This Saturday may end up being a highly entertaining night for fight fans. No there isn’t a UFC card this weekend, but there is still a live mixed martial arts event on network television. The World Series of Fighting makes its promotional debut from the mecca of fighting Las Vegas, Nevada. Loaded with talent and with a major network television deal, the WSOF has the potential to make an immediate splash in the MMA landscape. Loaded with big name fighters, including several former UFC fighters the WSOF features some of the top talent that doesn’t reside in the UFC. With former professional kick boxer and fighter Ray Sefo in charge of the promotion, they have someone in charge that is very familiar with the fight game leading the charge.
Preliminary Card (Sherdog.com): Welterweight Bout: Steve Carl vs. Ramico Blackmon
Steve Carl is an American fighter from Belle Plain, Iowa. In addition to being a full time fighter, Carl is also a veteran of the Iraq War. Carl is a member of the Team Hard Drive who is best known for his stint in Bellator Fighting Championships. Since losing to Douglas Lima at Bellator 49 and parting with the promotion Carl has gone on to win four straight bouts. Overall he holds a career record of 18-3, with the majority of his wins coming via Submission. Ramico “The General” Blackmon is an American fighter from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is a member of the Colorado Fight Factory who holds a career record of 8-1. He is currently riding a seven bout-winning streak, with most bouts coming on the regional circuit.
Analysis and Prediction: Carl is more experienced both in terms of number of fights, as well as big fight experience. Although he hasn’t won all of his fights, Carl has been inside the cage with more talented opponents and knows what it’s like. Blackmon might have some upside, but at this point in their careers, the edge goes to Carl. Steve Carl via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Sherdog.com): Featherweight Bout: Waylon Lowe vs. Fabio Mello
Waylon Lowe is an American fighter from Jefferson City, Tennessee. The 31-year-old is a member of the American Top Team from Coconut Creek, Florida. Lowe is a former NCAA Division 2 Wrestler from the University of Findlay in Ohio. Lowe is a former UFC fighter who compiled a 2-2 record inside the promotion before being released. Since then he has won three straight bouts and has improved his pro record to 13-4. Fabio Mello is a 37-year-old Brazilian fighter who currently resides in Florida. Mello has fought for a number of major MMA promotions including PRIDE, DEEP, Shooto, Bellator and Jungle Fight. He is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach for the Blackzillians, where he also trains at the Imperial Athletics Gym in Coconut Creek, Florida. He holds a career record of 11-6, but has won seven straight bouts.
Analysis and Prediction: Mello has been on a bit of a hot streak lately and has faced a number of top names, including a young Jose Aldo. Lowe is a talented wrestler, but his striking is less than stellar and he’s a bit one-dimensional. Mello has a more impressive resume and the more well rounded skillset. I think he takes a unanimous decision. Fabio Mello via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Sherdog.com): Middleweight Bout: Dave Branch vs. Dustin Jacoby
Dave Branch is an American fighter from Charlotte, North Carolina. The 30-year-old is a member of the Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu Gym in Brooklyn, New York. Branch has professional experience both in Bellator Fighting Championships as well as inside the UFC. Branch is a talented grappler with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Renzo Gracie. Branch holds a career record of 10-3, with an equal number of wins via TKO and Submission. Dustin Jacoby is a 24-year-old fighter from Fort Morgan, Colorado. Jacoby like Branch is a former UFC fighter, although he had less success going 0-2 during his time with the UFC. Jacoby is a member of Finney’s Hit Squad in Illinois. Jacoby holds a career record of 8-2.
Analysis and Prediction: Branch is a high-level grappler and is extremely talented when he can gain top control against his opponents. His problem was always that his wrestling wasn’t good enough to get his opponents there. Jacoby struggled during his time in the UFC against fighters who took him to the ground. Jacoby’s takedown defense isn’t as good as some of the fighters that Branch has faced, and he’s unlikely to stop Branch’s takedowns. From there he probably gets dominated and submitted. David Branch via Submission in Round Two
Preliminary Card (Sherdog.com): Lightweight Bout: Gesias Cavalcante vs. TJ O’Brien
Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante is a Brazilian fighter from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cavalcante has fought for a number of major MMA promotions in both Japan and North America, including K-1 Hero’s, Strikeforce and DREAM. Cavalcante was once thought of as a top prospect in the Lightweight division, but has struggled as of late. Cavalcante is a member of the Blackzillians training out of Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a career record of 16-6-1 with 2 No Contests. TJ “The Spider” O’Brien is an American fighter from Sacramento, California. O’Brien is a former cast member of The Ultimate Fighter who trains out of the Precision Combat Training in Des Moines, Iowa. O’Brien has a career record of 18-5, with majority of his wins coming via Submission.
Analysis and Prediction: O’Brien is a talented grappler, but he’s been overmatched by more capable grapplers in the past. Cavalcante is the more complete striker and should win the majority of the striking exchanges. Cavalcante’s struggles have mostly come against wrestlers who can control him on the mat. Despite all of that, I don’t think O’Brien can get the bout to the ground and control JZ. Cavalcante likely takes a late stoppage. Gesias Cavalcante via TKO in Round Three
Preliminary Card (Sherdog.com): Welterweight Bout: Gerald Harris vs. Josh Burkman
Gerald “Hurricane” Harris is an American fighter from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 32-year-old is a UFC veteran who was inexplicably cut from the promotion after going 3-1 in the promotion. Harris was a cast member on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. Harris is a talented wrestler with quick and accurate Muay Thai striking. He holds a career record of 21-4 with the majority of his wins coming via stoppage. Josh “The People’s Warrior” Burkman is an American fighter from Salt Lake City, Utah. The 32-year-old is a former cast member of The Ultimate Fighter and compiled a 5-5 record before being released. Since leaving the UFC Burkman has gone 5-1. He holds a professional record of 23-9.
Analysis and Prediction: Harris is a talented wrestler and Burkman’s problem has always been against wrestlers who can control him on the ground. Burkman is a well-rounded fighter though and his striking could be problematic for Harris if he’s not careful. Harris should be able to control the bout on the mat en route to a decision victory. Gerald Harris via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card (Sherdog.com): Lightweight Bout: Ronys Torres vs. Brian Cobb
Ronys “Jungle Boy” Torres is a Brazilian fighter from Manaus, Brazil. Torres is a member of the famed Nova Uniao Camp in Brazil. Torres is a former UFC fighter, but went 0-2 before being released from his contract. Since then he has gone 11-1 in smaller promotions throughout Brazil. Torres now holds a career record of 25-4. Brian “The Bandit” Cobb is an American fighter from San Jose, California. Cobb is a member of the Team Pain and Suffering Gym from Bakersfield, California. Cobb competed in the UFC and is currently part of the MFC promotion in Canada. Cobb is a talented wrestler and a strong grappler who is excellent at controlling his opponents on the mat. He holds a career record of 19-7.
Analysis and Prediction: Despite Torres’ impressive winning streak of eleven straight fights, it’s hard to give him a lot of credit for it. All of the bouts came in Brazil and all came against less than impressive competition. Torres hasn’t fought anyone with the wrestling skills that Cobb possesses, so it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to fend off Cobb’s takedowns. I think Cobb takes a decision in a bout that could be less than thrilling. Brian Cobb via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (NBC Sports Network): Light Heavyweight Bout: Tyrone Spong vs. Travis Bartlett
Tyrone “The King of the Ring” Spong is a Dutch-Surinamese fighter from Amsterdam, Netherlands. Spong is a professional kick boxer who is a member of the Fighting Factory Carbin in the Netherlands, training under Ernesto Hoost. For his MMA debut he has been training with the Blackzillians in Boca, Raton Florida. Naturally, as a former professional kick boxer Spong is likely going to want to keep the bout standing for as long as possible, as that’s where his advantage will be the largest. Despite this being his MMA debut, he holds a professional kickboxing record of 68-6-1 with 42 Knockouts. Travis “The Showstopper” Bartlett is an American fighter from Maine. Bartlett is a striker who has spent most of his time in the Full Force Productions promotion in Massachusetts. Bartlett’s resume is full of relatively unknown and untalented fighters and Spong will be by far his toughest challenge to date. Bartlett has a career record of 7-2.
Analysis and Prediction: Bartlett has nine fights to Spong’s zero, but with that said this match up is basically being set up for Spong’s success. Bartlett has done most of his career work in the striking department and has not shown nearly enough well roundedness to effectively close distance or shoot from takedowns against a kick boxer as talented as Spong. Although he may be new to MMA, he’s not new to striking and creating angles and forcing an inferior opponent to work at a distance is something that Spong should handle easily. With that said, I’m very interested to see how Spong looks in his debut, as at only 27-years-old he may still be able to make a decent run. He starts his career with a bang, winning via KO in the first. Tyrone Spong via KO in Round One
Main Card (NBC Sports Network): Welterweight Bout: Gregor Gracie vs. Tyson Steele
Gregor Gracie is a Brazilian fighter from Rio de Janeiro. He holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He now resides in New York City, New York at the Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy. Gracie has fought for ONE Fighting Championship in Asia and was a former coach for Renzo Gracie’s IFL team. He is a former ADCC participant and is a Pan American Champion in Jiu Jitsu. Gracie holds a career record of 7-2 with six of those wins coming via Submission. Tyson “The Man Of” Steele is a Canadian fighter and owner of one of the worst nicknames in MMA. Hailing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan he is a member of the Alliance Martial Arts System in his hometown. Steele has favored the Rear Naked Choke throughout his career, winning six of his bouts with that hold. Steele holds a career record of 9-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Gracie is the more talented grappler of the two. Steele is also an accomplished grappler in his own right, but he will be at a marked disadvantage on the ground against Gracie. Neither fighter is a world-beater in the striking department, but Gracie appears to be the better striker of the two. Gracie has struggled with cardio issues in the past, but Steele has shown solid cardio in a number of his bouts. The most likely result however is that Gracie earns the first two rounds with positional dominance on the mat, before fading in the third. Even still he should take home a 29-28 decision. Gregor Gracie via Unanimous Decision
Main Card (NBC Sports Network): Bantamweight Bout: Miguel Torres vs. Marlon Moraes
Miguel Angel Torres is an American fighter from East Chicago, Indiana. Torres is a former WEC Bantamweight Champion who opened his career with a 37-1 record before getting slightly derailed at the tail end of his WEC and UFC career. Torres holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and operates his own gym in Hammond, Indiana. Recently he has split his training time between the Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec and the Imperial Athletics Gym in Boca Raton, Florida. Torres is also a talented kick boxer who uses range well to fight effectively from a distance. He now holds a career record of 40-5. Marlon Moraes is an American fighter from Jupiter, Florida. Moraes is a member of The Armory Training Center in Jupiter. The 24-year-old began fighting professionally when he was 19. Moraes is a talented striker and puts together combinations well, but is less than exceptional on the ground. Moraes holds a career record of 8-4-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Torres is far more experienced than Moraes, but that doesn’t mean Moraes is dead in the water. Moraes is a strong striker, with decent power and Torres has shown that power punchers can rock him in the past. Moraes needs to blitz Torres quickly and show him little respect. If he gives Torres time to set up and get comfortable, it’s likely that Torres will find a way to take the bout to the ground. From there it’s only academic as Torres completely outworks Moraes on the ground and finds a second round submission. Miguel Angel Torres via Submission in Round Two
Main Card (NBC Sports Network): Light Heavyweight Bout: Anthony Johnson vs. DJ Linderman
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is a 28-year-old fighter from Dublin, Georgia. Johnson is a former UFC fighter who was released for missing weight too many times. He previously competed as a Welterweight in the UFC and seeing him now compete at Light Heavyweight it’s amazing to think that he actually survived the weight cut. Simply put, Johnson is still large for a Light Heavyweight fighter and has gone 3-0 since leaving the UFC. Johnson is a powerful striker and has also improved his grappling skills. Johnson has excellent takedowns and nasty ground and pound. Johnson holds a career record of 13-4. DJ “Da Protégé” Linderman is a 29-year-old fighter from Yreka, California. Linderman is a member of the Brave Legion Gym and was a semifinalist in the Bellator Season 4 Light Heavyweight tournament, losing to Richard Hale in the semi-final. Linderman is also the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship Heavyweight champ. Linderman is a decent striker who uses his jab well, but he has also shown the ability to switch levels and search for takedowns if things go sour on the feet. Linderman holds a career record of 13-3.
Analysis and Prediction: Linderman is a talented fighter, but Johnson has brought it to another level since moving up to Light Heavyweight. Johnson is a more dynamic striker than Linderman, even though Linderman might actually be a more technically sound boxer. Johnson also throws big power with his strikes and has won nine career victories via TKO or KO. Linderman has shown the ability to take down opponents in the past, but Johnson is a freakishly strong athlete, and it’s more likely that Linderman ends up underneath Johnson if the fight goes to the ground. Linderman might be a strong wrestler, but he’s not very good from his back, against Johnson that’s where he will spend the majority of his time and he’ll struggle. Johnson eventually pounds out a stoppage late in the fight. Anthony Johnson via TKO in Round Two
Main Card (NBC Sports Network): Heavyweight Bout: Andrei Arlovski vs. Devin Cole
Devin Cole is a 36-year-old American fighter from Medford, Oregon. Cole was a veteran of the IFL where he was the Heavyweight member of the Portland Wolfpack. Devin Cole is a member of the Team Quest Gym in Portland, Oregon where he is a training partner of Chael Sonnen. Cole was a former NCAA wrestler from the national championship winning Southern Oregon University. Cole is a former Strikeforce fighter who is on a two fight-winning streak. Cole often employs a game plan similar to many Team Quest fighters, heavy on takedowns and ground control. Cole holds a career record of 20-9-1.
Analysis and Prediction: Cole is probably going to want to get this fight to the mat as soon as possible, but Arlovski’s background in Sport Sambo makes him difficult to wrap up and take down. Cole’s striking certainly isn’t going to win him any boxing matches and he’s certainly at a disadvantage on the feet. But he’s still a Heavyweight that can throw with power, so if Arlovski gets reckless and stands in front of him, there’s a chance that Cole can turn his lights out. The more likely result however is that Arlovski keeps Cole at range and beats him up from a distance before finally landing a big punch or a kick that ends the bout. Andrei Arlovski via TKO in Round Two