Dramatically, decisively and undeniably — Luis Palomino came crashing to the canvas in defeat on Friday night after playing with fire and getting burned by Justin Gaethje’s right hook.
World Series of Fighting blessed MMA fans with an encore of the lightweight title fight from several months ago, where Gaethje and Palomino slugged it out in a surefire fight of the year candidate. Rarely does a sequel ever live up to the original. Most expected Gaethje and Palomino to take a more measured and technical approach the second time around.
If not Gaethje, we certainly expected Palomino to change his approach seeing as he was the one who came out on the losing end of the first fight.
“I’ll definitely be more technical [in the rematch] and keep the aggression going because I’m naturally an aggressive fighter, but I’ll definitely be more technical,” Palomino told Today’s Knockout earlier in the week.
But we saw none of it in the WSOF 23 main event.
Palomino once again threw caution to the wind and obliged Gaethje in another wild exchange of swim hooks. It seemed like the correct approach early out as he had the champ doing the stanky leg after landing a winging right hand. A knee to the body follow-up by the Peruvian appeared to have Gaethje in all sorts of trouble.
#WSOF23: BETTER THAN THE 1ST FIGHT?!
— WSOF (@MMAWorldSeries) September 19, 2015
Amid all of the chaotic haymakers, it’s easy to forget that Gaethje is an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler. It seems he forgets it himself at times. The winging right hand from Palomino must have jogged his memory as he changed levels and secured a takedown. There wasn’t much grappling in the fight, but the minor moments spent on top served as necessary recovery time for Gaethje
It was back to the races once the fight returned to feet. Curiously enough, Palomino was adamant that a lack of hardened conditioning playing a significant role in him losing the first fight, but his actual performance proves otherwise. There isn’t a human being alive that can sustain peak performance when constantly throwing punches at 100-percent power.
If you throw at the wind long enough, you’re bound to get lost in it. The human body isn’t capable of sustaining that kind of output, regardless of how much work Gaethje and Palomino put in. Both men were basically fighting on auto-pilot in the second round.
It also didn’t help that Palomino kept backing into the cage, which is the same mistake he made in the first fight. His best success came when he was pushing forward and putting hands on Gaethje. Take a fighter like Conor McGregor for example. Some of the punches he throws registers at about 25-percent power. He uses the lighter strikes to force his opponents to backpedal and manually put them into the desired position for the knockout strike.
Palomino severely limited himself by backpedaling and getting trapped along the cage.
But a brunt of the credit belongs to Gaethje, who has a knack for making opponents fight on their heels. The champ eventually snuck in a right hook during a flurry and put Palomino on his backside. A couple of ground punches from Gaethje stiffened Palomino enough for the referee to step in and call an end to the fight at 4:30 of the second round.
Brutal finish this https://t.co/T5Zfe5ewBG
— KO KINGS (@KOKINGS4) September 19, 2015
With the win, Gaethje extended his unbeaten record to 15-0. Perhaps the biggest question lingering after this fight is where Gaethje goes from here. There is no doubt that he has UFC talent, but he doesn’t appear to have any qualms with being the big fish in the WSOF’s small lightweight pond.
“At the time the [Palomino rematch] got announced, [I was concerned about a shortage of contenders]. But then they signed like six or seven new lightweights. …I know there’s at least three or four guys that will fight me now,” Gaethje told Today’s Knockout.
Jason High, Mike Ricci, Caros Fodor and Steve Kozola are four of the fresh faces you’ll be seeing in the WSOF. Wins over these guys will certainly help build Gaethje’s résumé and even add an extra layer of experience, but it won’t prove he’s the best lightweight fighter in the world. He’ll need to go to the UFC to do that.
The full results from WSOF 23 are listed below.
Justin Gaethje def. Luis Palomino by TKO (punches) (Round 2, 4:30)
David Branch def. Teddy Holder by Submission (rear-naked choke) (Round 1, 2:21)
Timur Valiev def. Tito Jones by Unanimous Decision
Phoenix Jones def. Roberto Yong by Submission (scissor choke) (Round 1, 3:09)
Brian Foster def. LaRue Burley by KO (punch) (Round 1, 0:32)
Vagab Vagabov def. Brian Grinnell by TKO (knees and punches) at (Round 2, 2:29)
Clifford Starks def. Krasimir Mladenov by Unanimous Decision
Matthew Frincu def. Danny Davis Jr. by Split Decision
David Nuzzo def. Andres Ponce by Unanimous Decision
Joey Miolla def. Randy Steinke by KO (head kick and punches) (Round 2, 3:55)
Benny Madrid def. Jeff Fletcher by Submission (rear-naked choke) (Round 1, 1:26)