World Series of Fighting 19 comes to you from the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona and, for most people, courtesy of NBCSN. The four-fight main card starts at 9 pm. ET. For in-fight analysis as it happens during the fight, be sure to follow me on Twitter @pressme.
BW: Timur Valiev (8-1) vs. Ed West (18-9)
Prospect vs. Veteran. That’s what it all boils down to and all you need to know about this fight. West is an accomplished Bellator veteran, having fought in three tournaments and reaching the finals in one of them. Valiev, brother of UFC fighter Rustam Khabilov, is perfect since his debut fight loss but that was only five years ago in 2010.
Valiev is a skilled striker and, while West is the better submission artist, the Bellator veteran lacks the wrestling skills to get his opponent to the ground in this fight.Valiev is perfect in his two WSoF fights, even finishing one by flying knee. The WSoF wants him to win, potentially to set up a match against Marlon Moraes. They gave Valiev an easy match, even though West is tough and gritty. It’ll go the distance but Valiev will dominate.
Prediction: Valiev by unanimous decision
LHW: Jake Heun (7-3) vs. Teddy Holder (8-1)
Finally, a fight that means something. The winner of this fight moves into the light-heavyweight championship in the event one of the tournament participants can’t participate. Considering the shifting nature of fighters’ health, it’s likely one of these fighters will make the tournament. If not, they’ll be the #1 contender most likely.
Heun is a former heavyweight but will move down to 205-lbs for the bout. He’s a two-time Ultimate Fighter veteran who never made it to the house. He looked good in exhibition bouts but would lose when he got a chance to advance into the house. But he trains with American Top Team, giving him immediate credibility in the largely depthless light heavyweight division.
Holder looks good in his videos of previous fights but none of his opponents are fighters that anybody can recognize. He’s also not a full-time fighter. He made his pro-debut in 2009 but has been inactive for a year and a half. He’s never made it past the first round, either by win or loss. That’s kind of interesting but not really relevant, considering none of his past opponents are Heun’s caliber.
This fight won’t go to the ground but it also won’t be interesting. Expect it to stay standing up but the fighters to tire quickly, especially Holder. His year-and-half layoff and lack of going the distance will catch up to him. There’s going to be a lot of meandering and leaning on each other. If you need to go to the bathroom, the 3rd and final round of this fight would be a good time.
Prediction: Heun wins by unanimous decision
LHW: Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hammill
The first fight in a four-man tournament to crown the inaugural light-heavyweight champion. These fighters are newcomers to the WSoF but, considering their resumes, they’re more than qualified.
Hammill, one of MMA’s more inspirational fighters due to his hearing impairment, has fought top-tier fighters, namely Alexander Gustafsson and Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, in 2011. He lost both fights but it’s a significant step-up in competition from the majority of fighters in the WSoF.
Silva is also a recognized fighter, having fought in the UFC for years during two stints. He could have been a perennial top-contender during his tenure but out-of-the-Octogon issues kept derailing his career. Decision losses to Gustafsson and Rashad Evans are the most notable fights on Silva’s resume.
It’s not usually good to look solely at the previous fight to make predictions but, considering each fighter’s last fight was in 2013 against each other, it’s a good indication. Hammill lost a close decision but his skills have been declining for years, leading to his decision to retire three times. Silva is not-fighting not due to his lack of skills, but his skills at staying out of trouble.
Prediction: Silva by third round TKO
LW Championship: Justin Gaethje (13-0) vs. Luis Palomino (23-9)
“The Highlight”, the WSoF’s most bankable star outside the welterweight decision, defends his belt in probably his toughest bout in his third title defense.
“The Baboon” makes a good stylistic matchup with his heavy-hands contrasting well with Gaethje’s wrestling prowess he has ditched in favor of his knock-out power. With both fighters possessing knockout power but good chins, it’s going to be a heavy-hitting, long-lasting fight. Hopefully.
Gaethje has looked progressively worse in his past three fights. While his opponents have gotten more skilled, Gaethje has looked a little lethargic in his recent fights, especially against Melvin Guillard. Palomino has looked great in his recent fights, particularly his last one against Lewis Gonzalez.
But he’s also due for a loss. He’s never won four fights in a row, even losing fights when he’s the more talented fighter. He’s won two straight so, if history holds like it has over his 32 fight career, a loss should be coming shortly.
It won’t be Saturday.
Prediction: Palomino by TKO in the 2nd round
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