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Shots After The Bell: Gaethje’s promise and shortcomings on display at TUF: ‘Redemption’ Finale

Justin Gaethje’s live by the sword, die by the sword style of fighting is exciting, but how far can it get him in the loss-adverse UFC?

MMA: The Ultimate Fighter-Johnson vs Gaethje Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Ultimate Fighter: “Redemption” just went down at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the first event of a two event weekend followed up by UFC 213. And while there wasn’t a lot of greatness on display during the preliminary portion of the card, the last few fights made the whole thing worthwhile. Let’s take a look at some of the bright points, shall we?

Justin Gaethje is the real deal

After sitting through six hours of largely uninspiring fights without a whole lot of action, the Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson main event hit me like a bolt of lightning. From start to finish, that fight was non-stop craziness. Griffin vs. Bonnar redux. You hear the word slobberknocker thrown around a lot, but what else would you call a fight that had both athletes staggering across the cage struggling to maintain consciousness as they continue to throw bombs at each other?

Gaethje promised violence and delivered in spades, but his exciting style of fighting isn't likely to carry him all that far in the UFC. He took way too much head trauma in that fight, almost getting finished by Johnson at the end of the first and halfway through the second. If he hadn't already knocked Johnson's block off, his opponent probably would have been able to capitalize and finish him off. It was something of a miracle that he managed to stay upright.

Gaethje represents exactly the kind of blood and guts fighting that the UFC should be giving a heavy promotional push. If they're smart, they'll keep featuring him even after he takes his first loss, and second, and so forth. I don't particularly care if he's unbeaten or a contender. So long as he continues to force wars on his opponents, I will continue to watch with interest. Let's hope the UFC recognizes this and gives him the money and spotlight he deserves to keep fighting this way.


MMA: The Ultimate Fighter-Lima vs Taylor Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Taylor had the misfortune of screwing himself over back in the days when most UFC fans were still watching The Ultimate Fighter. Not only did he get drunk and piss himself on purpose during the show, but he got himself kicked out of the tournament for another alcohol fueled rampage through the Vegas strip that involved kicking the glass out of a limousine window and namedropping his UFC status to casino security guards as he behaved badly. You don't rep the Fertittas like that in their own back yard, and the behavior earned Taylor the boot and a ban.

So it was fitting that on a season titled "Redemption", Taylor returned and earned the win that probably would have been his if his issues with alcohol hadn't derailed him so badly. Taylor was relentless with his wrestling and grappling and soon overwhelmed his former teammate Dhiego Lima, catching him in a rear naked choke halfway through the second round. For that he earned a $290,000 paycheck (much better than the overhyped 'six figure contract' normally up for grabs) and turned his cautionary tale into a heartwarming comeback story. Good for him.

Endless potential

MMA: The Ultimate Fighter-Diakiese vs Klose Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While Marc Diakiese didn't earn a win at The Ultimate Fighter: “Redemption” finale, he did cement himself as one of the most creative strikers in the UFC. He's another fighter that could turn into a star should the UFC have the smarts and awareness to cultivate his skills and let him grow into his abilities.

The fight with Drakkar Klose was a good start. Klose was a solid challenge, but not the kind of WTF booking that makes you question whether UFC matchmakers enjoy exposing the shortcomings of their next level strikers. You know the fights I'm talking about ... where high flying specialists get pinned to the canvas and wrestlef**ked for three rounds.

Of course, this is mixed martial arts. Everyone needs to be well rounded and prepared to take on those expert wrestlers. But with guys like Diakiese, every fight during this developmental portion of his career where he doesn't get a chance to work his flashy kicks seems like a wasted opportunity.

For more results, highlights, and analysis of The Ultimate Fighter: “Redemption” Finale, click here.

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