Saturday’s UFC Gdansk event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Poland, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at Ergo Arena.
1 – Darren Till
Shocking, right? Who would have expected Darren Till to be Saturday’s big winner after beating a top 10 welterweight like Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone? But seriously, what an effort by the unbeaten Liverpool native, who put the heat on from the time the Octagon door shut until the bout was stopped 4:20 later. I don’t want to be that guy saying I knew it all along, but Till always looked like a special fighter to me, and now everybody got a chance to see why. I know styles make fights, but Cerrone is a guy who just went 15 minutes with Robbie Lawler. That should say a lot about Till’s performance.
2 – Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Some fighters pursue a title shot for years and years, and when they come up short, they never recover. If I’m being honest, I thought that might be the case with Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She went five hard rounds with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, but then got submitted in less than a round by Claudia Gadelha in her return fight. In my eyes, Saturday’s bout with Jodie Esquibel was going to be the big test, and in that big test, I think an A+ grade was well deserved. Kowalkiewicz looked to be in prime form with her back against the wall, and if she gets the fight she wants against Jessica Andrade and can repeat that effort, another title shot should be on her 2018 schedule.
3 – Jan Blachowicz
I liked Jan Blachowicz ever since he professed his love for the RPG The Witcher, but he hasn’t had the easiest run in the UFC. Of course, that’s par for the course in the Octagon, but a resume that includes the names Ilir Latifi, Jimi Manuwa, Corey Anderson and Alexander Gustafsson can give anyone some sleepless nights. But on Saturday in his home country of Poland, Blachowicz put it all together against Devin Clark, showing off his new jiu-jitsu black belt with a second round submission win. And while the Performance of the Night bonus was nice, in the long run, Blachowicz might look back on October 21 as the moment he put a 1-4 skid to rest and restarted his road to the top of the 205-pound weight class.
4 – Andre Fili
If you were a better man (or woman), picking Andre Fili to beat Artem Lobov was a good call, given the pattern of Fili’s entire UFC career. It’s been win-loss-win-loss, etc., since he made his Octagon debut in 2013, and while we joked about it before the fight, he said he was willing to have one more fight in that pattern against Lobov and then break it forever. And if his performance against “The Russian Hammer” was any indication, he seems to be on the verge of finally finding the consistency to fulfill his potential and begin his run at the elite at 145 pounds.
5 – Aspen Ladd
Unbeaten bantamweight prospect Aspen Ladd came to the UFC with a lot of hype earlier this year, but that came to a halt when her July bout with Jessica Eye was scrapped due to illness. So Saturday’s debut was a little more low-key, but perhaps that was the best scenario for the Californian, who showed a veteran’s poise in the first round against Lina Lansberg before taking over in the second and scoring a ground-and-pound TKO. Social media was all over Ladd’s victory, and expect the hype meter to kick back into overdrive when she returns.