Special thanks to Oliver Chan and photographer Rick Albrecht for the photos.
If there’s one thing that I took away from last night’s World Series of Fighting card, it was that even a high profile promotion that puts on a night of entertaining fights is going to encounter some hiccups during its second event. Join us as we relive the highs and lows from WSoF 2.
Anthony Johnson looked legitimate at heavyweight: Heading into last night’s main event, a lot was riding on Anthony “Rumble” Johnson actually fighting like a true heavyweight and not just looking like one. With all of the focus from fans and pundits alike on the “former UFC welterweight” issue, a poor showing from Johnson could have caused many fans to dismiss WSoF as an organization of squash matches and freak show fights. Fortunately for the organization, last night Rumble proved that his fight against Andrei Arlovski didn’t deserve freak show status. Johnson was too quick for Arlovski early on, and almost finished the fight before the end of the first round. He may have gassed out early – that’ll happen when you take a knee to the juevos during your first fight as a heavyweight – but at least he demonstrated that he’s capable of being a competent heavyweight if Ray Sefo needs him to be one again.
Marlon Moraes Proves his Win Over Miguel Torres Wasn’t a Fluke: Marlon Moraes vs. Tyson Nam was a battle between two fighters that many fans aren’t familiar with, but should be. Just 2:35 into the first round, “the guy who beat Torres” finished ”the guy who beat Bellator’s champion“ with a devastating head kick. Moraes vs. Nam proved to be an entertaining co-main event that established Moraes as a legitimate bantamweight contender. As an added bonus for WSoF, Marlon Moraes is essentially a “home grown” prospect, in the sense that unlike Arlovski, Torres, Fitch and Johnson, Moraes isn’t already known for his previous work in a different major promotion. It’ll be interesting to see who the promotion will find to challenge Moraes next.
Josh Burkman’s Knockout Over Aaron Simpson: There may not have been a lot of action leading up to it, but Burkman’s knee to Simpson’s head was a great finish. Burkman now improves to 7-1 since being released from the UFC in 2008, and a rematch against Jon Fitch appears to be inevitable.
Where Does Andrei Arlovski Go From Here? Arlovski may be 4-1 with one no contest in his last six fights, but I think it’s safe to say that last night’s performance proved that his days as anything more than a Sylvia-esque sideshow are limited. I hate to sound be so negative, but let’s face it: Arlovski is a mid-level heavyweight at this point of his career. An accomplished one who can still beat the not-quite-readies and never-weres of the division, but one nonetheless. His loss to Anthony Johnson demonstrated that his days as a major organization’s champion are clearly behind him. Even when he was awarded the final round, it felt like Arlovski won it because Johnson was too tired to do so himself. So now the question is, what does WSoF do with him? Do they continue to pay him former heavyweight champion money to crush cans? Do they sacrifice him to a promising upstart? Or do they just throw dignity to the wind and bring in Tim Sylvia?
Cage-Gate: Believe it or not, up until two hours before the preliminary fights, there was the possibility that there wouldn’t be a World Series of Fighting II. Up until then, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board had issues with the corner pads and canvas WSoF initially planned on using in the cage and refused to approve it for competition. You can read more details on the almost-catastrophe here, and feel relieved that your Saturday night was not ruined by sloppy event planning. Of course, that wasn’t the only case of minor league shenanigans to come from the event…
Now that’s some minor league, Mickey Mouse bullshit. You would think that someone at World Series of Fighting – or NBC, for that matter – would have bought the guy a different pair of gloves instead of putting their faith in a strip of tape.
Whatever Paulo Filho Did for Three Rounds: There are two very good reasons no other semi-legitimate promotion on the planet wants anything to do with Paulo Filho. For starters, despite having all of the necessary skills to be a great fighter, Filho’s life is such a tragic whirlwind of addiction, insanity and unreliability that he’s a headache for promoters. If that doesn’t scare you away from signing him, then know that he couldn’t give less of a fuck about fighting, even when he’s locked in a cage with someone trying to hurt him. When he unretired (*sigh*) to kick Ninja Rua’s ass one last time, World Series of Fighting apparently saw something that led them to believe that he could be placed on the main card of WSoF 2 without making a mockery out of the organization. Predictably, if the pre-fight panic-attack wasn’t enough to make Sefo and co. regret their decision, the three rounds of bullshit against Dave Branch probably was. The saddest part here is that Branch looked great – or at least I think he did - but it’s impossible to put too much stock in a victory over a guy who doesn’t want to even be in the cage.
JZ Calvalcante’s Face After His Fight Against Justin Gaethje:
Entering the bout, the 7-0 Justin Gaethje showed a lot of promise, but like most young up-and-comers, held zero notable victories to his name. Well, unless you count his unnecessarily sad knockout over the troubled Drew Fickett, in which case, we might not have the same definition of “notable.” Gaethje kicked off the main card by butchering JZ Calvalcante’s face on the way to a doctor’s stoppage. Early stoppage? I don’t think a cut above the eye is something to take lightly, but I also wouldn’t be opposed to a rematch, either.