World Series of Fighting 19 touches down in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday night, for the opening round of their light heavyweight tournament, as well as a lightweight title fight between unbeaten Justin Gaethje and the ever exciting Luis Palomino. The main card action kicks off at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT on NBC Sports Network in the US, and for non-US fight fans, the event will be streamed live on the NBCSports.com website.
Justin Gaethje (13-0) vs. Luis Palomino (23-9) - Lightweight Championship
Gaethje has all the makings to become a star and in Luis Palomino, he has been given another game opponent to display his diverse skillset against. Coming into his main-event match up against Gaethje, Palomino has won 2 straight via devastating knockout and will be looking to keep the fight standing to have any chance at pulling off the upset victory. Gaethje boasts an unbeaten 13-0 record as well as a storied unbeaten amateur career. In Gaethje's last match up, he defeated UFC veteran Melvin Guillard in exciting fashion and will be looking to utilise his far superior athleticism against the older Palomino.
Prediction: Gaethje by Knockout, round 1
Thiago Silva (16-3) vs. Matt Hamill (11-5) - Light Heavyweights
This is a rematch of their UFC bout in 2013, which Silva won with ease. It's hard to believe that since that night in October 2013 neither man has fought and it's even harder to believe that WSOF have decided to make a rematch of that thoroughly forgettable fight. Thiago Silva's in-cage performances vary wildly, from viciously entertaining to downright boring and bizarre (See his fight with Brandon Vera), but I expect this fight to fit nicely into the entertaining column. Matt Hamill should have stayed retired. His last 4 UFC fights were painful to watch and I expect him to be outmatched against Silva, who by all accounts has looked great in the build up this fight.
Prediction: Silva by TKO, round 2
Teddy Holder (8-1) vs. Jake Heun (7-3) - Light Heavyweights
This fight has the potential to be the most exciting fight of the night by far. If you haven't seen Teddy Holder fight before, the best way to describe him is as an aggressive slugger. Imagine mixing Diego Sanchez's relentless forward press with Shane Carwin's punching power and you get Teddy Holder. Jake Heun is best known for an appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 19 and through his training at American Top Team, has developed into quite the well rounded fighter. Heun's best chance to win this fight is to drag Holder into the later rounds and avoid any reckless exchanges on the feet. Heun in the past has shown the propensity to get sucked into a brawl and if he does that with Holder, it will be lights out for "The Honey Bear".
Prediction: Holder by TKO, round 1
Ed West (18-9) vs. Timur Valiev (8-1) - Bantamweights
Quite simply, this is a matchup of wily veteran vs. unproven prospect. Valiev, a native of Dagestan, has been honing his skills with two of the sport's best coaches, Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn and has won 8 straight fights. Ed West has always been a fan-friendly exciting fighter, but as of late he has hit a rough patch, winning just 1 of his last 5 fights. Timur Valiev has shown a great deal of talent in his MMA career so far and Ed West provides a stern test for the youngster, but I fully expect Valiev to have enough skills to get the win.
Prediction: Valiev by Unanimous Decision