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With half a year of action-packed MMA in the books, MMAjunkie looks at the best fights from January-June 2018: Here are the six nominees, listed in chronological order, which have received “Submission of the Month” awards from MMAjunkie over the first half of this year.
At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting for your choice.
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After dropping the first round, Stephens added another win to his lengthy UFC resume when he stunned “The Korean Superboy” with a shot and followed up with a series of diving punches and hard elbows to force the second-round TKO stoppage.
Alan Jouban (16-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC) desperately wanted to get back on track in the welterweight division – so much so that he was willing to fight a friend in teammate Ben Saunders (22-9-2 MMA, 10-6 UFC).
The warm feelings between the two didn’t stop them from putting on a “Fight of the Night” battle, though. Jouban managed to get the better of Saunders in the striking exchanges before putting “Killa B” down with a second-round knockout, courtesy of a leg-kick, left-hand combination.
Bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) delivered again in his sophomore UFC effort when he got the better of Andre Soukhamthath (12-6 MMA, 1-3 UFC) over the course of three rounds for a unanimous-decision win.
Although it was a largely dominant performance, victory nearly slipped through O’Malley’s fingers. He sustained a bad leg injury in the third round of the bout and was forced to hobble his way to the final bell. Still, “Suga” put on another show which earned “Fight of the Night” honors.
The anticipated lightweight headliner between Dustin Poirier (23-5 MMA, 15-4 UFC) and former WSOF champion Justin Gaethje (18-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) lived up to all the hype and expectations placed around it.
In a matchup of divisional contenders, Poirier earned a fourth-round TKO victory of Gaethje in an epic back-and-forth affair. Both men had moments after absorbing heavy strikes, but Poirier’s ability to both give it and take it proved superior in the win.
Kelvin Gastelum (15-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) pushed himself into the upper tier of UFC middleweight title contention when he defeated fellow contender Ronaldo Souza (25-6 MMA, 8-3 UFC) by the narrowest of margins.
Gastelum has lost just once in seven UFC fights at middleweight. He extended that run when he defeated “Jacare” by split decision after a competitive bout where each man had several moments. With the win, Gastelum might very well be next for a title shot at 185 pounds.
A belt may not have been on the line, but the drama was just as high as any championship fight in recent memory, as Robert Whittaker (20-4 MMA, 11-2 UFC) took home a split-decision win over Yoel Romero (13-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in their rematch.
The five-round bout featured knockdowns, takedowns and numerous swings in momentum. Whittaker showed tremendous residency and ability to overcome adversity, though, never allowing Romero to put him out before being awarded the victory on the scorecards.
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In a bout that delivered on every bit of the expectations surrounding it, Poirier scored a fourth-round stoppage of Gaethje.
With the crowd chanting his name to start the fight, Gaethje pushed forward as you’d expect, throwing out low kicks and big right hands. Poirier kept his hands high and looked to counter, landing a few clean left straights and an uppercut or two. Gaethje stayed in his face, chopping at the legs and continuing to deliver the right hand. Poirier briefly slipped to the canvas but brought himself back to the feet, and the two resumed trading in the pocket.
As the round progressed, Poirier laced together a few combinations, including a nice left to the body and a high kick that found the mark, as well. Gaethje covered, but the left side of his face was damaged early, and Poirier started to really sit down on his punches. Poirier’s uppercut found its way through the guard, and the jab continued to pepper his opponent’s face, as well. In typical fashion, Gaethje continued to move forward, and he chopped the leg at every available moment. Meanwhile, Poirier’s left hand tore away at the head and body.
Poirier pounded the body with punches and kicks in the final minute, but Gaethje wouldn’t go away, hanging on until the bell.
Despite the early damage, Gaethje was out quick in the second, looking to reverse his fortunes. Poirier responded well, sipping and countering with crisp punches and a high kick or two that found the mark. Gaethje continued to attack the leg, though Poirier needed a brief timeout following a poke to his right eye. Both men appeared energized on the restart, coming out and trading furious punches in the pocket.
Gaethje started to find his range with punches, and the leg attacks continued, but Poirier certainly didn’t back away, lacing together combination and finding the most success with uppercuts and sweeping hooks. Poirier briefly attempted a takedown, but Gaethje pushed him away. On the restart, Poirier just rapid fired jabs before bringing the left behind it. Blood trickled down Gaethje’s face, but he seemed to smile as he tasted it before loading up on big punches he hoped would sway the momentum.
Poirier continued to stick and move, though Gaethje tagged him following another missed takedown and ended the round with a signature rolling thunder attack that brought the crowd to a fever pitch.
Poirier was breathing deeply to start the third, and Gaethje asked the crowd for some noise, which they happily provided. The two went right back to work in close quarters, and a bit of blood began to trickle down from around Poirier’s right eye. Gaethje continued to chop the legs, and Poirier started to reach down to grab the kicks. Then suddenly, a Gaethje right hand landed clean, and Poirier staggered back to the cage. Visibly disorientated, Poirier tried to shake the cobwebs, and Gaethje rushed forward to deliver more punishment.
Poirier briefly held the clinch as he looked to recover before the backed out to the center and continued the brawl. An exhausted Gaethje absorbed a Poirier combination, and somehow the two men both remained standing. Poirier complained of another eye poke in the final minute, and Dean elected to take a point, much to the crowd’s dismay. Unfazed, Gaethje again asked the crowd for more volume before the cageside doctor came in to look at Poirier, ultimately allowing the fight to continue.
Though just seconds remained, the round ended with Gaethje complaining of a potential finger to the eye.
At the start of the fourth, Poirier countered a low kick with a clean left hand, and Gaethje was stunned. Sensing an opportunity to end the chaos, Poirier rushed forward and unleashed a barrage of punches that landed clean. Staggered and trying to recover, Gaethje showed the heart that has become his calling card, never falling to the floor. But after dropping to a knee from a series of unanswered blows, Gaethje was deemed unfit to continue, ending the brawl in dramatic fashion 33 seconds into the frame.
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