During the Justin Gaethje and Nick Newell WSOF title fight my Twitter TL started to fill up with “hard to watch” and “this is making me uncomfortable” tweets. I understand that it comes from Newell having only one full arm but that is not why he lost this fight. It was simply that Gaethje was the better fighter as he has been every single time he has stepped into the cage to fight so far as a professional. Many people have been excited by Gaethje and tonight was just more reason for that excitement to continue. It was also the first time Newell had faced a better fighter.
Gaethje destroyed Richard Patishnock, stopping him in the first round to win the title and no one said that was difficult to watch, nor did they say anything about the other nine fighters he has finished. He has destroyed other fighters faster and more harshly. Looking at Newell through the prism of his left arm reduces yourself and your viewpoint. You miss out on the beauty of his fighting spirit and of this fight.
There was none of that “difficult to watch” talk when Newell started the fight out by taking it to Gaethje. He was winning the early striking exchanges and he forced Gaethje to adjust. He was the first fighter who was able to make those adjustments against Newell.
Afterwards, it was Gaethje himself who called this fight a war if there was any doubt out there about the skill and toughness of Newell. In the beginning, it was Newell who landed the good clean shots on Gaethje. He ultimately took a lot of them too before finally succumbing to strikes. It was not a one-sided unfair fight. Yes, Gaethje did dominate the last part of the fight but Newell started out winning the fight.
Feeling sorry for Newell is a disservice to him, Gaethje and their fight. It is reducing both the victory for Gaethje and the fight for Newell to Newell’s left arm. The fight was about so much more than that as is Newell. He has learned how to adapt and use his arm to his advantage and Gaethje was the first fighter to beat Newell inside of the cage.
That is right, I said advantages he gains by his left arm being different from others. First off, it is different fighting him than it is anybody else. There are many moves that start with controlling the wrist and you cannot do that with Newell. Are there more disadvantages for him? Maybe, but so far only one fighter has been able to defeat him.
Newell is more about his will and his heart than his left arm. He is going to be back from this fight stronger and more determined.
Let’s take a look at what happened in the cage.
During Gaethje’s run to the cage, Kenny Rice and Bas Rutten informed the audience that he likes to start the fight the same way – very fast. True to form, Gaethje landed the first strike, an inside leg kick. Newell responded right away with a left high kick. They ended up in the clinch and Newell just missed with a hard right hand on the break.
As Gaethje came in, Newell threw a left front kick to the face that also just missed. Moments later Newell landed a couple of solid right hands, then a left body kick and a flying left knee. Newell then landed two right hands and left elbows. Gaethje countered with another hard inside leg kick that tripped up Newell who quickly scrambled back up to his feet.
This was excellent patience by Gaethje to stick to his normal striking plan to attacking the legs then the body and head. If you try to attack Newell with right hands and kicks you essentially fall into a trap that you help set.
Already in this fight we saw how Newell displays great timing and accuracy with his counterstrikes. He is aware of all the strikes you can throw at his left side and the right counters to throw. Newell is able to do this because of his footwork and balance. By attacking the legs, Gaethje was slowing Newell down and setting him up for head and body shots.
We saw an example of the counter from Newell when he threw another front left kick, this time to the body, as Gaethje threw a right hand. A half a beat later Newell read the right uppercut lead and circled to his right while landing an overhand right counter of his own.
Then as Gaethje tried to reset and come in Newell flowed into a right jab, into a right hook, left knee, right uppercut, left elbow and right hook that was mostly arm combo. It had Gaethje backing up and on his heels for a moment. Newell attempted a takedown and Gaethje escaped.
When they separated Gaethje threw a low kick to the inside of Newell’s leg just below the right knee. Newell threw one at the same time that landed just after Gaethje’s to his kicking leg. Newell then bounced around on his left leg and seemed to be favoring the right. It made a loud cracking sound of bone on bone and it kicked the leg out to the side.
Newell recovered and landed two kicks to the liver area, a knee and several more strikes to the head. Newell was winning the striking exchanges a minute and a half into the fight. Again more kicks, knees and punches from Newell. Then Gaethje lands another inside leg kick to the same spot and a hard right hand to the body.
Gaethje tried to follow that up with another right hand to the head and Newell timed it perfectly shooting in for the takedown. Gaethje sprawled and stuffed it. He landed another hard right hand to the body while Newell continued to work for the single leg. Back standing but with Newell still holding on to the leg Gaethje went into a flying knee and broke free.
It was almost halfway into the round and so far Newell was winning the fight. He was out striking Gaethje while being the aggressor in the grappling exchanges.
Newell had Gaethje up against the fence and landed another nice little left knee, right hand, left elbow and right hand combo. On the the last right hand Gaethje threw one of his that landed solidly and into a knee that sent Newell scrambling into a takedown attempt. Gaethje landed a knee to the body that was close to his head.
For a moment, Gaethje attempted to try and get Newell’s back and then quickly just separated and got back to his feet. It showed the respect he had for Newell’s ground game. There was also no reason to grapple with Newell at that point.
It proved to be an excellent decision and Gaethje started to find the timing and landed a hard right hand and left one. Again, Newell went for the takedown which resulted in him taking some ground and pound before Gaethje quickly got up again.
After a few more hard shots to the head from Gaethje, Newell again went for the takedown. This time after one body kick Gaethje stepped back to let Newell stand back up. Newell attempted another flying knee and Gaethje timed it perfectly landing a right hand that knocked Newell out of the air down to the ground.
Down there it was all Gaethje. There were several hard shots to the head and even harder knee to the body. Newell was already starting to slow down before this sequence. The game fighter attempted a heel hook that Gaethje escaped after about 20 seconds.
Newell landed a little body kick as they got back up. They then seemed like they were going to just let the round run out when Gaethje landed a head snapping left and right as the round expired.
As he went back to his corner Newell was visibly breathing heavy. He had started the round fast and then took some hard shots to the head, legs and body. There was blood streaming down his face. Across the cage Gaethje was also breathing hard from the first round.
The second round starts and they put a little window in to show us Newell’s corner in between rounds. It was an example of what happens to a fighter as they get tired and drilled a couple of times. His corner was telling during the break to get off first and to not walk back to the cage. They even called it their number one rule. As they are replaying this for us the live action Newell does the opposite of what his corner told him.
A hard left to the head and Newell backs slowly to the cage. Gaethje walks him down and then landed a hard thumping right hand to the body. Then two right uppercuts from Gaethje land and Newell goes down to the ground. Gaethje tried to end the fight but Newell defended.
Back to their feet now and moments later another big body shot from Gaethje and Newell countered with an overhand right that did not have the power that it did earlier behind it. Newell attempted a half-takedown that Gaethje easily avoided.
As they circled they both were showing the effects of the fight. Newell lands a lead right hand to the head. Gaethje came back with a hard right body kick followed by a right hand to the same area. Again, Newell attempted a takedown and Gaethje just quickly scrambled away as the visibly tired Newell got back to his feet. While he was pulling himself up while Gaethje rested with his hands on his knees. That move is universal in sports when somebody does it they are basically saying yeah I am tired but I don’t care because I need this moment of rest. Both fighters were moving slower but Newell was noticeably worse.
Was the fight effectively over at this point? Yes, it was as Newell did not seem to have enough left to finish unless Gaethje made a mistake. That seemed very unlikely as Gaethje had fought a smart fight up to this point even as he got tired.
That is the point though – both fighters fought with heart. Newell was not going to give up. He kept coming until he could not. Forcing Gaethje to stop him which is what he did by staying smart and patient. They exchange a few strikes with Gaethje landing solid shots to Newell’s glancing ones.
Once again, Newell went into a desperation single leg. This led to him eating some ground and pound from Gaethje. The ref stopped the fight to check the cut and brought the doctor in. Newell’s face was a bloody mask. The doctors agreed to let the fight continue.
They exchange a couple of kicks that do land cleanly. Then Gaethje steps in to throw a hard right hand to the body. Newell stepped back almost against the cage and circled to his left. As Newell circled awat Gaethje followed. Newell planted his left foot and started to step forward with his right foot and started to throw his right hand. Gaethje set it up and timed his counter right hand perfectly.
He planted his right foot and stepped in with his left one which landed before and underneath of Newell’s right foot. This happens as Gaethje connected with the right hand that sent Newell down and the ref stepped in correctly ending the fight.
The TKO was perfectly executed and setup by Gaethje. He showed nice composure coming back from Newell’s early onslaught. They both showed tremendous heart and fighting spirits.
Newell will comeback from this if you know his story at all then you know he does not accept defeat. While Gaethje continues to impress looking better with each fight. Now the WSOF has the challenge to find some opponents for him. With each performance he proves that he is one of the top fighters at lightweight and still the WSOF champion.
Celebrate Gaethje’s performance and Newell’s heart, that way you can appreciate the art these two created for us. It is what they deserve.