World Series of Fighting returned for its fifth event on NBC Sports last night (Sept. 14, 2013) in Atlantic City with some intriguing heavyweight bouts, some middleweight tournament action and of course, some big surprises.
Headlining the main event was a heavyweight battle featuring former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski and recent Strikeforce standout Mike Kyle. Kyle had been preparing to fight Anthony Johnson in a light heavyweight attraction, but an injury to "Rumble" opened the door for a completely different fight dynamic.
Early on, Kyle was looking to counter and he landed a big right hand, knocking Arlovski down but he was unable to capitalize on the blow as the former champion was able to clear out the cobwebs with a takedown attempt and not only fully recover, but go on to outstrike Kyle over the course of the next four minutes to win back the round.
The second round was more of the same for Arlovski as Kyle seemed content to sit back and wait for that perfect counter strike which never came. This allowed Arlovski to push the pace, land some decent combinations, even hurting Kyle at one point.
Likely down two rounds, Kyle needed a sense of urgency in the third round and he got off to a good start, scoring another flash knockdown on the Belarusan, but once again he couldn't follow up and both men evenly exchanged for the remainder of the fight, resulting in a unanimous decision victory for Arlovski.
The co-main event featured two solid middleweights as Danillo Villefort took on David Branch with the winner earning a title shot for the inaugural WSOF 185 pound belt. From the beginning of the fight on, Villefort just couldnt' keep up with Branch, getting outpointed early on the feet, getting wall-and-stalled along the cage and then getting taken down.
Villefort was unable to get back to his feet and while Branch wasn't really threatening a finish, he did enough to keep them both grounded, occasionally landing strikes while looking to advance position. Villefort came out in the third round with a sense of desperation but an ill-advised jumping knee attempt gave Branch a huge opening to once again put him on his back.
When it was all said and done, Branch easily won a unanimous decision.
In perhaps the strangest fight of the night, Brazilian heavyweight standout Rolles Gracie chose not to utilize his superior ground skills against Derek Mehmen. Instead, he stood and traded with the American, landing some decent shots in the opening round and showcasing some improving striking skills, although much of his success was likely due to Mehmen's confusion and fear of the takedown.
Mehmen easily fended off a takedown at the end of the first round and by the time the second round began, he looked much more comfortable standing and trading with Gracie. Mehmen's shots started getting closer and closer until he stepped forward and blasted Gracie with a right hand, spinning him around like a top as he stumbled and fell face-first into the canvas for an insanely funny second round knockout victory.
The other middleweight tournament bout between Elvis Mutapcic and Jesse Taylor was cancelled at the last minute after a NJSAC official said they saw Mutapcic ingest some medication backstage which had not been approved. Both men were paid their show money and the bout is now expected to take place next month at WSOF 6.
Lastly, opening the main card was a very intriguing featherweight tilt featuring the surging Georgi Karakhanyan and Waylon Lowe. Lowe seemed content to stand and trade early despite his wrestling background and he found some success with combinations, but Karakhanyan was responded with some nice leg kicks.
With 90 seconds remaining in the first round, Lowe shot for a takedown but left his neck exposed, quickly getting wrapped up in a guillotine choke as Karakhanyan fell into guard, squeezed and forced a tap.