You thought Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was the only promotion busy on America's biggest weekend of the year?
World Series of Fighting (WSOF) returns with arguably its most important showcase of them all with WSOF 11: "Gaethje vs. Newell," taking place from inside Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, this upcoming Saturday (July 5, 2014).
The promotion will make its debut on NBC's main network for the first time ever.
The main event features a highly-anticipated 155-pound championship bout between two undefeated lightweights, as Justin Gaethje will defend his title for the first time against the inspiring Nick Newell.
Both combatants are 11-0 in their respective careers.
After being booked against multiple opponents who had to bow out of the fight, Jon Fitch will now meet Dennis Hallman in the co-main event. Both of these fighters have competed under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner for a good portion of their careers.
Speaking of UFC veterans, Melvin Guillard makes his WSOF debut against Gesias Cavalcante, and kicking off the main card action will be Pablo Alfonso taking on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 cast member Cody Bollinger.
Check out our complete WSOF 11: "Gaethje vs. Newell" preview and predictions below:
WSOF 11 MAIN CARD PICKS
Lightweight championship bout: Justin Gaethje (11-0) vs. Nick Newell (11-0)
This has to be one of the best fights of the summer.
Gaethje has looked unstoppable at just 25 years old, stopping every single opponent but one by strikes or submission. He's arguably one of the best lightweights outside UFC, and if he keeps on winning, WSOF has a potential star on their hands they could market even further.
Standing in his way is Nick Newell, and if you're familiar with this stud's story, it's hard to root against him. "Notorious" has also defeated every one of his opponents via stoppage but one, and has more submissions on his record.
They aren't quite mirror images of each other, solely because stylistically, Gaethje has the striking edge. If Newell can take him down -- and that's exactly what he should aim to do the moment they are summoned to fight -- he's definitely going to look for a submission.
That said, I don't see Gaethje being manhandled that easily, and his combinations mixed with his speed could be too much for Newell to handle. Plus, Newell hasn't really been tested by a striker like the Arizonian before in his career.
The fight is also five rounds, so who knows what the bout could look like if it goes past the third round, since both of these dudes have never entered the championship rounds before.
Winner: Gaethje by technical knockout
Welterweight: Jon Fitch (25-6-1) vs. Dennis Hallman (53-14-2, 1 NC)
This one looks fairly even, but don't expect it to be pretty.
Fitch will battle Hallman after bouts against Rousimar Palhares and Josh Burkman were shelved due to injuries and personal reasons. Hallman, who has won his past three contests, draws the gritty fighter for his WSOF debut after competing in 70 fights.
Obviously, this is destined to be a wrestling war, but don't be surprised if the grappling gets canceled out for this contest. Both Fitch and "Superman" are decorated wrestling standouts, with the latter having a little bit more success as of late when it comes to his submission prowess.
Age doesn't seem to be catching up to Hallman, who is supposed to be competing at BattleGrounds MMA 5, too. His opponent has only won twice out of his last six scraps, proving maybe Dana White was right about him being on the decline. His split decision win over Marcelo Alfaya wasn't exactly too convincing at WSOF 6, to be honest.
If this fight stays on the feet, I expect Fitch to pit Hallman against the fence, and work the takedown. I'm not saying he's going to get it, but I see him shooting early and often. I also see a little inactivity if both decide to strike, with the Washington-based veteran possibly catching the former UFC welterweight title contender with a brutal shot. His chin has recently been put into question, yet I can't envision Fitch taking any risks he doesn't need to take in order to get that title shot back.
Winner: Fitch by split decision
Lightweight: Melvin Guillard (31-13-2, 2 NC) vs. Gesias Cavalcante (18-7-1, 2 NC)
You really can't predict this one, because we're dealing with two of the most unpredictable lightweights on the planet.
Guillard has only won twice in his past eight contests, but still possesses the knockout power to turn someone's lights out on any given night. "JZ" is 2-2 since Strikeforce closed up shop, and holds a promotional record of 2-1 (despite his latest win over Tyson Griffin being a little bit of a controversial stoppage).
You can rely on both of these lightweights to walk into the cage with the intention to tear each other's heads off their neck, but who truly holds the advantage?
It's expected both of these dudes will want to stay on their feet, uninterested in going to the ground. Maybe Melvin has the wrestling advantage, but he's susceptible to being submitted, too. The Brazilian has fewer losses on his record, but he was beaten up pretty badly in his last two affairs, courtesy of Gaethje and Luis Palomino.
I hate to have to flip a coin here, but I'll go with Guillard to rock the Brazilian and get his career back on track. If you disagree, that's fine, because I can see the same happening for the opposite fighter, as well.
Guillard simply needs it more, and after saying his UFC release was a fresh start for his career, he's got to prove it.
Winner: Guillard by technical knockout
Bantamweight: Pablo Alfonso (9-5) vs. Cody Bollinger (15-2, 1 NC)
This bout is fairly interesting, yet Alfonso should take home the victory. Bollinger has competed 17 times before, so it's not like there's a lack of experience there. He won impressively by submission early on in his career, but seven out of nine times, the Brazilian has tapped out his foes.
If Alfonso takes "Bam Bam" down, he's going to be difficult to shake off because he's heavy on top. Both of their chins aren't made of granite, but I think the California-based fighter is a little more ferocious on the feet. He kind of slows things down in the third round, as we saw against Tyson Nam at WSOF 8, but he stays active when he has to throw down.
Still, I think Alfonso has power as well, and will catch the American when he least expects it.
Winner: Alfonso by technical knockout
WSOF 11 "PRELIMS" QUICK PICKS:
Catchweight (175 lbs.): Jose Caceres vs. Walber Brito De Barros: Caceres
Light Heavyweight: Muhammed Dereese vs. Rashaun Spencer: Dereese
Catchweight (175 lbs.): Neiman Gracie vs. Dustin Holyko: Gracie
Light Heavyweight: Jake Heun vs. Kendrick Miree: Miree
That's a wrap.
Please share your predictions in the comments section below, and be sure to check back with us on fight night for complete WSOF 11 results and live play-by-play for "Gaethje vs. Newell."