Stop me if you've heard any of the following comments in recent weeks: UFC Philadelphia has been saved by the final contests. It took six bouts for a match not far enough Not that all the contests were terrible – Casey Kenney and Ray Borg were fantastic – but the end is a decent clue to how well a card works. Nevertheless, there was more and more on the track, only a single fight on the main card turned out to be a stinker. Above all, Justin Gaethje again delivered a poor performance and delivered a one-punch knockout to Edson Barboza midway through the inaugural round. Gaethje and Barboza have collected enough action in this half round to get a FOTN bonus. To say that the night had gone out with a bang would be an understatement.
Justin Gaethje: Obviously. What was the last time Gaethje had a boring fight? I'm still waiting. Every time Gaethje joins the Octagon fans feel happy with his performance. Even though this competition only lasted half a lap, they felt they had got their money's worth. The victory over Barboza has led him into possible title talks. Whether it's Khabib Nurmagomedov or the winner of Dustin Poirier-Max Holloway is not yet clear, but Gaethje has thrown back-to-back defeat and secured victory in the first round against James Vick and now Barboza. If Gaethje goes on like that, he might turn out to be the poster boy of the UFC.
Jack Hermansson: While I thought Hermansson would be a solid middleweight addition, I never thought he would be a top ten level fighter. I'm glad to say that he proved me wrong. Hermansson knew exactly what he wanted to do against Branch, carried it out to perfection and was able to secure an inferior attacker with an alleged grappler. Since I am not the only one who is surprised by Hermansson's progress, I think one can say that his stock has improved more than anyone else from this event.
Josh Emmett: The male employee of Team Alpha Male was well on the way to a loss, surprised by a slimmer Michael Johnson. All it took was one blow, and Emmett returned to action from his years of absence. I'll admit I was considering putting Emmett in another column because he did not get the performance bonus he rightfully deserved. Conscious fighters should never ask the UFC for a bonus – but I could not find myself taking such a wonderful moment off the guy. Not that my articles have any influence on his life …
Michelle Waterson: I was tough on Waterson. I admit it. Not that I do not like her. I have not yet been sold on their capabilities against the straw-weight elite, as Waterson found their best nuclear-powered success. I may have to rewrite this narrative. Waterson did a perfect job against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who never allowed the Pole to fight from where she was most confident. In addition, have you seen the ultimate control of Waterson? I did not know she could do that against Kowalkiewicz. Waterson is at its peak. Expect the UFC to exploit this by placing it in a highly visible competition.
Paul Craig: I do not want to praise Craig too much because his competition with Kennedy Nzechukwu was incredibly ugly. But I have to give the Scots crazy props, because in a fight he lost in his UFC tenure, he was able to get the final submission victory at the last minute. I may have hated the whole fight with Nzechukwu, but I loved the end. Sometimes that's all that matters.
Sodiq Yusuff: There were a lot of products from the Contender's series that fell flat in the face. Nzechukwu is a perfect example. Yusuff is one of those who have surpassed the expectations placed on him. His competition with the undervalued Sheymon Moraes was close in the first two rounds before Yusuff opened the competition in the finals. The native Nigerian still has plenty of room for growth. If you are looking for a reason for the Contender Series look no further for Yusuff.
Marina Rodriguez: There was no big hype behind Rodriguez when she joined the UFC Contender Series: Brazil : She made a couple of heads as she drew Randa Markos, but not many , Damn near everyone in the MMA community, it came to attention as she decimated an extremely hard Jessica Aguilar and brutally hit her body with knees and kicks. Aguilar may have survived, but there were a few occasions when the referee could have jumped and nobody would have complained. Rodriguez looks like she might be a candidate in the near future.
The Green: After a losing streak – weighing several opponents too long, a car crash just before a scheduled race – finally Green secured the stylish profit he needed to give him a boost. Sure, Ross Pearson may not be the same fighter a few years ago, but Daniel Hooker has been the only fighter to stop the tough Brit in recent years. It turns out that Green is pretty good when fighting on a straight field.
Kevin Aguilar: I know that there were many who disagreed with my assessment that Aguilar's defensive wrestling would be Barzola's consistent shoot-down of takedowns. I felt confirmed when Aguilar successfully defended every single attempt by the Peruvians, although Aguilar's stalwart Jab had more to do with it. Every time Barzola was within range of a takedown, Aguilar was offended to prevent him from doing so. Great performance from Aguilar.
Casey Kenney: Whether you agreed or disagreed with the decision – I did not know – Kenney looked very good as he had fought just eight days earlier at UFC Philadelphia. He took up the fight directly with Ray Borg, did not care about Borg's reputation and it paid off when the judges believed that Kenney was the more effective fighter. Once again I did not agree, but I can not leave such a great moment – and a great fight – just because I did not like the result of close competition. Important props for Kenney.
Maryna Moroz: If I were to guess, I'd say that spending time in a different camp from what she used to spend was a bigger advantage for Moroz than taking the plane's weight. Nevertheless, both steps looked favorable, as she had a clear decision on the debut of Sabina Mazo. Moroz has been around for a while – about four years – and it's easy to forget that she's only 27 years old and only five years into her professional career. It is plausible that these changes could add them to the rankings.
Alex Perez: It's good to see the former flyweight recover after an overwhelming defeat by Joseph Benavidez towards the end of 2018. Perez did not push the same pace in his previous victories, but he played his strengths and showed that he is not physically dominated in his new home. In fact, Perez was the bully against Mark De la Rosa.
Contenders Series Alum: There were seven members of the UFC Fight Pass Show who were in action in Philly. Of these seven, six won. The only exception was Nzechukwu, who was on his way to victory before knocking in less than a minute. Not every card was alum so successful, but it proves that the series has been successful enough to find worthwhile talents that the UFC might want to consider extending the program. Contenders Series Europe, maybe?
Edson Barboza: While the loss effectively excludes Barboza from the title fight for many, those who had not believed in it had already boboza out of the picture, based on his back-to-back defeats against Khabib and Kevin Lee. Barboza is a striker as dangerous as lightweight, but he collapses under pressure. I'm not trying to say that Barboza is shit. He's just not on the elite level of lightweight construction. Given the violent nature of this knockout combined with the blows he suffered in his losses mentioned above, I would not be a little surprised if he pauses for a while. He was always an active fighter and it would probably do him good. Nevertheless, it seems that this loss will keep him away from the top competitions ahead of time.
David Branch: It is safe to say that the transition from Branch to WSOF was a flop. The loss to Luke Rockhold was understandable, but that loss to Hermansson and his earlier loss to Jared Cannonier should have been at least competitive. Instead, he finished very fast in his last two competitions. I'm not saying he can not save the last few years of his career – I think his best chance is to move to 205 – but he needs to make changes immediately.
Michael Johnson: Johnson was less than a minute away from turning his fall featherweight into a career revitalization. One minute That's all. That's why you can not disappoint your guard for a second. Johnson did not say that, but Emmett had him pay for leaving for a fraction of a second. One can safely say that Johnson is nothing more than a gatekeeper for the Rangerkämpfer at this time.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz: It's safe to say that Kowalkiewicz is not a top straw weight anymore. Joanna Jedrzejczyk's former rival has now lost four of her last six, with her two wins against a pair of women likely outside the division's top ten. Throughout the competition with Waterson, Kowalkiewicz looked like she was in neutral and never moving. The performance was a symbol of her current career as she has not progressed for some time. The saying goes, if you do not go forward, go backwards. This is the unfortunate case for Kowalkiewicz.
Kennedy Nzechekwu: I picked the youngster because he's a far superior athlete from Craig. That does not mean that I was not worried, because Nzechekwu had virtually no value in his combat record. What we got was one of the ugliest battles I have remembered for a long time. While Craig deserves as much debt as Nzechekwu, the Scot had to make it ugly if he wanted to win. The blame is therefore on Nzechekwu. I hope it takes a while to see the youngster again as he needs a lot of spice.
Sheymon Moraes: Moraes immediately struggled for promotion in the UFC when he debuted against Zabit Magomedsharipov. After finishing this competition, he scored two nice victories. With his loss to Yusuff, even though he was competitive, he is unlikely ever to be seen as nothing more than another face in crowded featherweight. He's better than that.
Jessica Aguilar: Remember when Aguilar first came to the UFC in 2015? There were many – myself included – who believed she would eventually demand the straw weight title. Instead, she has been going to Organization 1-4 since joining. Against Rodriguez Aguilar did not look too early, but she lost value and scored after the opening round a very serious offense. The end of the line is very close …
Ross Pearson: It's hard not to be a Pearson fan after persecuting the sport for a while. He was always one of the more entertaining rivals in the UFC squad and rarely took longer absences. Meanwhile, he has dropped six of his last seven competitions. The only victory in this stage came against a similarly beaten Mizuto Hirota. Only Pearson can decide when to retire, but I do not want to keep trying him at this point.
Enrique Barzola: I may not be that big for Barzola My colleague Connor Ruebusch – I still chose him – but I'm high on his abilities. Still, I worried about his ability to bury someone who has proven himself capable of defending takedowns against a decent wrestler. Barzola is persistent, but his lack of explosive sportiness will limit him. I'm not saying he can not improve from here, but his cap is limited.
Ray Borg: I know, I've already said it, but I'm firmly convinced that Borg has won over Kenney. However, I'm trying to figure out how a Borg's caliber fighter ended up in such close contention against a debut contender who was just starting out eight days earlier. Borg had damn near every advantage you can imagine. Damn, Borg did not even weight, though he'd last been fly-weighted. I have a feeling for Borg in the face of his son's health problems, but this was not the way for his bantamweight debut.
Mark De la Rosa: This is not a good sign for De la Rosa. Not necessarily that he lost, but that he was completely overwhelmed by a former flyweight. I understand that De la Rosa himself is a former flyweight, but how will he react to an opponent bigger than Perez? There are many outside. I'm afraid half of the first husband-wife duo in the UFC might be on the way.
Conor McGregor: I admit that McGregor's placement here has less to do with the events of this event than a cumulative one of events, but what happened here does not help either. First, the allegations of sexual abuse are obviously unpleasant. Considering that I do not want anyone to be guilty of this crime, we hope that they are not true. Second, since the UFC is switching to ESPN, they no longer need McGregor as much as they used to, which has hurt him in his negotiations with the UFC. Some of you may say that he is retired, but I do not believe it for a second. He retired three years ago, though it proved to be only a lever technique in negotiations. How does this event hurt McGregor? Gaethje will never be the star who is / was McGregor, but he certainly can play a big role in the cumulative effort to replace him. Performances like the ones Gaethje had here will not please McGregor in terms of his influence.
Kevin Holland and Gerald Meerschaert: I did not know what the hell I should do with this fight. That was a good thing during the first two laps, as their exchange kept the hell out of me. After that, it was shit when none of the fighters had much energy left. It was incredibly difficult to judge, which meant that I could not really care less about how the judges achieved the competition. Nevertheless, Holland left the winner, while many spectators asked what they were seeing.
Sabina Mazo: I give the 21-year-old a passport. Mazo looked flat in the first two laps, but woke up in the last frame and easily took this lap. Mazo looked like a deer in the spotlight in the first two laps. She will almost certainly get better.