Join us tonight on Bloody Elbow for live results and play-by-play as the World Series of Fighting 23 (WSOF 23) main card takes place from The Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.
Front-running the event is lightweight titleholder Justin Gaethje in a championship rematch against the cage-savvy Luis "Baboon" Palomino. The promotion will crown an inaugural light-heavyweight champion in the Dave Branch vs. Teddy Holder bout, which comprises the co-main event, and Branch already holds the organization's middleweight strap. Also on the main card: former UFC welterweight Brian Foster draws LaRue Burley in a lightweight clash, Ben Fodor -- aka real-life Seattle superhero "Phoenix Jones" -- looks for his first win on a big stage against Roberto Young and Dagestani bantamweight prospect Timur Valiev meets Tito Jones.
Live coverage will commence with the main card on NBC Sports Network at 10 p.m. ET. Check out Zane Simon, Victor Rodriguez and Eddie Mercado analyzing the lineup in this week's WSOF Vivisection.
WSOF 23 Main Card (NBCSN at 10:00 p.m. ET)
Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino -- lightweight championship
R1: Palomino stings Gaethje with a quick combo. Gaethje answers while continuously pressuring with forward movement. Gaethje trying to punch his way into the clinch but Palomino fires back a wicked salvo. Palomino clips Gaethje and the champion goes on roller-skates for a moment, rocked. Palomino pounces and thwacks him with a knee to the body. Gaethje recovers and hits a takedown but the slippery Palomino pops back up quickly.
Gaethje catches Palomino with a short uppercut and falls onto his back, then turtles, giving Gaethje his back. Back-ride body lock for Gaethje, who lands a few knees to the lower back. Palomino stands and Gaethje heaves back down from the rear waist cinch. Despite the impressive takedown, Palomino slithers back to his feet and they separate. Gaethje whiffs on a spinning kick, allowing Palomino to drive a few rights through his defense. Amidst the wild brawl, Palomino apparently landed a shot below the belt -- he's ready to go but the bell rings shortly after. 10-10 for the mutual massacre.
Gaethje continues to walk Palomino down and corner him, but it's Palomino who loosens the first two volleys of heavy strikes, landing clean. Gaethje responds by clubbing Palomino with short shots, opening a small cut over his eye and dropping him. Palomino is right back up on his feet and hurling leather. Palomino lands downstairs and Gaethje clips him again with a short-range combo.
Gaethje continues to chip away with short punches and knees after cornering Palomino, but "Baboon" is still chucking leather back at him. Tight cross lands for Gaethje. Palomino answers with a one-two but Gaethje sweeps his leg out with a low kick. Quick up-knee lands to the head for Gaethje. The thunder comes in the form of a Gaethje counter right hand that's uncorked as he's shelling on Palomino's combo. Palomino goes down and tries to tie up but the ref jumps in and waves it off. This was a fairly insane and purely entertaining brawl.
Justin Gaethje defeats Luis Palomino by TKO (punches) R2 4:30
David Branch vs. Teddy Holder -- inaugural light-heavyweight championship
R1: They both trade strikes immediately and then Holder backs off with his hands down, goading Branch in. Branch accepts the offer and takes Holder down with a clinch trip. Holder cage-walks to get his head off the fence and thumps Branch with a big elbow from his back. Branch postures up and rains down leather, then passes to side mount. Now north-south for Branch, then back to side control with a nasty elbow. Holder rolls onto his side and Branch hops on his back, both hooks in. Rear-naked choke position for Branch and no sensible defense from Holder, which leads to a quick tapout. David Branch wins the light-heavyweight belt and now holds titles at both 205 and 185.
- David Branch defeats Teddy Holder by submission (rear-naked choke) R1 2:21
Tito Jones vs. Timur Valiev
R1: Jones starts off on his bike as Valiev walks him down. Jones gets off first with a crisp combo and Valiev glances with a spinning kick. The next one misses. Jones doing well in keeping Valiev at a distance with quick-release punches. Jones catches Valiev's lead kick and wallops him with a straight left, and it drops Valiev briefly. Valiev smiles and throws a lead-leg side kick, which Jones almost traps again.
Jones stays busy with lateral motion and crisp counters, effectively keeping Valiev from finding any range or rhythm. Valiev starts throwing a check hook that glances once and lands a second time. Valiev leads with an inside low kick and it lands hard. Jones lands a straight left and Valiev scores with another low kick. Valiev clinches and Jones lands a body knee to back him off. Valiev closes with another inside low kick. 10-9 Jones.
R2: Valiev sights in his low kick to start the second frame. He forces a clinch but Jones shoves him away. Jones half-checks the next low kick but the follow-up gets through. Clean left cross lands for Jones, who shells on Valiev's return combo. Step-in right is there for Valiev, then a glancing low kick to the thigh. Lead cross to the body for Valiev. Jones lands a short uppercut, showing impressive variety with his hands.
Valiev lands another low kick but is almost literally chasing Jones around the cage at this point. Right on cue, Valiev flails with a wild combo but hits a slick foot sweep from the clinch for a takedown. Big punches and an elbow on top from Valiev. Jones closes his guard but can't control Valiev's posture. Hard left to the body from Valiev, who's windmilling punches at a frantic rate. 10-9 Valiev.
R3: Right inside low kick lands for Valiev, then he grazes with a left stomp kick to the knee. Another alternating low/stomp kick combo from Valiev. Clubbing overhand glances for Valiev. Nice counter one-two from Jones. Both fighters are now engaging in the center. Valiev rushes Jones and bowls him over for a schoolyard takedown.
Valiev lands in half guard and goes high in Jones' guard with a heavy base. Jones sits up, posts and gets halfway up but Valiev switches to a body lock and drags him back down. Knee-pin pass to side mount for Valiev, then a knee to the ribs. Cross-face elbow lands for Valiev, who's running away with it in the final frame. 10-9 Valiev. I have it 29-28 his way.
- Timur Valiev defeats Tito Jones by unanimous decision (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
Phoenix Jones vs. Roberto Yong
R1: Jones closes the distance but he's met with a hail of aggressive leather from Yong, which backs him off. Jones forces a clinch and Yong pushes him away. Yong dashes forward while flinging more fast punches and Jones can't time the reactive/defensive takedown. Yong stays on him with punches until Jones plants his feet and unloads a heavy left hook, which gets Yong's attention. Jones snatches the front headlock and wrenches a guillotine but Yong patiently fights his way out with the help of an uppercut elbow.
Yong pours it on again after they separate, pelting Jones with punches. They trade at high velocity with Jones catching Yong with a hidden left hook. Jones gets deep on a double and changes his angle to secure it, landing in side control. Jones passes to north-south and isolates an arm, looking for a kimura. In what is either brilliant transitioning or coincidental fortune, Jones, still intent on the arm, locks on a leg scissor and the unorthodox hold forces Yong to tap.
- Phoenix Jones defeats Roberto Yong by submission (leg scissor) R1 3:09
LaRue Burley vs. Brian Foster
R1: Foster opens with a right hook and left head kick, then plugs Burley with a straight right down the middle. Burley smiles it off and waves Foster in, and Foster happily obliges. He uncorks a one-two, clinches briefly and then rockets a right hand into Burley's jaw. Burley crumples and the fight is waved off.
- Brian Foster defeats LaRue Burley by KO (punch) R1 0:32
WSOF 23 Prelims
Vagab Vagabov defeats Brian Grinnell by TKO (knees) R2 2:29
Clifford Starks defeats Krasimir Mladenov by unanimous decision (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
Matthew Frincu defeats Danny Davis Jr. by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
David Nuzzo defeats Andres Ponce by unanimous decision (30-27 x 2, 29-28)
Joey Miolla defeats Randy Steinke by KO (Head Kick) R2 3:55
Benny Madrid defeats Jeff Fletcher by submission (rear-naked choke) R1 1:26