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MMA Junkie’s ‘Fight of the Month’ for March: A barnburner brawl in Bellator

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best fights from March 2019: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s “Fight of the Month” award for March.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting on your choice.

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The Nominees

Ben Askren def. Robbie Lawler at UFC 235

Ben Askren (19-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) kept his perfect record intact, but it didn’t come without incredible struggle – and incredible controversy – in a wild one-round fight with former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-13 MMA, 13-7 UFC).

After taking a surprising slam and some hard shots on the ground, Askren somehow got back to his feet and put himself into a grappling situation with Lawler. Slipping around to the back, Askren hunted the choke just as Lawler did his best to spin free. Askren didn’t let him get all the way through, holding on to a bulldog choke and squeezing. Seeing Lawler’s right arm fall to the canvas, the referee rushed in and called a stop to the fight. However, Lawler popped immediately to his feet and protested the call.

Pedro Munhoz def. Cody Garbrandt at UFC 235

While Cody Garbrandt (11-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) may be the man known as a knockout artist, it was Pedro Munhoz (18-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) who used his heavy hands to end their bantamweight fight in the first round.

After some reckless actions arguably cost him his UFC bantamweight title to T.J. Dillashaw and the subsequent rematch, Garbrandt did not change his approach as many thought he would. He came in slinging heat at Brazil’s Munhoz, who came prepared for a gun fight. Munhoz absorbed Garbrandt’s shots and fired back with his own until a big right hand landed clean and sent his opponent crashing to the canvas for the first-round TKO.

Jorge Masvidal def. Darren Till at UFC on ESPN+ 5

Jorge Masvidal (33-13 MMA, 10-6 UFC) started a bit slow but delivered when it mattered most, scoring a highlight-reel finish of Darren Till (17-2-1 MMA, 5-2-1 UFC) in their welterweight headliner.

Tim had the better opening round in the fight, but as the bout dipped into the second frame, it was obvious “Gamebred” was picking up steam. Eventually, Masvidal delivered and a huge left hand over the top that sent Till crashing to the floor. Another landed on the way down, and Masvidal pounced to finish off the job, though the work was already done, because Till was out cold.

Brandon Girtz def. Saad Awad at Bellator 219

Brandon Girtz (15-8 MMA, 7-6 BMMA) returned after nearly a year on the sidelines and looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat, going toe-to-toe with Saad Awad (23-10 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) for three full rounds in a thrilling lightweight contest.

Girtz threatened to finish it early and landed his share of big punches throughout the 15-minute affair, but Awad showed incredible resiliency in battling through the damage and offering back his own offense in reply. In the end, though, Girtz was granted the unanimous decision.

Justin Gaethje def. Edson Barboza at UFC on ESPN 2

No punch or kick from Edson Barboza (20-7 MMA, 14-7 UFC) could keep Justin Gaethje (20-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) from implementing his pressure game and delivering the one that mattered most.

After coming at his opponent from the opening bell in the matchup of lightweight contenders, Gaethje cracked Barboza with a sick right hook as he left his hands down while circling out of an exchange. The Brazilian went down, and Gaethje got his second opening-round knockout in a row.

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The Winner: Brandon Girtz vs. Saad Awad

Fighting for the first time in 11 months, Girtz picked up a thrilling decision win over a durable Awad.

The fight was wild from the start, with Girtz coming out at full speed and dropping Awad in the opening seconds with a huge right hand that saw his legs fold as he fell. But Awad wasn’t willing to go away that easy, crawling back to his feet and looking to brawl. The action was hectic to open, the pair eventually settled into a more manageable rhythm. Once at a reasonable pace, a patient Awad started finding success of his own, though Girtz was always looking to answer with a homerun shot of his own.

Awad took the center to open the second and tried to strike from range. Girstz landed a big left hand that sent Awad briefly to the floor, but he popped immediately back to his feet and resumed his disciplined attack. Girtz continued to have success in spots, with his power evident with every blow. However, Awad responded with combinations, shrugging off the big shots and returning fire at every turn.

Girtz looked for a takedown early in the third, but Awad pushed it aside with relative ease. Awad remained the busier fighter in terms of movement, but it was clear the torrid pace was beginning to wear on both men. Awad pressed forward, presumably for a takedown, but he was clipped by a big right hand as he changed levels. Stunned, Awad tried to grab the leg and cover, while Girtz fired away with strikes. With referee Jason Herzog watching closely, Awad was able to duck and turn and escape to his feet, though he was clearly shaky. Still, both men continued their brawl.

Awad took a deep breath with a little less than a minute, and the two just teed off until the final bell, bringing an end to an action-packed affair. With judges tasked to pick a winner, they leaned toward Girtz, 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28.

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