(Jessica Aguilar photo via Jeff Lopes/Kimurawear)
Believe it or not, there’s a World Series of Fighting event happening this weekend. WSOF 8 goes down this Saturday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, featuring the twice-delayed fight between Anthony Johnson and Mike Kyle, and the promotion’s inaugural lightweight title fight between undefeated banger Justin Gaethje and Richard “Who Da Fuq?” Patishnock. [Ed. note: Not his real nickname. But seriously, have any of you heard of this guy?]
Look, I’d happily tune in to watch Rumble Johnson beat up any unretired jobber they throw at him. But it’s worth mentioning that WSOF 8 features a second title fight, which might turn out to be the most competitive, meaningful fight on the entire card. I’m speaking, of course, of the inaugural women’s strawweight championship match between Jessica Aguilar and Alida Gray.
For devoted fans of WMMA, Jessica Aguilar should need no introduction, but here it is anyway: Aguilar is an eight-year veteran of the sport who’s best known for her 5-1 stint in Bellator, where she won decisions against Carla Esparza, Lisa Ellis, and Megumi Fujii. Then, last October, Aguilar traveled to Fujii’s home-turf and beat her again (although not without controversy).
When Bellator shut down its women’s division last August, Aguilar signed with the World Series of Fighting — perhaps prematurely. In short order, other female Bellator refugees found themselves snatched up by the UFC (like Jessica Eye) or signed to Invicta and then snatched up by the UFC (like Felice Herrig). In other words, Jessica Aguilar is probably the best female 115-pounder not in the UFC, for better or worse.
As for Alida Gray, well, even if you don’t recognize her name, you may have seen her around here before…
Here we have Gray’s crushing third-round knockout of Soannia Tiem back in October, which we called “the Most Vicious (Strawweight) One-Punch KO of All Time” — and we still stand by that. With a pro record of just 4-0 (all wins by stoppage), Gray is significantly under-seasoned compared to the 16-4 Aguilar. But when you can slug like that, does experience even matter? What’s crazy is that Gray doesn’t even come from a striking background — she’s a former competitive judoka (and 1996 Olympic alternate) who became a high school wrestling coach and began studying MMA in 2010. She has won three amateur fights and one pro fight by armbar. Gray is green, so to speak, but she’s no pushover.
Can you blame us if we’re more excited about Aguilar vs. Gray than the latest Rumble Johnson squash-match or a “Lightweight World Title Fight” featuring a virtual unknown? If you’re interested, you can watch the action this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Network.