This Saturday, the World Series of Fighting holds its fifth major event in the United States and in a surprise move, it is scheduled in a coinciding time slot to perhaps the biggest boxing PPV draw of all time. It’s headlined by two UFC veterans in former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and Mike Kyle. Anthony Johnson was originally intended to take on Kyle but was forced to withdraw from the bout with an injury, opening the door for Arlovski to replace his former foe.
The rest of the main card houses fights that, in their own right, carry heavy significance for the fighters involved and for the future of their respective divisions in a blossoming promotion. The meat of the main card is made up by a pair of semifinal bouts in the inaugural WSOF middleweight tournament with the aforementioned bout coupled with another heavyweight bout acting as the parenthesis for the tournament.
Unfortunately, this card hasn’t received the same kind of promotion that previous cards seem to have gotten, even though, with a main card filled with names that are far from household, this event may go unseen by most of the casual MMA community.
Before you make plans on Saturday night, however, read this breakdown of the WSOF 5 main card and perhaps stay in to watch a night of fights that has the potential to deliver a card worth remembering for the foreseeable future.
Andrei Arlovski (19-10, 1 NC) vs. Mike Kyle (20-9-1, 2 NC):
As I stated at the beginning of this article, both of these veteran heavyweights can certainly finish a fight as 33 of their combined 39 wins have come by either submission or by knockout. Even if you examine the No Contest bouts between the two, you will find that all three were originally finishes with something occurring outside the realm of fighting legality to be counted on their record as either a clear-cut win or loss.
Not only can these men finish fights, but both men know a thing or two about waking up with a flashlight in their face. Neither man is happy going to a decision with 15 out of their total 19 bouts have ended in either submission or knockout.
When the two meet, I strongly feel that these numbers will rise and a decision will only be seen if neither man implements any sort of gameplan or if both show up completely lethargic. Don’t expect this to happen.
Arlovski is comfortable fighting for the WSOF and has done so twice already, fighting in consecutive main events. Kyle is an MMA journeyman, fighting under a myriad of promotional banners, never fully settling to make a name for himself in one promotion or another. Both fighters will come in nerve-free.
If this fight makes it to the ground, I see Arlovski taking a quick and lopsided advantage. Arlovski has been in the cage with several very competent ground specialists, dispatching of Fabricio Werdum, Roy Nelson, and ably defending himself against the takedown attempts even after a first round that saw him badly hurt and dropped.
Kyle is a powerhouse though. He stands a physical specimen at heavyweight and his collegiate football career marks a foundation of physicality that he sometimes uses on his opponent. But Kyle has often fell short in grappling exchanges dropping half his losses by submission, one of which was to natural middleweight, Gegard Mousasi. Also, seeing him brutalized by Antonio Silva shows that when facing a true heavyweight, or someone who has a slight advantage of strength, Kyle may fold.
Where Kyle can and most likely will look to capitalize is to counter the head movement of Arlovski and to threaten his suspect chin. Arlovski is known for having a less-than-granite chin and Kyle should go ahead and exploit that. If he can work his way in on Arlovski, then tight clinch work and dirty boxing may be an opening to inflict real damage.
This fight has the makings of an exciting matchup with a decision standing as an unlikely outcome.
WSOF Middleweight Tournament Semifinal Bouts:
David Branch (12-3) vs. Danillo Villefort (14-4):
The co-main event marks the second semifinal bout of the evening. Branch rides in on a two fight win streak, both at under the WSOF banner. He last defeated once highly touted prospect Paulo Filho in a less than memorable fight. Branch was able to fully control a gassed Filho, basically demonstrating his ability to dead-lift as he landed every takedown he sought.
Branch is a large middleweight but one that could be facing serious problems against someone who can nullify his ground game. If Branch can get Villefort to the mat, he can put his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to good use or use his great base to frustrate Villefort if Branch finds he is the stronger of the two.
Villefort fights in arguably the biggest fight of his career. This will be the first fight of Villefort’s career that has an asterisk next to it, signifying that this bout has a tangible reward for claiming victory. That reward is a spot in the finals of the middleweight tournament and one win from being crowned the WSOF inaugural champion. He did have a very brief stint in the UFC but was released after one fight, which ended in a doctor stoppage after an accidental headbutt. Now Villefort seeks his second straight victory.
In March, Villefort showed his heart and conditioning as he battle Kris McCray to a split decision win. McCray was hurt several times in the fight but couldn’t be put away, prompting Villefort to empty his tank in pursuit of a finish. Villefort hung tough and made it through the fight, maintaining dominance long enough to get the nod from the judges.
In this bout, Villefort must use movement and anticipate frequent takedown attempts. Villefort does hold black belts in both jiu-jitsu and judo, two skills that he must put to use in order to keep control of Branch and not end up on the bottom with the life being drawn from him by a smothering attack by Branch.
If Villefort can keep the fight standing or challenge Branch’s strength on the ground, this may turn in to a brawl with the tested and proven Villefort bringing a fighter who isn’t as comfortable on his feet, in to deep water. One to keep an eye on for sure.
Elvis Mutapcic (13-2) vs. Jesse Taylor (26-9):
Two lesser-known fighters look to claim the first spot in the finals of the WSOF middleweight tournament. Although these men aren’t as commercially recognizable on the WSOF roster, they are two streaking veterans who know how to win fights.
Mutapcic is the MFC middleweight champion and a fighter who prefers to finish. He has let just two career wins go to decision but has never been finished himself. He now looks to fight for a belt if he can get past Taylor Saturday night.
Mutapcic has only been fighting for a year less than his upcoming opponent, Jesse Taylor, but holds less than half the amount of total professional fights. Taylor has just a handful of losses, most of which coming by UFC veterans. He does hold a few wins over former UFC fighters in Chris Camozzi, Tom Watson, and Kendall Grove, and now looks to make a statement in the finals against one of two UFC veterans on the other half of the tournament bracket.
This battle of two men who have mostly fought outside major U.S. Promotions will be one that grants the winner respect, along with a spot in the finals, as a statement win could signify a new challenger who can work his way in to the top-10 middleweight ranks if they can string together not only the WSOF middleweight title, but a successful line of defenses.
Rolles Gracie Jr. (8-1) vs. Derrick Mehmen (15-5):
The last of the three Gracie’s appearing on the card, Rolles Gracie Jr., makes his promotional debut in what is an anticipated heavyweight matchup. Gracie Jr. has a record similar to what you might expect from a fighter of that lineage. Eight victories, eight submissions. Sure, one of these submissions was a brief beating of Bob Sapp, who tapped to punches, but a submission nonetheless. Where Gracie Jr. lacks an advantage over most is in his experience. Although he is a traveled fighter, fighting in six different countries in nine pro bouts, Gracie Jr. has never faced a truly elite fighter in his career.
The only to best Gracie Jr. is Joey Beltran in Gracie Jr.’s one fight UFC career. Beltran put Gracie Jr. away early in the second round. This fight was three years ago, however, and since, he has only been past the first round once finishing the exception to that rule in the third round.
His opponent, Derrick Mehmen is the man standing opposite Gracie Jr. Mehmen seeks tenure in a mainstream promotion and is hoping a big win over a member of the Gracie clan can achieve that goal for him. Mehmen trains out of American Top Team and makes his heavyweight debut. Where Mehmen may have problems is in the fact that, as I just mentioned, this is his first foray in to the heavyweight division. Mehmen has always fought lighter opponents and may have his hands full heavyweight in Gracie Jr. On the mat, Mehmen must stay active yet not let Gracie Jr. find a solid base from which to set up submissions. Mehmen has only been finished b submission and although that was early in his career, he is facing someone whose base level of jiu-jitsu is far superior to those he has faced in the past.
For Mehmen to win, he must utilize movement while feinting to throw the timing of Gracie Jr.’s grappling attempts off. In the clinch, Mehmen should stay away from over committing to the escape. His opponent also carries a black belt in judo, perhaps the most unappreciated discipline in MMA.
A fight like this where one man’s intentions are so clear could make things interesting. Mehmen has the experience and should use it to predict Gracie Jr.’s movements while steering clear of danger and looking for any opportunity to sap at the stamina of Gracie Jr.
Georgi Karakhanyan (21-3-1) vs. Waylon Lowe (14-4):
The opening bout of the main card is one that I am very much looking forward to and one that is a sure thing in the way of a must-see bout.
I will start with Lowe. I had the pleasure of witnessing Waylon Lowe dispatch Cameron Dollar in a fight that lasted just under three minutes, but cemented Lowe as a fighter who deserves to fight the upper echelon of the division. Lowe moved with speed, agility, and accuracy, outworking Dollar in what was Lowe’s featherweight debut.
This victory marked his fourth straight win, all of which came by (T)KO, none passing the second round.
His opponent, Georgi Karakhanyan, makes up the other half of a fantastic main card opener. Karakhanyan likes to spread his wins around. A majority have come by submission but Karakhanyan knows how to strike as well. Worthy of note is Karakhanyan’s boxing debut which happened in mid-2012. Karakhanyan won that bout by decision. This bout doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of MMA but it does mean that Karakhanyan’s boxing should be sharp, training for a straight striking match and winning it just a month after scoring his first knockout in four bouts with the previous three wins coming both consecutively and by submission. The man is well-rounded, if you haven’t caught the theme.
This fight will mark a great start to a card that is definitely worth a watch. Even if you’re reading this thinking ‘but the Mayweather fight is the same night’, stop right there. This card is free and features great talent in a variety of aspects for MMA and is worth a glance with your “Channel Recall” button so you don’t miss action from either this card or that night’s boxing PPV.
The World Series of Fighting 5 card kicks off at 6 p.m. with preliminary bouts being streamed on www.WSOF.com and the main card on the NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m.
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