Two hard-nosed welterweight veterans will square off in a rematch tomorrow night (June 14, 2013) as Jon Fitch takes on Josh Burkman in the main event of World Series of Fighting 3 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Fitch has been going through a rough patch, while Burkman is experiencing the best run of his mixed martial arts career. The table could be set for a very interesting 170 pound showdown.
Record: 24-5-1 (1 No Contest) overall, 0-0 in WSOF
How he got here: Fitch was a former team captain of the Purdue wrestling squad despite walking on as a freshman. He entered the UFC with a 10-2 record with one no contest and proceeded to win eight straight including notable victories over the likes of Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez to earn a shot at Georges St. Pierre and the welterweight title.
Fitch would display his heart and toughness over the course of five rounds, but he was thoroughly beaten by the champion in a largely one-sided affair. After losing his shot at UFC gold, the American Kickboxing Academy standout went to six straight decisions, notably defeating Paulo Thiago, Ben Saunders and Thiago Alves (again) to return to top contender status before drawing with B.J. Penn.
While training for a rematch with Penn, Fitch injured his shoulder and was sidelined for much of 2011. When he finally returned, he looked a bit sluggish and paid for it dearly, getting knocked out by rising star Johny Hendricks in just 12 seconds.
After taking 10 months off to recover from some more injuries, the AKA stalwart returned in rare form, cruising past top prospect Erick Silva in a wildly entertaining bout, but his return to prominence was short-lived as he was completely dominated by Demian Maia for three rounds, resulting in his release from the company.
World Series of Fighting scooped up the pieces and signed Fitch, penciling him into the main event in his debut.
How he gets it done: This could be a trap fight for Fitch. He was able to beat Burkman seven years ago, but both men's careers are going in completely opposite directions at this point. He can't take Burkman lightly and he sure as hell shouldn't screw around on the feet, which is where Burkman absolutely dismantled Aaron Simpson in his last bout.
Fitch needs to close the distance and drag Burkman to the ground as quickly as possible. From top control, Fitch is relentless, even if he doesn't pass guard. The American Kickboxing Academy fighter has a very strong ground and pound attack from full guard if his opponent is playing defense well and he'll only pass if it's safe to do so. He's got a great motor and is only going to get stronger as the fight heads into the later rounds.
They key for Fitch is to not leave any space whatsoever for Burkman to scramble back to his feet. He's going to need to stay on top and be as smothering as possible while also staying active enough to avoid stand-ups. It's a delicate balance but he's experienced enough to pull it off.
Record: 25-9 overall, 2-0 in WSOF
How he got here: Burkman had a ridiculous start to his MMA career, fighting 10 times in 10 months in a local Utah promotion and winning nine straight bouts. This impressive debut opened up all sorts of opportunities to fight across the country and he eventually caught the eye of The Ultimate Fighter's producers, where he was a contestant on season two of the show.
"The People's Warrior" had a terrific UFC debut, knocking out Sammy Morgan in just 21 seconds, but his stint in the promotion didn't exactly go as planned. After a total of five wins and five losses, he was released in 2008 after fighting injured and losing in his last three bouts.
Burkman took a year off to fully recover from his injuries and decided he still had what it took to compete on the big stage. Since then, he's gone 6-1 and has looked terrific, defeating the likes of Jordan Smith, Jamie Yager and most recently Gerald Harris in the inaugural World Series of Fighting event.
He secured a top position in the promotion by not only beating UFC veteran Aaron Simpson, but crushing him via knockout in the first round. Now, he's hoping to not just become a top contender in WSOF, but potentially be a guy UFC fans will be clamoring to have back if he can knock off Jon Fitch.
How he gets it done: Burkman has an above average submission game, but Jon Fitch is a spectacular wrestler and his ability to remain on top would probably nullify just about everything the Utah native would throw at him. He shouldn't waste his time on the ground.
Where Burkman might have an advantage is his ability to take punishment on the feet. He's got a pretty solid chin and while Fitch has been in some battles, he's been hurt in recent bouts, particularly against Johny Hendricks. I'm not saying Burkman has Hendricks-esque power, but he can accumulate enough damage on the feet to potentially make a difference.
Burkman has power in his hands and if he can keep it standing, he needs to be aggressive enough to try and catch Fitch and hurt him without giving a free pass for the AKA standout to shoot in and take him down. It's not out of the realm of possibility that Burkman can clip Fitch here.
Who will come out on top at WSOF 3? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!