Saturday night’s UFC Philadelphia main event promised to be be fireworks, and that’s exactly what it was.
Justin Gaethje stood in against Edson Barboza at the Wells Fargo Center, and did what Justin Gaethje is expected to do: He stood directly in Barboza’s wheelhouse until he landed a concussive blow to put Barboza away.
The end came at 2:30 of round one. Gaethje landed a big right hand that stiffened Barboza and sent him straight to the canvas. Referee Keith Peterson immediately stepped in and stopped the fight, and Gaethje did a back flip off the top of the Octagon.
“This is the toughest sport on earth, man,” he said in the post-fight interview. “And the best live show on planet earth tonight, I guarantee it. Man, I just love this so much. I was so nervous because, I had no feelings coming in, and it scares me. I just don’t understand why I can’t be nervous or scared, but it’s just I love it too much.”
The fireworks came early, as each fighter exchanged leg kicks and strikes in the middle of the Octagon. Barboza clipped Gaethje with a couple of shots right in range, and Gaethje answered with his own. He seemed to hurt the Brazilian Barboza early with a shot, that drew blood around Barboza’s eye.
Still, Barboza tried to beat Gaethje at his own game. He fired off leg kicks at one of the premiere leg kick specialists in MMA.
“He kicks hard, man,” Gaethje said of Barboza. “My leg’s going to be sore tomorrow. Hey, it’s one at a time for me. UFC, what the hell are you thinking moving Donald Cerrone in front of me? He beat the No. 15 guy and he gets to move ahead of me? You guys are crapping on every bit of...this is ridiculous.
“But, hey, I’m the next one. There’s five or six guys in front of me, and I want each and every one of them.”
It was the second victory in a row for Gaethje (20-2), who knocked out James Vick back in August. Before then he had lost back-to-back fights against Eddie Alvarez (KO) and Dustin Poirier (TKO). He is now 3-2 in the UFC since coming over as the reigning World Series of Fighting lightweight champion.
With the loss, Barboza falls to 20-7 overall in MMA (14-7 in UFC). He has now lost three out of his last four, with his lone win coming against Dan Hooker in December.