Resiliency is one of the greatest traits an athlete can have. Along with heart, courage and actual skill. Resiliency however can bring out true greatness in any athlete, because no matter the odds, a self belief that can’t be denied allows oneself to persevere. Brian Foster showed his resiliency Friday night in the single night 8-man Lightweight tournament that would determine the next number one contender to challenge Justin Gaethje.
Foster faced in the nights third quarterfinal bout, Joao Zeferino, who took out Foster exceptionally quick in under two minutes with a heel hook submission to qualify onto the next round. It seemed as though Foster’s title dreams had been shattered in an instant. However, simple good fortune granted Foster another chance to achieve glory. Mike Ricci, had earlier in the night won his quarterfinal bout against Joe Condon with a spectacular head kick KO. Ricci was then slated to face Luis Palomino in the semi-finals. But when Ricci could not advance to the semifinals. Foster got the lucky call to make his way back into the tournament.
Foster faced off against former two-time title challenger Luis Palomino. Foster took full advantage of the new-found bout and dominated the former contender due to his phenomenal grappling scrambles and exchanges that led to a last minute TKO victory that would qualify Foster to move onto the finals in what should easily have been considered the most unlikely bout to have made it to the finals.
Joao Zeferino, after disposing of Foster early, faced off against Jorge Patino. Zeferino mirrored his previous performance just an hour earlier in submitting his fellow Brazilian, as well in under two minutes also with a heel hook submission.
It may have been the first type of match-up of its time in all of MMA. At least to this writers knowledge. As unlikely as it could have seen prior to the event, two men that had already faced off earlier in the night would face each other in the finals of what had become a circus-like event due to multiple injuries and pull-outs. But the match-up had its appeal for sure. Would Foster be able to adjust in facing an opponent he has lost to just hours earlier? Could Zeferino duplicate his last win over Foster? The questions left fans watching in the arena and at home gleaming with anticipation, that they could be witnessing a possible underdog story in the making. Zeferino proved to be a dark horse among the eight men slated to compete in the night as his victories came seemingly with ease.
Brian Foster would not be denied. Starting the match off with an obvious intent to strike instead of grapple this time around Foster pressed most of the action, leaving Zeferino to force his game of submissions and grappling. While Joao was successful on a couple occasions in getting Foster to the mat, Brian continued to scramble out of submissions, even playing with fire as he laid in some successful grappling offense of his own, and showed that he had made the necessary changes in the extraordinarily short amount of time he had to prepare for Zeferino once more. Foster would prove his resiliency and find the finishing blow late in the second round as he landed a hay-maker of a left hand across the face of the Brazilian that would seal the knockout for Foster, as well as redemption for his loss which took place mere hours before.
Foster made a story all his own Friday night and will now face his greatest test to date in Justin Gaethje, the dominant and defending WSOF Lightweight champion. A date has yet to be set, but after an historic night like last Friday, Foster has proven that he will be not only the toughest, but the most resilient challenger Gaethje will have ever come across.