What Next For The Winners At UFC Philadelphia
By Jack Maher
Last night the UFC rounded off their busy March schedule with UFC on ESPN: – Barboza vs Gaethje, and 6 of the 12 main card fighters will likely be waking up today with a sense of joy after leaving Philadelphia with big wins. Almost every weight class in the UFC is bursting with talent, and there are plenty of exciting fights to make for all of lasts nights winners, so now that the dust has began to settle on the event, we can answer the question; What next for all 6 main card winners at UFC on ESPN: Barboza vs Gaethje?
Sodiq Yusuff – Kron Gracie
‘Super’ Sodiq Yusuff won a competitive fight with Sheymon Moraes in a bout that opened up the main card, where Yusuff’s powerful right hand the biggest difference maker between the two, as Yusuff knocked his Brazilian foe down in the third round with a beautiful right hook that likely swung the decision in his favour. The 9-1 featherweight called for a fight with the undefeated Kron Gracie afterwards. Kron, who won his UFC debut earlier this year with a first round submission win over Alex Caceres, is quickly turning heads in the division, and a fight between the two would be an interesting matchup that would put a hard hitter against a slick submission artist.
Paul Craig – Saparbeg Safarov
Paul Craig again left it late to secure a submission victory, with a triangle choke victory over Kennedy Nzechukuwu secured in the last 40 seconds of their light heavyweight bout. ‘Bearjew’ saved his UFC career last year at UFC London with a triangle choke win over Magomed Ankalaev, and the Scottish slugger again flirted with danger in the cage, leaving it late to hand Nzechukuwu his first MMA loss. A bout with Sapereg Safarov would be a fun European vs European bout, pitting two dangerous but inconsistent light heavyweight’s against each other.
Michelle Waterson – loser of Namajunas vs Andrade
‘The Karate Hottie’ continues to look more comfortable in every outing, as she picked up her third straight win in the octagon. Waterson won a 30-27 decision over Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and will likely feel unfortunate not to have left the cage with a finish, at one point looking certain to have an armbar locked in, but it wasn’t meant to be. The strawweight title win be on the line when champion Rose Namajunas returns against number 1 ranked Jessica Andrade in the main event of UFC 237 in Brazil, and while Waterson will want the winner, I feel like the winner of Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff, who will meet at UFC 238 will be more deserving of a title shot. A bout with the loser of May’s title fight however, would put Waterson within reaching distance of a title fight, as she will either be taking on a two-time title challenger in Andrade, or rematching Rose Namajunas, whom Waterson came up short against back in 2017, which would be a brilliant chance for Waterson to show how much she’s improved.
Josh Emmett – Renato Moicano
Josh Emmett returned from a 13 month layoff to stop Michael Johnson in the final minute of the third round of a fight he was losing on the scorecards. With limited time to work with, Emmett reminded the word of his stunning punching power, with an overhand right putting Johnson down. The featherweight division could soon be wide open if current champion Max Holloway chooses to stay at lightweight, and a bout between Emmet and the number 5 ranked Moicano would give momentum to winner in what is a competitive top half of the division. Moicano is coming off a second round TKO loss to former champion Jose Aldo, and a fight with Emmet is a fair enough step down yet still a competitive and high-profile fight, befitting of Moicano’s resume.
Jack Hermansson – Uriah Hall
Jack ‘The Joker’ Hermansson announced himself to the middleweight division, making short work of the number 11 ranked David Branch with a beautiful guillotine choke less than a minute in to the first round. Hermansson used his superior speed and athleticism to trip Branch to the ground, before wrapping a guillotine around the neck of the Renzo Gracie black belt. Hermansson could conceivably return in June when the UFC returns to Hermansson’s home country of Sweden, and a bout with the dangerous yet inconsistent Uriah Hall would be a top 15 bout that promises fireworks and would move the winner into a high-profile fight.
Justin Gaethje – winner of Al Iaquinta vs Donald Cerrone
In his 4 prior UFC bouts, Justin Gaethje left fans around the world both entertained and shocked by his power, durability and thirst for violence. Regardless of result, that was not about to change when ‘The Highlight’ took on Edson Barboza in the main event.
The fast paced main event seen Gaethje stun Barboza with a flurry of hooks, before catching the Brazilian with an overhand right which brought Barboza’s night to a close. Gaethje is now an a winning streak for the first time in his UFC career, and a bout with the winner of May’s Iaquinta vs Cerrone clash in Canada could easily serve as a number 1 contender’s fight, that would absolutely promise violence and drama.
A bout with Iaquinta would serve as a re-booking of a clash that was meant to take place in August of last year, before Iaquinta withdrew and was replaced with James Vick. A fight with ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone would be an interesting brawl that would put Cerrone’s brilliant range of striking against Gaethje’s constant desire to move forwards.