World Series of Fighting (WSOF) is back with its sophomore effort tomorrow night (March 23, 2013) in Atlantic City, New Jersey, headlined by a 265-pound showdown that pits ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski against former 170-pound contender Anthony Johnson.
If you're a mixed martial arts (MMA) fan, you should be watching this card.
First of all, it's free. So if you get NBC Sports, you really have no excuse -- other than giving up a Saturday night -- but we both know you didn't have plans anyway. True, the main event feels kinda gimmicky, but Tyson Nam vs. Marlon Moraes is a legitimate fight, anyway you slice it.
And let's not forget about Aaron Simpson's WSOF debut.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the WSOF 2 main card action on Saturday night, which is slated to start promptly at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports. The latest fight-by-fight updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the untelevised "Prelims" bouts.
So, who wins this weekend in "Dirty Jersey?"
When the headlining bout of Andrei Arlovski vs. Anthony Johnson was first announced, my initial reaction was, "Gee, a weight class where 'Rumble' can actually make weight." I wasn't working on one of my bad jokes, either, because he's just so unreliable when it comes to the scale.
Not an issue here.
What is an issue, is all the consequences that come with it. By not having to concentrate on cutting weight, a lot of fighters will not be as diligent with their conditioning, simply because they don't have to be. That could cost him this bout, because he's fighting a guy who has competed in the 265-pound class for his entire career.
At this weight, Arlovski is bigger, faster and stronger.
The problem is, he's a bit wishy-washy. For all his striking prowess, he still hasn't figured out how to tuck his chin and keep his head moving. That leaves him susceptible to the knockout punch, but I believe he'll be quicker in these exchanges and beat feet long enough to wear Johnson out.
By my count, that should come around the start of the second frame.
Both "Rumble" and "The Pitbull" have enjoyed success in recent fights (each winning four straight), but the caliber of competition has been mediocre, at best. This has the potential to be a bangfest, but when you strip away all the hoopla, one simple fact remains: Walking around as a heavyweight does not make you a heavyweight fighter.
Bigger man defeats smaller man in Atlantic City.
That won't be a problem in the fight that pits Tyson Nam vs. Marlon Moraes, who from a size perspective, are more evenly matched. Nam was involved in a Bellator contract dispute long before Eddie Alvarez made it cool, and pasting Eduardo Dantas at Shooto 33 transformed him from headline into highlight.
But this is an entirely different Brazilian.
Moraes made a name for himself by robbing Miguel Torres of the WSOF spotlight by way of split decision last year in Las Vegas, but I don't want to go crazy over it, considering Torres has gone just 3-5 over his last eight, getting finished in three of those losses.
For me, this fight is a pick 'em.
Both guys have a legitimate path to victory and while Nam hasn't been as active as his bantamweight foe, I do believe he's the better fighter overall and should walk away from their 135-pound thriller with a close decision victory.
You can also bank on a decision in the Josh Burkman vs. Aaron Simpson fight. While many of our newer fans may not remember "The People's Champion," Burkman earned my respect the very first time I saw him on season two of The Ultimate Fighter.
Melvin Guillard was supposed to be the baddest dude in the house, and Burky stepped up early and said, no way Jose, that's my title and you can't have it. He defeated "The Young Assassin," but left the show with an injury and was eventually bounced from ZUFFA after a dreadful 0-3 run in 2008. Since then, he's 6-1 with wins over Gerald Harris and Jamie Yager.
Tough fight to call.
Simpson is the more accomplished wrestler and should be the larger man come fight night, but he's also pushing 39 years of age and was torched by Mike Pierce (of all people) in his last fight. "A-Train" has power, too, but not like he used to have at 185 pounds. That makes a difference, because Burkman has never been knocked out.
When push comes to shove, this fight is decided on the ground and that's where Simpson has the edge.
Speaking of things that are on edge, David Branch vs. Paulo Filho should be the most interesting fight of the night (is there an award for that?) because we don't know what kind of shape Filho is going to be in. Will we get his patented paranormal activity inside the cage?
Or the frightening badass that once ruled the middleweight roost?
I'm kind of hoping for the former, just because I'll be there in person and love a good sideshow. It's too bad, too, because this could have been a great fight that like the one it precedes, will also be decided on the ground. Branch is a legitimate Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie.
And who doesn't love a grappling chess match?
A healthy, focused Filho is the better fighter -- but the chances of seeing that are about as good as the chances of seeing a new head of hair on Nostradumbass. I lost my locks when Filho lost his sanity and in both cases, they're probably gone for good.
That reminds me, I didn't expect to see Gesias Cavalcante vs. Justin Gaethje, but then the former K-1 Hero's champion went and heel-hooked his way to victory over T.J. O'Brien in his WSOF debut, proving that despite his 2-5 record coming into that fight, he wasn't in fact "done."
But he's got to prove it wasn't a fluke, either.
That's a pretty tall order against Gaethje, who's made a mockery of the regional scene with a 7-0 record, one that includes six finishes. Add that to his 6-0 record as an amateur, and we have reason to get excited. How will he respond against a veteran like Cavalcante?
"JZ" would be the easy pick -- if this was 2007.
It's not, and I believe Gaethje uses his wrestling to control the tempo and keep the ground work restricted to his terms, not the Brazilians. By the time Cavalcante gets his rhythm down, he'll probably be too tired to do anything about it.
WSOF 2 quick picks:
Arlovski def. Johnson via technical knockout
Nam def. Moraes via split decision
Simpson def. Burkman via unanimous decision
Branch def. Fiho via unanimous decision
Gaethje def. Cavalcante via technical knockout
There you have it.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the WSOF 2 main card action on Saturday night, which is slated to start promptly at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports. The latest fight-by-fight updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the untelevised "Prelims" bouts.
To see more on the upcoming WSOF 2 fight card check out our event news archive here.