The city of Philadelphia may have a new favorite fighter after Saturday, as Justin Gaethje lived up to his "Human Highlight Reel" nickname at Wells Fargo Center.
Justin Gaethje, lightweight
Result: defeated Edson Barboza via first-round knockout
Next: Anthony Pettis
Human Highlight Reel vs. Showtime. Pettis moved to welterweight in his last bout and scored a knockout of his own against Stephen Thompson. That result did not guarantee a permanent move up, however, and this would be a big fight at 155. Pettis actually mentioned facing the winner of Gaethje/Barboza in his postfight speech one week ago.
As for Gaethje: Hey, if Tony Ferguson were available, that may be ideal. Conor McGregor? Sign me up. But there is currently no timeframe on Ferguson's return, and McGregor just retired last week. Pettis is a new man after the Thompson knockout. His stock is extremely high, as is Gaethje's. This fight makes all the sense in the world for both.
Edson Barboza, lightweight
Result: lost to Gaethje via first-round knockout
Next: James Vick
There's no sugarcoating here for Barboza. This loss is a big one. It doesn't seem possible, but the 33-year-old has now lost three of his past four -- and all three losses have been quite definitive.
And this time, Barboza lost at his own game. This was a standup fight, and he barely lasted half a round. Barboza will still hang around the top 10 because his body of work is so strong, but his status as a potential contender is probably as low as it has been in years. Vick is coming off back-to-back losses, including a first-round knockout loss to Gaethje.
Michelle Waterson, strawweight
Result: defeated Karolina Kowalkiewicz via unanimous decision
Next: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Waterson did her job Saturday. Three convincing rounds over a former title challenger, and she called for her shot. She did everything you could have asked of her, outside of a finish -- but the reality is, there are still names ahead of her. Tatiana Suarez faces Nina Ansaroff on June 8, and it's hard to see Waterson getting a title shot before the winner of that, especially if it's Suarez.
Honestly, I'd like to see Jedrzejczyk stay at 125 pounds (she has a very difficult cut to 115), but she's said, repeatedly, that she's not done at strawweight. It doesn't sound like much of a reward for Waterson. Hey, great win against Kowalkiewicz, now go fight Jedrzejczyk. But rankings-wise, it makes sense. Either that, or sit out for a minute and hope the cards fall her way.
Jack Hermansson, middleweight
Result: defeated David Branch via first-round submission
Next: Uriah Hall
Hermansson is now 6-2 in the UFC, riding a three-fight win streak. He just finished a top-10 middleweight in Branch (in the first round), so a potential matchup against Hall probably isn't at the top of his list. In fact, it definitely isn't. Hermansson told ESPN on Saturday he'd like to fight former champion Chris Weidman.
That's a great callout, but the simple reality is that it's unlikely Weidman takes that fight. Hermansson likely needs one more win before he forces his way into a top-5 matchup, and Hall is the guy to do it against. Hall is only 2-4 in his past six, but those losses have come against some of the very best in Robert Whittaker, Gegard Mousasi, Paulo Costa and Derek Brunson.
Josh Emmett, featherweight
Result: defeated Michael Johnson via third-round knockout
Next: Yair Rodriguez
The top of the 145-pound division is somewhat in flux, as champion Max Holloway moves up to challenge for an interim lightweight title at UFC 236 on April 13. Frankie Edgar is waiting on a fight. Brian Ortega is coming off the first loss of his career. Zabit Magomedsharipov is setting the division on fire. There are a lot of ways this could all play out.
And Emmett is right back in the hunt, following a fantastic knockout over Johnson. Rodriguez is in the thick of things as well, and would be in a prime position to call for a No. 1 contender fight if he were to beat someone like Emmett. On paper, this looks like a great standup matchup. Finishing power on both sides. Creativity and a willingness to take risks on both sides. What more can you want in a fight?