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Friday, 03/07/2014, 10:38 am

EXCLUSIVE | WSOF Champ Steve Carl Anticipating Explosive Match With Rousimar Palhares

Steve Carl will jump into the deep end later this month when he defends his World Series of Fighting welterweight title against former UFC fighter Rousimar Palhares.

The two will comprise the main event of WSOF 9 on March 29 from the Hard Rock in Nevada. The main card airs on NBC Sports Network.

Carl (21-3) became the first-ever WSOF 170-pound champion when he submitted Josh Burkman last October with a triangle choke. The stoppage win was the seventh straight by submission for the 29-year-old.

Being paired up with Palhares, Carl knows taking things to the mat could be dangerous. Palhares, who was released by the UFC last year after defeating Mike Pierce because he failed to break the hold after Pierce tapped, owns 11 submission wins.

“I think we will both have to respect each other on the ground, but that doesn’t mean we have to fear it,” said Carl, in an exclusive interview with BJPenn.com. “I see this fight hitting the ground at some point. I feel that I will have an advantage on the feet and Palhares will look to take it to the ground.”

Getting to compete against an ex-UFC fighter in the main event of a nationally-televised card has Carl excited.

“I expect this fight to be an absolute explosion when the bell rings,” he said. “It’s going to be a fast-paced, action-packed fight that everyone will want to see.

“It feels great to be in the spotlight fighting such a well-known guy.”

Carl hasn’t lost since a 2011 decision to Douglas Lima in the season five welterweight tournament quarterfinals. He has scored two triangle choke, four rear-naked choke and a kimura victory since that time.

Instead of just rolling with fighters around his own weight, Carl is taking it up a notch.

“Training is going alright,” he said. “It’s never a fun thing to do. My main training partners for this fight are WSOF heavyweight Derrick Mehmen, Otmane Benjilany and Kevin Burns.

“Derrick has been my main training partner for years. His size and power alone push me in ways most guys can’t. Otmane is a kickboxer who has cleaned my striking up a lot. Kevin is who I get my 110-mile-per-hour rounds in with. He’s super technical, explosive and able to push the pace and make me work.”

Carl also pointed out the two workouts a week that coach Dave Sherzer runs at Hard Drive MMA in Iowa, adding that he is “a great motivator.”

While most feel the desire to make it to the UFC, Carl feels he can break into the upper-echelon of the welterweight division while dominating in the WSOF.

“WSOF has been great in allowing myself to grow as a fighter and put myself in the spotlight,” said Carl, who has fought three times in the promotion, including on their first card. “I feel there is still plenty of room for me to grow in WSOF and I look forward to the future with them.

“(By the end of 2014) I look to still be the WSOF champion and be sitting comfortably inside the Top-10 in the welterweight division.”

Carl did look to the UFC in terms of a “dream fight,” naming a former UFC welterweight champion and hall of famer.

“I would fight Matt Hughes in the prime of his career,” he stated, “because Matt was the man when I first got into MMA and I never dreamed of ever coming close to his level back then.

“Now, I feel that would be a great match up for me.”

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