Two talented veteran welterweights will battle it out this Saturday night (March 23, 2013) as the resurgent Josh Burkman takes on recent UFC alumni Aaron Simpson on the World Series of Fighting II main card in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Burkman has been coming on strong as of late, winning six of seven fights and he looked terrific in his debut with World Series of Fighting, knocking off UFC veteran Gerald Harris via unanimous decision on the preliminary card. Now, he's been given a shot to showcase his talents on the main card stage against his second straight big time UFC vet.
Aaron Simpson had a successful run in UFC, but after dropping down to welterweight, the 38 year old former two-time All-American wrestler went 1-1, losing via knockout to Mike Pierce in his last bout and he failed to have his contract renewed. The "A-Train" is hoping to work his way back and that starts with Burkman this weekend.
Record: 24-9 overall, 1-0 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.
Now, he's looking to secure a top position with the promotion if he can defeat his third straight UFC veteran in Aaron Simpson.
How he gets it done: Burkman has an above average submission game, but Aaron Simpson 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 Simpson has been in some amazing wars, he's also coming off a pretty rough knockout at the hands of Mike Pierce.
Burkman has power in his hands and if he can keep it standing, he needs to be aggressive enough to try and catch Simpson and hurt him without giving a free pass for "A-Train" to shoot in and take him down. Also, the longer this fight goes, the better Burkman's odds rise as Simpson has been known to fade in the later rounds.
Record: 12-4 overall, 0-0 in WSOF
How he got here: Simpson got his start as a standout wrestler at Arizona State University, where he was a two-time All-American and would eventually become a member of the coaching staff.
In 2007, he decided to give mixed martial arts a shot, following ASU wrestlers Ryan Bader and C.B. Dollaway into the sport and he made an immediate impact, crushing six opponent via knockout or TKO and making his UFC debut by his sixth professional fight.
Simpson experienced a setback against Chris Leben and Mark Munoz, and has had mixed results ever since, winning three straight in 2011 before dropping two of three in 2012 and failing to have his UFC contract renewed.
"A-Train" will be fighting outside UFC for the first time in four years this weekend and is hoping he can work his way back with a big win against Burkman.
How he gets it done: Simpson has some serious power in his fists, but he usually is only really dangerous on the feet in that first round. If he can catch Burkman and really hurt him, he should go for the finish but if the opportunity doesn't present itself, he can always rely on his All-American wrestling skills.
Simpson has forgotten more about wrestling than most MMA fighters and especially because he's a former middleweight, he should be able to bully Burkman around the cage a bit. Look for him to shoot in and either take Burkman down or at least press him into the fence, work some elbows and then try to score takedowns along the cage.
Having the ability to control where the fight takes place will be a huge boost for him if things aren't going well in the stand-up.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be that Aaron Simpson is just now coming off his UFC release as well as a knockout defeat. The last time he was stopped via strikes, it took him about three fights before he got that same killer instinct back. Simpson can't afford to play it too safe against Burkman because he's very craft and capable of putting a hurting on him, especially if this fight drags into the later rounds.
If Simpson still needs a few fights until that killer instinct kicks in, Burkman could be poised to defeat his third straight UFC vet.
Bottom Line: This fight has some serious potential if it remains standing as both men have some solid power and can really put a hurting on each other. Both fighters are capable of some serious violence, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll both bring the same heat. It takes two to tango and if Simpson comes in with a safe gameplan, that could affect the fight as he could just wrestle or clinch his way to victory instead. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Who will come out on top at World Series of Fighting 2? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!