Even though I’m off the WSOF beat with CagePages, the MMA world continues, delivering storylines and drama that no scripted show could possibly conjure. The World Series of Fighting does their part to contribute this weekend, delivering WSOF 29: Gaethje vs Foster on NBCSN from Greeley, Colorado.
So far on the year, I’m 5-2 with my WSOF picks, a middling record that looks particularly bad as most of the fights have been mismatches. It’s just hard to pick between prospects with sparse professional records though, which is a situation that luckily, outside of the opening fight, WSOF 29 doesn’t place me in again.
Anyways, without further ado, here’s my picks for WSOF 29:
WW: Kris Hocum (7-4) vs Josh Cavan (11-6):
If nobody watches this fight, can we pretend it didn’t happen?
In all seriousness though, the WSOF should be ashamed for airing this fight on the main card. Neither fighter has fought for a major promotion, has a great record, is particularly dynamic, or is even young (Cavan is 32; Hocum is 30). There’s literally no reason to put them on the main card, except that Hocum is from a nearby town in Colorado and Cavan is from Denver. If the World Series is that desperate to sell tickets for a main card that their biggest star is headlining, then they should just consider packing it in as a promotion.
Stepping off my soapbox and moving back to making predictions, I’m going to put as much thought into this prediction as Sefo did when booking this match. None.
Prediction: Hocum by unanimous decision
This fight is about as evenly matched as they come. Both aging fighters have largely won in smaller promotions before moving to the big leagues, having each fought in Strikeforce before getting thrown out after a couple of bad losses. Of course, that makes them the perfect fit as main-card fillers for the WSOF.
To make predictions, it usually helps to look at how they fared against common opponents. While styles certainly play a key role in MMA (just ask Holly Holm), inductive reasoning is usually fairly accurate. In this case, the common opponent is UFC veteran Joe Riggs, who Taylor lost to at Strikeforce and Devela beat due to breaking his ribs in a slam.
In this case though, I don’t expect that kind of thinking to hold true. While Devela is certainly the better wrestler, Taylor is far more accomplished, both as an athlete and a fighter. I suspect that Taylor can withstand ‘The One’s’ grappling prowess, leaving the fight standing up and Devela to face the power of his ‘handgunz’. Not to be blunt, but there’s a reason Taylor got a UFC shot and Devela didn’t.
Prediction: Taylor by first-round TKO
2-fight UFC vet faces a 35-year old fighter who is 1-6-1 in his last eight fights. That metal sound you just heard is the WSOF scraping the bottom of the heavyweight barrel for the co-main. You can't totally blame the WSOF for this though; there simply aren’t enough big men in the world for MMA as all promotions, from the UFC to amateur circuits, are feeling a heavyweight crunch.
The most interesting aspect of this fight is that there’s going to be a WSOF HW tournament soon, and Copeland and Hayes look to be involved as President Rey Sefo works to flesh out the bare 265-lbs weight class. Hayes actually has experience on the rigors of a tournament from his Bellator days and, in a unique twist of fate, was scheduled to face current WSOF HW champion Blagoi Ivanov before succumbing to injury.
Don’t overthink this though. After all, there’s a reason ‘300’ is 1-6-1 in his past 8 fights. And as a result, Hayes won’t get a second chance to face Ivanov because he’ll fall to the more dynamic Copeland’s attack.
Prediction: Copeland by 1st-round TKO
LW: (C) Justin Gaethje (15-0) vs Brian Foster (25-8):
One championship belt, two very different paths to get there. Justin Gaethje is, as befitting a WSOF champ it seems, a client of former VP Ali Abdelaziz. Unlike some of Ali’s WSOF clients though, Justin actually has legitimate world-class talent, running through (and over) every obstacle in his way, en route to compiling a promotion-best 8-0 record (tied with Marlon Moraes) and beating actual talent along the way (unlike Moraes).
On the other other hand, Foster has been on a collision course with Gaethje since winning WSOF 25’s 8-man lightweight tournament. While a championship shot seemed unlikely after losing to Joao Zeferino by submission in the opening round (which followed a submission loss at welterweight to Jake Shields), he got a second-chance at the tourney due to injuries, eventually avenging his defeat to Zeferino in the final round.
Of course, Foster doesn’t have to worry about submissions with Gaethje, who prefers to throw wild punches while leading with his forehead. It’s a style that will eventually cost Gaethje, just as it did Ronda Rousey, but Foster isn’t the man to outstrike ‘The Highlight’. For Foster, he’ll have to take Gaethje down and wear on him, potentially looking for a rear-naked choke or armbar along the way.
Unfortunately for Foster, that’s easier said than done as Gaethje is a former NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler.