The tenth World Series of Fighting show goes down this Saturday in Las Vegas, and it's a good one. Headlined by a middleweight title bout between former TUF competitor Jesse Taylor and UFC veteran Dave Branch, it also features a fantastic featherweight championship scrap between Georgi Karakhanyan and Rick Glenn that has a lot of potential for entertaining violence. If that weren't enough to hold your interest, the main card also includes a women's strawweight title fight between Jessica Aguilar and Emi Fujino.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the matchups.
The preliminary card will stream at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT on WSOF.com and NBCSports.com. I'm not going to break down every fight, but here are a few highlights worth noting:
-The WSOF and US debut of Timur Valiev. A close friend and training partner of Rustam Khabilov, the Dagestani has a slick and diverse striking arsenal to go along with the wrestling and grappling ability we've come to expect in a fighter from the North Caucasus. He's pretty undersized for featherweight and will probably need to drop a weight class as his level of competition improves, but he's very talented: keep an eye on this guy.
-Krasimir "The Wrestler" Mladenov is pretty much exactly what his nickname suggests, a wrestler. The Bulgarian has some high-amplitude throws and slams in his repertoire, and he'll probably get a chance to use them against onetime Tyrone Spong opponent Angel DeAnda. Mladenov isn't a big-time prospect or anything, but he could be fun.
(GIF via Zombie Prophet)
The main card gets underway at 10 ET/7 PT on NBC Sports with a matchup between Alpha Male prospect Lance Palmer and the unheralded Nick LoBosco. The four-time Ohio State All-American ran into the surging Georgi Karakhanyan in his last fight, and after taking the first and probably the second round, got caught in a deep guillotine choke from the skilled black belt in the third. There's no shame in losing to a much more experienced and polished fighter, and I think the talented Alpha Male product will get back on track and show substantial improvement here. He should have a massive advantage in the wrestling department, he's a nicely developing striker, and he has the transition and top games you'd expect from a fighter with his pedigree. LoBosco is a wrestler himself, but there's no reason to think he's on the Ohioan's level in any phase. The oddsmakers agree, pegging Palmer as the massive favorite at around -500. For more on him, check out the profile I did on him back in January. Palmer, decision.
Next up is a matchup between two veterans, Brazilian Luiz Firmino and longtime UFC fighter Tyson Griffin. Somewhat surprisingly, Firmino is the favorite at -150, but at 2-5 in his last seven there isn't much confidence in Griffin these days. Firmino is training with the Blackzilians and has been on something of a roll lately, with respectable, grappling-heavy wins over Jacob Volkmann and Luis Palomino in his last two fights. I'm not sure Firmino can win this fight exclusively on the feet, however, and unless Griffin's formerly-excellent takedown defense has completely disappeared I think he should be able to take a striking matchup. Griffin, decision.
American Top Team product Jessica Aguilar faces Emi Fujino in the first of the night's three championship fights. The former Bellator champion is the easy choice as the best strawweight on the planet: her last loss was a highly contentious split decision to Zoila Gurgel almost four years ago, and in the meantime she's beaten practically everyone of note in the division. The oddsmakers have Aguilar pegged as at least a 6:1 favorite, and there's no particularly compelling reason to think that Fujino will be able to derail her. Esparza has clear technical advantages in almost every phase to go along with superior athleticism and size, but Fujino is game and tough - she's never been finished in any of her seven losses - and I think she'll survive to hear the final bell. Aguilar, decision.
If there's a potentially awesome fight that's been almost completely overlooked this month, it's the featherweight title clash between Georgi Karakhanyan and Roufusport product Rick Glenn. I profiled both of these guys in my prospect series earlier this year (Glenn here, and Karakhanyan here) as two of the best featherweights outside the UFC and Bellator. These two have been circling each other for a while now: this bout was originally scheduled for last November, but Glenn was forced to pull out, and Karakhanyan instead finished the aforementioned Lance Palmer to win the inaugural WSOF title.
Glenn's flown under the radar for a while now despite his pedigree, an undefeated record over the last four years, and vicious finishing ability in every phase of the fight. Karakhanyan has likewise been consistently underrated: his only two losses in the last five years are to Patricio Freire and Joe Warren, and he's rung up nine straight wins against very good competition.
If the fight goes to the ground, the advantage unquestionably belongs to Karakhanyan, who's a legitimate BJJ black belt with high-level submissions and great instincts in transition. Both guys would probably prefer to stand and trade here, however, and they're both excellent in that phase. Karakhanyan is the better kicker by a hair, but Glenn's quick, snapping straight left from the southpaw stance and hard combination work make him by far the better boxer. At close range, the edge definitely goes to Glenn's brutal assault of knees and elbows in the clinch. This is one fight where I think the oddsmakers are seriously off (Karakhanyan -450/Glenn +325): Karakhanyan has the tools to dominate Glenn on the ground, but either through preference or an inability to impose that game with his wrestling, this will end up as a striking and clinch matchup that distinctly favors Glenn's exhausting pace, unrelenting body work, and length over five rounds. Glenn, TKO, round 4.
If Glenn and Karakhanyan stand a good chance of putting on a highly entertaining fight, the same can't really be said of the main event between near-TUF-finalist and world traveler Jesse Taylor and UFC veteran Dave Branch. Both guys are primarily wrestler-grapplers with strong top games: Taylor has a better submission repertoire and the superior wrestling pedigree, while Branch has the better control from top position, and neither offers much at striking range. The similarity of their skill sets and both fighters' desire to plant the other on the mat suggests that this fight will largely take in the clinch and on the ground, and while it's close, I'm leaning toward the slight favorite (-150) in Taylor; he's beaten better competition and is substantially more dynamic. Taylor, decision.
Bloody Elbow will have you covered with play-by-play and results, so be sure to check back later today for more.