 of Round 3 – Light Heavyweight

This was another come-from-behind submission win for Craig. I had Nzechukwu up two rounds going into the third round. Nzechukwu cut Craig with elbows to the side of the head in the first round when Craig shot in against the cage. Craig pulled guard in the second round and was absorbing big shots on the bottom. In the third round, Nzechukwu was deducted a point after several eye pokes. Nzechukwu was on top in half-guard and it appeared the round would be 9-9 but then Craig swept to the triangle and rolled on top with the submission and Nzechukwu tapped. This was a great ending.

Michelle Waterson def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz by unanimous decision (30-27 all) – Strawweight

Waterson fought a great fight and won each round against a tough strawweight and former title challenger. Waterson had a game plan of inside leg kicks and utilized her superior speed. Waterson kept the momentum in the second round with her patented hip toss into side control and near had her with an armbar as time expired. Waterson got a single leg takedown in the third round and a big elbow strike to punctuate the victory. This was one of Waterson’s best performances against a high-level opponent.

Waterson extends her win streak to three and would seem close to fighting for the title after Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade fight in May.

Josh Emmett def. Michael Johnson by KO at 4:14 of Round 3 – Featherweight

The first two rounds saw each display a tentative nature regarding the other’s power. Johnson seemed quicker and found his rhythm on the feet. I had Johnson taking the first two rounds slightly and seemed to have more output, but it was close. Emmett had a better round in the third where he let his hands go, probably knowing he was down on the scorecards. In the final minute, Emmett connected with an overhand right flush on Johnson’s chin and he dropped for the impressive knockout finish.

It was a tough loss for Johnson, who was probably 46 seconds away from a decision win. This ended Johnson’s two-fight win streak and Emmett received his fifth win in the UFC and bounced back after a brutal loss to Jeremy Stephens in February 2018.

Jack Hermansson def. David Branch by guillotine choke at 0:49 of Round 1 – Middleweight

Hermansson got a beautiful foot sweep takedown and capitalized on the position. From Branch’s side, he set up for a guillotine choke, kicking off the fence to fully lock it in and Branch tapped within the first minute.

Hermansson has won three straight and is 6-2 in the UFC’s middleweight division. This was a big win for his upward trajectory at 185 pounds.

Justin Gaethje def. Edson Barboza by KO at 2:30 of Round 1 – Lightweight

This started off as advertised with fireworks. They traded big leg kicks and Gaethje landed a series of shots that momentarily stunned Barboza. They clinched and then threw caution to the wind and just started throwing as the place went wild. Barboza tried to back up and was nailed with a right hook by Gaethje and went down for the knockout.

Gaethje is now 3-2 in the UFC and improves to 20-2 as he follows up on his knockout of James Vick last August. The run of show-stealing performances continues for Gaethje.

About John Pollock 5574 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.