The World Series Of Fighting returns on Saturday with their second event from the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The WSOF had a very solid debut showing, and they are looking to score the same kind of magic as they return to the NBC Sports Network, who gave them a three-year TV deal following the debut show. The card has a solid mix of UFC veterans and fighters looking to make their mark in the WSOF, so let’s take a look at what is in store for us on Saturday night.
Andrei Arlovski (19-9 1 NC, 1-0 WSOF) vs. Anthony Johnson (14-4, 1-0 WSOF)
Fight Breakdown: Arlovski and Johnson square off in the night’s main event in a heavyweight bout that is interesting for a number of reasons. Johnson completes the transition from being a huge welterweight to now fighting at heavyweight … and he is close to the same size as Arlovski. Johnson said he expects to weigh in around 235 pounds while Arlovski came in at 247 pounds in his last outing. Johnson makes for Arlovski’s best challenge in a few years while Johnson looks to continue his win streak since being released from the UFC following issues with making weight.
Arlovski still has great speed in his striking, and he is very technical with sound movement and attacking from different angles. Arlovski’s biggest weakness has been his chin as he has suffered several devastating knockout losses, and Johnson has huge knockout power in both his hands and feet. Johnson has dominated past opponents with his wrestling and ground and pound, but that may be tough to accomplish against Arlovski, who has solid takedown defense and a sambo background that should give him the ability to keep the fight standing. Arlovski could surprise and mix in a few takedown attempts himself, though Johnson should be able to keep it upright as well.
Johnson will look to attack Arlovski’s chin with his hands and feet and look to put this one away early. Both have excellent finishing ability, and Arlovski being the more technical striker of the two could turn the fight in his favor. Johnson is just so big and powerful at any weight, and not having to cut any weight prior to the fight will keep him fresh, and a fresh Anthony Johnson is a dangerous Anthony Johnson. Arlovski will need to utilize his speed and good footwork, but Johnson will take this in devastating fashion.
Why It Matters: Johnson was unceremoniously released from the UFC following missing weight and losing a fight against Vitor Belfort. A five-fight win streak could get him another look from the UFC, but he is carving himself a name in the WSOF. Arlovski wants to prove he can still win big fights and that he has a lot left in his tank, and that a return to the UFC could be in the future, where all the big name heavyweights reside. Both men have a lot to prove in this fight, and fireworks are in store.
Tyson Nam (12-4, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Marlon Moraes (9-4-1, 1-0 WSOF)
Fight Breakdown: Not every fighter competing on the main card of this event is a UFC castoff, and this fight represents what will help boost the WSOF to the next level- some talent not featured in other big promotions. Nam was a member of the Bellator promotion, but was never used by them and is coming in off a wave of momentum when he knocked out their champion, Eduardo Dantas, in August in Brazil. Moraes, meanwhile, competed at WSOF 1, scoring a huge upset over former WEC kingpin Miguel Angel Torres, and he has been heralded as a future star at 135 pounds, getting praise from training partner Frankie Edgar.
Moraes is a diverse striker with good speed and his mixes his striking attacks well. Nam tends to be a counterpuncher, but he has excellent power and can finish people with one punch. The ground advantage goes to Moraes, who holds a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and he has shown a solid submission game. Moraes will be looking to mix his kicks in with punches and avoid the power that Nam possesses, while Nam will need to be the aggressor and look for the kill early. If Moraes pushes the pace of the fight, Nam will be looking for the counter, so Moraes will need to be on the lookout for that. This fight has the makings of going the distance, and the fighter who wins on the feet will win the fight.
Why It Matters: The WSOF has talked about creating championships in their upcoming events, and this should decide who will be fighting for their 135-pound championship. Nam has seen action only once since October 2011, so he will be looking to show that ring rust is not an issue. Moraes is a rising star and looking to become the talk of non-UFC fighters at bantamweight, and back-to-back wins over competition the caliber of Torres and Nam will keep his name known around the MMA world.
Dave Branch (11-3, 1-0 WSOF) vs. Paulo Filho (23-4-2, 0-0 WSOF)
Fight Breakdown: This is one of the most interesting fights on the card just because you do not know which Paulo Filho will show up. Will the Filho who started his career 16-0 show up, or will it be the one who has shown bizarre behavior over recent years? He’s gone through some trouble just this week as Ariel Helwani reported a panic attack caused him to miss his first flight to New Jersey for this event, so we could be seeing another in a string of disappointing showings from Filho.
Meanwhile, with Branch, you know what you’re going to get. The four-time UFC veteran is 3-1 since being released from the UFC, and the black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu showed solid punches and good takedown defense in his win over Dustin Jacoby at WSOF 1. Branch does not show much in the way of striking on the feet, coming with a conservative approach geared towards taking the fight to the mat. Branch is not afraid to pull guard and work from the bottom, and his ground and pound leaves some to be desired. He falls into a pattern of being effective yet boring on the ground, which tends to lead to a lot of slow action.
Filho is a black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and was once one of the top middleweights in the world. He has battled substance abuse problems for a long time, and mentally, he does not seem to be all there at times. Filho has wild striking, and Branch could make him pay for that by countering with a takedown. Filho can submit Branch and was once a world champion in jiu-jitsu competitions. Does Filho have what it takes to get back to a top level? This has potential to be a very ugly fight that goes to the judges.
Why It Matters: Branch had a lot of potential prior to going to the UFC, but his mixed results elicted a release. He has yet to show he has what it truly takes to warrant a return, but he is getting better with each fight, and the WSOF provides a safe place for him to work on his skills. It also provides a safe place for fighters like Filho to get a chance to regain some past stardom. You never know what you get from Filho, and his issues this week provide just another example. It could be Filho’s last hurrah on a semi-big stage, but a very solid win will help make sure it isn’t.
Josh Burkman (24-9, 1-0 WSOF) vs. Aaron Simpson (12-4, 0-0 WSOF)
Fight Breakdown: Another fight between UFC veterans that could play into future title plans for the WSOF takes place in the middle of the card, and it is an intriguing bout. Burkman has won six of seven fights since his UFC release while Simpson competes for the first time since not having his UFC contract renewed following a loss to Mike Pierce in October. Simpson had a very good record in the UFC- seven wins with four losses- but he could never break into that next level of fighters who vie for title shots, though his losses have come to some of the best fighters the UFC has to offer. Much of the same could be said of Burkman’s stint in the UFC.
Simpson is an elite wrestler with some solid punching power, and getting him down to the ground is a very hard task. Burkman likes to turn fights into grinds, but he will have trouble doing so against Simpson. Burkman will need to be on the lookout for Simpson shooting from all angles as he mixes his takedowns well with single and double-legs, trip takedowns and slams. Burkman needs to fight from a distance and attack with leg kicks to keep Simpson away from grabbing him for takedowns. A clinch battle against the cage will favor the wrestler in Simpson, and Simpson is very strong at 170 pounds. It will be a grind and likely go the distance but Simpson has the advantages in this fight.
Why It Matters: This fight is pivotal when it comes to the WSOF’s plan to introduce championships on their upcoming cards. The winner of this fight could find themselves fighting for the inaugural WSOF Welterweight Championship against another new signee, Jon Fitch. Both men came up short in their quests to capture gold in the world’s top fighting organization, but a chance to meet Fitch for a title would give a similar feel to fighting for the title in the UFC. Both men are in the WSOF to win a championship, and a win here puts either Burkman or Simpson on the right path.
Gesias Cavalcante (17-6-1 2 NC, 1-0 WSOF) vs. Justin Gaethje (7-0, 0-0 WSOF)
Fight Breakdown: Cavalcante was once regarded as one of the top 155-pound fighters in the world but his career has slowed down, and he has scored just three wins in his last ten fights. He is coming off a 63-second win over T.J. O’Brien at WSOF in November, showing he still has the explosive submission game that made him a top ten lightweight. Gaethje is undefeated in his seven professional bouts and he has fought four times since the beginning of June, including a 12-second knockout win over veteran Drew Fickett.
Cavalcante has a good mix of striking and grappling and is a world-class submission artist. He has tended to fade over the later rounds of recent fights, and that can be credited to injuries catching up to him. He still has excellent submissions, and he will need to use them against Gaethje, who is an excellent wrestler. Gaethje likes to throw with a lot of power on the feet, but he does tend to leave his hands low, and an experienced fighter like Cavalcante will make him pay if he keeps his hands low. Gaethje will win the fight if he strings together his combinations well and can keep good defense on the ground. Cavalcante needs to rely on his experience and overall sound game to take the win.
Why It Matters: Cavalcante wants to show he still has what it takes to compete with the best of the non-UFC lightweights in the world while Gaethje wants to prove he can beat experienced fighters. This could be a showcase fight for the winner and could move the winner into an opportunity to compete for the WSOF Lightweight Championship down the line.
The preliminary card will be streamed on Sherdog.com on Saturday night prior to the beginning of the main card.
Kris McCray (8-4, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Danillo Villefort (13-4, 0-0 WSOF): Two more UFC veterans occupy a preliminary card spot. McCray fought three times in the UFC, but he was unable to score a win and was released. He has gone 3-1 since. Villefort only fought once in the UFC, losing and being cut afterwards. He has gone 4-1 since but has not fought since August 2011. Villefort has shown a knack for finishing fights and has good submissions with solid power. McCray has decent wrestling and decent submissions, but he can be submitted as his ground work still needs improvement.
Waylon Lowe (13-4, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Cameron Dollar (11-4, 0-0 WSOF): Both have competed in the UFC in the past. Lowe has won three straight fights since being released while Dollar has gone 7-2 since being released by the UFC. Lowe has good wrestling and good power, winning his last three by knockout. Dollar is crafty on his feet but does not have the wrestling to match Lowe, who should be able to control the fight on the mat.
Rick Glenn (12-2-1, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Alexandre Pimentel (12-0, 0-0 WSOF): Glenn and Pimentel have won a combined 24 fights in 27 appearances, and they get their first taste of fighting on a larger scale as both fight for the WSOF for the first time. Pimentel is a submission expert who has been competing in Brazil, and he has yet to lose in his career. Glenn is from the Duke Roufus camp and has solid striking, and he has scored finishes in eleven of his twelve wins.
Igor Gracie (5-3, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Richard Patishnock (4-1, 0-0 WSOF): Gracie comes from the famed family but has struggled in MMA competition having won just five of eight fights. He had a strong start in his last fight before fading and losing. He gets Patishnock in this fight, and while he has won four of his five fights, he has yet to beat a fighter who has a winning record. If Gracie can avoid fading, he should be able to use his excellent jiu-jitsu game to score a win.
Ozzy Dugulubgov (3-1, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Chris Wade (5-0, 0-0 WSOF): We get into the part of the card that will help build the WSOF as they give some prospects shots to score their biggest wins to date. Dugulubgov has won three of his four fights, but he has yet to go the distance in any fight. Wade, meanwhile, has scored decision wins in four of his five fights. Wade has the conditioning to go the full distance while Dugulubgov has the power to finish fights.
Brenson Hansen (3-1, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Tom Marcellino (4-1, 0-0 WSOF): Two more prospects battle in this bout. Hansen comes from Las Vegas and trains with the Xtreme Couture camp, among others, so he trains with some of the best in the sport. Marcellino won his first four fights but is coming in off a loss. Hansen has solid wrestling and good conditioning while Marcellino has a better submission game.
Frank Buenafuente (2-0, 0-0 WSOF) vs. Bill Algeo (2-1, 0-0 WSOF): Both men are looking to score their third professional wins, and weirdly, all five of their prior combined bouts have ended with a submission. Buenafuente has two pro wins and five amateur wins, and both his pro bouts have ended with a first-round submission. Algeo has two submission wins by choke, but also has a submission loss on his record. Buenafuente has slightly more experience, which gives him the edge in this battle of prospects.