Youth will meet experience this Friday night (June 14, 2013) as unbeaten lightweight prospect Justin Gaethje takes on UFC veteran Brian Cobb in the opening bout of the World Series of Fighting 3 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Record: 8-0 overall, 1-0 in WSOF
Key Losses: none
How he got here: While Gaethje has not been competing for a very long time yet, he's made one hell of an impact thus far in his mixed martial arts career. The Arizona native first began fighting as an amateur back in 2009 while still attending college in Colorado, crushing his opposition and winning all of his bouts.
Eventually, he'd had enough of fighting for free and decided to go pro, starting his pro career off with three knockout victories in just four months including a brutal slam in his debut bout.
Gaethje progressed up the ranks, becoming a top contender for the Rage in the Cage promotion, even knocking UFC veteran Drew Fickett out cold in just 12 seconds last October. He made his World Series of Fighting debut this past March and put on a hell of a show against top veteran Gesias Cavalcante, blasting the Brazilian with standing elbows and opening up a brutal cut which forced a doctor stoppage before the first round was halfway over.
The victory earned Gaethje another fight against another tough veteran in Cobb, who's also experienced success in the WSOF cage.
How he gets it done: Gaethje's biggest path to success is to continue to do what he's been doing, which has been to have zero respect for his opponent's accomplishments and just go after them with everything he's got. Gaethje is a very powerful wrestler, possessing some downright brutal slams which bring back memories of Rampage Jackson in Pride.
His stand-up is also turning into quite the weapon, as evidenced by his blistering elbows he threw against Cavalcante in his last bout.
Look for Gaethje to try to overwhelm Cobb standing, remaining just composed enough to avoid being dumped on his back as he looks for the knockout on the feet. If that's not working for him, he can always go to his bread and butter which is his All-American wrestling ability, which has won him many a fight simply due to the slams he can utilize.
Record: 20-7 overall, 1-0 in WSOF
Key Wins: Ronnys Torres (WSOF 1), Drew Fickett (MFC 30), Rad Martinez (FFW 3)
How he got here: Just like Rich Franklin, Brian Cobb was/is a teacher on top of being a cagefighter. He put in a significant amount of work competing for Gladiator Challenge from 2004 to 2007, doing more than enough and scoring the type of victories that drew attention from the big wigs.
Cobb made his lone appearance in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) against Terry Etim, but he was unsuccessful, losing in the second round via TKO. Since then, Cobb has bounced around other promotions, notably earning a shot at the MFC lightweight title but a failure to make weight left him on the outside looking in.
Once he was a free agent again, WSOF scooped him up and pitted Cobb against UFC veteran Ronys Torres at the inaugural event, and "The Bandit" did just enough to win, scoring a split decision victory.
Now, he's got a huge test in front of him in Gaethje, who's one of the most heavily hyped young lightweights in the promotion.
How he gets it done: Cobb needs to use his veteran experience here, trying to pick apart Gaethje's weaknesses, or at least find out what the unbeaten wrestler's weaknesses are. Don't be surprised if he does a bit of stalling in a feeling out process, trying to break Gaethje down and force the Arizona native to get impatient and make a mistake.
If Cobb can pull it off, an offensive takedown would work wonders for him as Gaethje has spent little to no time on his back thus far in his professional fighting career. If Cobb can utilize that veteran wrestling ability, perhaps he's got a few tricks Gaethje hasn't seen yet.
Something else that could play a factor is conditioning. Gaethje is used to finishing fights and doing it quickly. If Cobb can force him to work all three rounds, extending the fight further than he was expecting, an opportunity to capitalize could present itself.
Who will come out on top at World Series of Fighting 3? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!