This weekend was highly anticipated by a number of fans, simply because of the debut of yet another MMA promotion with big plans and bigger dreams. Although most MMA promotions end up falling by the wayside sooner rather than later, there are the odd few that make themselves successful.
With a major network television deal with NBC Sports Network (formerly the Versus network) already in tow, many people projected big things for the WSOF. The debut event really delivered. The fights were top quality, the production was solid although lacking in a few areas and overall the commentary team did a decent job of calling the action, even if it did take Bas Rutten a bit of time to get his mojo back. The WSOF has plans to hold their next event early in 2013 and hopefully NBC picks up their contract once again. Although they currently have a smaller roster than most promotions, let’s take a look at the 4 main card bouts and what’s next for those fighters.
Tyrone Spong defeated Travis Bartlett via KO (Punch) at 3:15 of Round One
Spong was making his MMA debut after a long and successful career as a professional kick boxer. He definitely impressed by making short work of Bartlett who looked overmatched from the beginning. The bout never hit the ground, so there are definitely going to still be some questions about how well-rounded Spong’s MMA game really is, but let’s be clear that anyone who chooses to strike with “The King of the Ring” is definitely putting their consciousness in danger. The one thing that was most impressive about Spong’s debut was how well he mixed his punches and kicks, he completely baffled Bartlett and was landing at will and his decision to mix in body shots definitely helped to open the door to the straight right hand that ended Bartlett’s night.
What’s Next for Spong? He was very impressive in his MMA debut, but we still don’t know how well rounded his total game is. He’s training with the Blackzillians in Boca Raton, Florida so he has a quality camp behind him filled with talented fighters. Looking at the WSOF’s roster for the 205-pound division there are no names there that really make a whole lot of sense for Spong. It’s likely they bring in someone new to compete against Spong. They’ll probably want to take it slow with Spong, his striking skills will make him a fan favorite so it’s unlikely they throw him to the wolves. I’d expect another sort of journeyman Light Heavyweight with limited ground game to get the shot.
What’s Next for Bartlett? Who knows really? It’s hard to say what the WSOF contracts look like, but he definitely didn’t look impressive. If they’ve got him for a couple of fights, I’d say put him against the other Light Heavyweight loser from the main card D.J. Linderman who KO’ed by Spong’s Blackzillian teammate Anthony Johnson later in the night. Throw the two of them on the undercard and let them fight it out to see who sticks around in the promotion.
Marlon Moraes defeated Miguel Angel Torres via Split Decision after Three Rounds
Marlon Moraes wasn’t a big name heading into this contest, but anyone who had seen him fight knew that he might give Torres problems. Torres looked a bit slow and bit reluctant to let it go out there, which cost him in the striking exchanges. His corner has to shoulder some of the blame as well, because as Bas Rutten was pointing out during the fight, Torres has over 20 career submission victories, why he wasn’t searching hard for a takedown is beyond me. Instead Moraes landed the only takedown of the fight in the third frame. The bout was still close and it was an entertaining slugfest that happened mostly on the feet for probably 14 out of 15 minutes of the contest. At the end of the day Moraes was more aggressive and landed the better, cleaner shots, which earned him the nod.
What’s Next for Moraes? The World Series of Fighting announced after the match that Moraes would be taking on Tyson Nam in his next bout. Although that name might not be familiar to some of you, Nam has made quite a name for himself for knocking out Bellator Bantamweight Champion Eduardo Dantas a few months ago at a Shooto Brazil event. I’m definitely looking forward to that bout.
What’s Next for Torres? He’s one of the biggest names that the World Series of Fighting has on their roster and he’s still an upper-tier talent in the Bantamweight division. He’s looked somewhat out of sorts recently, but he’s still going to be a major part of the WSOF’s promotion going forward. I would expect they try to work him back up the ladder to an eventual title fight. Again with such a limited roster I can’t see the WSOF not bringing in someone new to face Torres. My best guess would be someone with some crossover appeal from the UFC, perhaps a former Ultimate Fighter contestant? Josh Ferguson or Carson Beebe might fit the bill well.
Anthony Johnson defeated D.J. Linderman via KO (Punch) at 3:58 of Round One
This was a bit of a weird bout. In one of the opening exchanges Linderman took a big kick to the groin and was given time to recover. After using almost all of his five-minute recovery time, the two men got back to it. Ninety seconds later, the two broke from an exchange and Johnson was blinking and wincing complaining to referee Herb Dean that he had been poked in the eye. Dean told him to keep fighting, since he didn’t see the poke and as Linderman charged in to take advantage of the situation, Johnson delivered a big right hand that sent him crashing to the mat unconscious. Johnson didn’t even bother to follow him to the ground and simply began his celebration. During the post fight interview Johnson’s eye was red and slightly swollen, hopefully there is little damage after the fact.
What’s Next for Johnson? He’s been impressive since making the move to 205 pounds and I’d be surprised if he’s far from getting an invitation back to the UFC. However, he is one of the bigger stars in the World Series of Fighting and they’re going to need to continue to market him as such. He’s too far along and a teammate of Tyrone Spong which makes an already non-sensical match up even more unlikely, so they need to bring someone in. Someone like Antwain Britt or Keith Jardine might make sense, although to be honest I’m uncertain about their statuses as Strikeforce fighters.
What’s Next for Linderman? Like I mentioned earlier, probably a preliminary card bout against previous Main Card loser Travis Bartlett. If they choose to go a different route they have undefeated former Heavyweight fighter Tom Murphy listed on their website as a Light Heavyweight fighter under contract. Perhaps he makes the most sense for Linderman’s next bout.
Andrei Arlovski defeated Devin Cole via TKO (Hammerfists) at 2:37 of Round One
Everyone knew what Devin Cole had to do to be successful in this bout; he had to make it ugly. Arlovski didn’t let him do that. Cole tried to close the distance a couple of times, but was largely unsuccessful. Arlovski maintained his distance and composure well, and fought off the takedowns from Cole. In the striking game Arlovski was measured and patient, and it paid off. As Cole got sloppy trying to work inside, the Belarusian landed an overhand right that wobbled Cole and sent him to the mat. A few hammerfists later and the referee stepped in to save Cole from further damage.
What’s Next for Arlovski? He’s arguably the biggest star on the WSOF roster with the most name recognition due to being a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. I would expect that he’ll probably headline the second event as well. Currently the crop of talent at Heavyweight is pretty terrible inside the WSOF. Bellator is probably done with their Brett Rogers experiment by now, maybe the WSOF could set up a rematch between Rogers and Arlovski. If not Dave Herman is certainly going to be released by the UFC after failing a drug test for marijuana metabolites, a bout between Herman and Arlovski would likely be an entertaining slugfest.
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