It wasn’t how anybody wanted the fight to end, but Justin Gaethje retained his lightweight title at WSOF 34 on Saturday in New York City, when the main event fight was stopped in between rounds.
Gaethje stormed challenger Luis Firmino from the opening bell, dropped him early, and looked as if he would end the fight in the first round. The referee, however, let Firmino fight out of a bad position, and then an all-out war ensued.
While Gaethje continued plowing forward throughout the fight, swinging for the fences with his big overhand right, and chopping away at Firmino’s leg with thunderous kicks, his Brazilian foe was relentless in his pursuit of Gaethje’s built.
Like no one had before, Firmino established a strong jab that set up numerous one-two combinations, low kicks, and knees to the body. Firmino had an especially good second round, rocking Gaethje at several points during the round, putting him on wobbly legs.
Although he was dishing out far more punishment in terms of quantity, Firmino ate some hard shots from Gaethje, particularly in the third round as both men began to tire. Although they were fueled primarily on heart, Gaethje was still throwing the heavier shots, and they were landing with more frequency.
Firmino’s right eye began to swell earlier in the fight, and by the end of the third round it had ballooned, and swelled shut.
The ringside physician was called into the cage between rounds. After examining Firmino’s eye, he declared that the bout could not continue. Gaethje retained his belt due to the TKO doctor’s stoppage in between rounds three and four.
Firmino had been ahead on the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage. All three judges had him winning the fight 29-28 to that point.
“Hat’s off to him, he still came to fight. I love the competition. I love entertaining people. I gave it my all,” said Gaethje after the fight.
“We were both in here fighting for our lives. I’m a gladiator, he’s a gladiator; that’s what we do. I think I was in the process of breaking him, but hat’s off to him.”
Always proficient on the canvas, welterweight champion Jon Fitch put on a ground-and-pound master class on Saturday, stuffing most of challenger Jake Shields’ takedown attempts and slipping away from his submission attempts.
Fitch consistently out-struck Shields on the feet, and when he sprawled out Shields’ takedown attempts, he made him pay with a continuous barrage of punches to the body and head.
It took all five rounds, but Fitch earned a unanimous decision to retain his belt in what might have been the final fight of his career.
“It’s a big deal for me defending my title. I’ve been dealing with a lot of medical (expletive) over the years. I got a funny reading on my brain MRI before this fight. There’s a good chance this is my last fight,” said a teary-eyed Fitch. “I have to talk to some doctors and some neurologists and people, I’ve been dealing with a lot of medical stuff lately. There is a good chance this is my last fight.”
WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes scored a quick win over Josenaldo Silva, although it wasn’t for a lack of heart from his challenger.
Moraes dropped Silva early with a heavy right hand and stormed him, laying down a flurry of punches, hammerfists and elbows on the ground, but Silva somehow survived, escaping a choke to regain his feet. Although Silva landed a knee to Moraes’ chin, Silva and Moraes crashed to the canvas, Silva looking dazed as he verbally submitted.
It wasn’t clear what happened, but the official result was a submission due to injury.
“He was a tough fighter. I feel like I’m one of the best, if not the best bantamweight in the world. I can hang with any 35’er in the world,” Moraes said after the fight, but was unclear who was next for him.
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“I see a lot of good guys. In the UFC there’s a lot of good guys. I’m not gonna say any names. I think I can fight with anybody. It doesn’t matter who is there, I am gonna fight.”
It took middleweight champion David Branch into the championship rounds, but he secured the defense of his belt. Challenger Louis Taylor put on a strong performance, using a strong clinch game and some early takedowns to threaten branch with submissions on multiple occasions. Branch, however, remained composed throughout the fight, getting the better of Taylor on the feet, and using some well-time takedowns of his own to also threaten Taylor.
Two minutes into the final frame, Branch took Taylor’s back and sank the rear-naked choke that finished the fight, maintaining his championship chokehold on both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions.
WSOF 34: Gaethje vs. Firmino Full Results
- Justin Gaethje def. Luiz Firmino by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at 5:00, R3
- Jon Fitch def. Jake Shields via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
- Marlon Moraes def. Josenaldo Silva via verbal submission (injury) at 2:30, R1
- Yushin Okami vs. Paul Bradley
- Caio Alencar def. Jared Rosholt via KO (punches) at 1:17, R1
- David Branch def. Louis Taylor via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:00, R5
- Smealinho Rama def. Jake Heun via TKO at 3:30, R2
- Shane Kruchten def. Jeremy Mahon via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Bruno Santos def. Vagab Vagabov via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Andre Harrison def. Bruce Boyington via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:54, R1
- Tom Marcellino def. Matt Denning via submission (guillotine) at 3:34, R1
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