On Friday night, WSOF 23 is headlined by a rematch of the greatest fight you didn’t see: Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino. It’s ok that you didn’t see Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino. Not a lot of people did. No offense to World Series of Fighting but half the time the company is in the news is because fighters want to leave due to lack of fight time. So, Gaethje vs. Palomino was under the radar. So far under the radar that even after it was over no one has really talked about it, let alone put it in proper context.
This was the fight of the year.
OK. Maybe you like Arlovski beating up woman beating Travis Brown, or formerly overhyped Robbie Lawler beating up currently overhyped Rory MacDonald. Or anything from that Scotland UFC. I won’t argue too much, I’m a nice guy.
But Gaethje vs. Palomino absolutely deserves to be put into the conversation. For 15 minutes, these two engaged in one of the best back and forth slugfests you’ll see. I’ve always thought that the true lasting legacy of Strikeforce wasn’t Frank Shamrock trying to bilk people out of money one last time, or Cung Le beating up no bodies to convince us he was somebody, it was the Josh Thomson vs Gilbert Melendez trilogy. A trilogy that may go down in history at the greatest three fight series ever.
Gaethje vs. Palomino has the potential to be that for WSOF. Their styles simply match up too well, with Palomino being reduced to pure striking as he cannot match Gaethje’s wrestling ability. And Gaethje at an undefeated 14-0, with multiple title defenses, and an easy win over Melvin Guillard, is perhaps the best non-UFC lightweight out there. At the very least, he’s in the running.
He’s UFC calibre for certain and with a bit more seasoning, WSOF might have on its hands the next Gilbert Melendez: that one guy they can point to and say, “We have the best in the world” and it isn’t too absurd.
Mind you, I expect Gaethje to get a good money offer from the UFC or Bellator and be on his way but until then…
On a weekend where we all pretend guys who were relevant last millennium are still relevant, WSOF gives everyone a match that actually is. If Gaethje vs. Palomino is anything like the first go around, we may see the emergence of a great fight and great fighter all at once.
The entire fight is presented below for your enjoyment. If you think any of the above was an exaggeration, watch this and get back to us.