Fights against the best competition available, that’s all Nick Newell has ever asked of his employer. It appears that the World Series of Fighting vet is about to get his wish.

Following Justin Gaethje’s first-round destruction of Richard Patishnock earlier this month, it was obvious that Newell was the clear-cut No. 1 contender for the young knockout artist’s new belt. Within a few days, the WSOF brass announced that a Gaethje-Newell bout was officially in the works.

This is a huge opportunity for the 27-year-old Newell, who has been given limited opportunities to prove himself as a mixed martial artist thus far in his career, although not for a lack of trying. Since his days with the XFC, Newell has been begging to fight former UFC veterans and high-profile regional fighters. However, for reasons most likely associated with the congenital amputation that has left “Notorious” without most of his left arm, he hasn’t been getting those big fights. After going 2-0 to start his stint in the World Series of Fighting organization, however, it looks like Newell will finally be provided with the opportunity he’s been pining for.

What’s refreshing about seeing Newell get a legitimate chance to capture a title in one of the top MMA promotions in the world is the way that WSOF has handled the entire situation. Company head Ray Sefo could have easily thrown Newell directly into a title bout upon entering the organization and no one would have batted an eye. After all, Newell was coming off a XFC title reign that ended on bad terms when Newell and the Florida-based promotion couldn’t agree on Newell’s future opponents.

I don’t want to use the words “freak show,” because Newell had already proven to be a competent fighter at that point, but in reality a lot of the public would have felt that way about Newell immediately entering into the WSOF spotlight. It’s almost expected of promoters to try to exploit any angle imaginable to go after ratings and ticket sales, and the WSOF had the opportunity to make a spectacle out of Newell from the second he signed with the company. Instead, the promotion did things the right way and forced Newell to climb up the 155-pound ladder with the rest of the upstarts in the division. It was a risky move, despite it being the right thing to do.

The WSOF’s gamble paid off, though. Newell was able to easily handle both of the tests they threw at him inside the cage. He needed just over two minutes to submit Keon Caldwell via a guillotine choke and then secured the same hold on Sabah Fadai in just 81 seconds in his sophomore outing with the promotion. “Notorious” may not have been fighting world-class competition in WSOF, but it was a definite step up from his previous opponents with the XFC and it served as proof that he’s able to hang in a major organization.

Newell’s back-to-back submission victories to kick off his WSOF career were impressive enough to move him into the forefront of the title scene. To its credit, the WSOF has shown no reservations about allowing Newell to compete for the title. Although Newell’s physical handicap can (and probably will, to some extent) be the story heading into his first shot at a major championship, there’s also a more exciting angle that’s readily available.

While Newell has been busy making a name for himself as a submission specialist (eight of his 11 wins came by tapout), his opponent, Gaethje, has been in the business of knocking people out. The Grudge Training Center prospect has been on a serious tear as of late, finishing his last six opponents by knockout or TKO. Gaethje has amassed an 11-0 record to match Newell’s own mark. As easy as it would be to make this fight about Newell’s handicap, the fight sells itself without that aspect.

Can Newell hang with Gaethje on the feet? There’s no doubt that the Springfield, Mass., native is going to be at a serious disadvantage in the stand-up department, but he has shown that he’s competent on the feet and his aggression more than makes up for his inability to fight like a traditional striker. It’s doubtful that anyone would recommend that Newell goes five rounds with Gaethje on the feet, but there’s no evidence that he’ll be steamrolled by the first great striker that he faces. Sure, it’s a possibility, but that’s just MMA.

On the flipside, it will be interesting to see how Gaethje deals with Newell’s unorthodox ground attack if the fight hits the mat. The Arizona native is a lifelong wrestler, and he has the credentials to shut down Newell like none before him on the mat. Still, it’s impossible to train for what Newell brings into the cage, and Gaethje will be grappling in unfamiliar territory. “Notorious” has found a way to make his disability a weapon with his signature guillotine and rear-naked chokes. Getting caught in one of those would likely be the beginning of the end of Gaethje’s title reign.

This is an awesome title fight, and one that the World Series of Fighting should be proud of in the way that it was built. The company had two fighters that looked like they could be future stars, and instead of matching them up right away, the organization let both men gain some needed wins and exposure before setting up a fantastic title bout. It’s not often that two undefeated fighters compete for a title in a major organization, especially when both fighters are still relatively young in their MMA careers, but the WSOF has unearthed two legitimate unbeaten prospects looking to make a statement in the lightweight division.

For Gaethje, this is a chance to earn a win over a big name and keep moving towards being one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world. For Newell, it’s his chance to, at the very least, prove to everyone that he belongs in the cage with the best fighters in the division. And if he’s able to pull off the upset and score a title win, then “Notorious” will have proven more than many thought possible for a one-armed fighter.

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.