World Series of Fighting (WSOF) is set to return to mixed martial arts (MMA) action on NBC Sports tonight (Sat., Jan. 18, 2014) with "Gaethje vs. Patishnock" LIVE from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
WSOF 8 features a line up that includes Lightweight and women’s Strawweight championship scraps, as well as the return of arguably the most recognizable face in the upstart promotion, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson.
In the main event of the evening, undefeated Justin Gaethje will get his shot to become the promotion's inaugural 155-pound champion against Rich Patishnock, who is the third opponent "The Highlight" has been scheduled to face since the event was announced.
The other title fight will feature the promotional debuts of Jessica Aguilar and Alida Gray, with the winner receiving WSOF gold around her waist and the distinction of being the first women’s 115-pound champion in company history.
Let's get to the preview and my predictions shall we?
Lightweight Championship -- Justin Gaethje (10-0) vs. Rich Patishnock (6-1):
Gaethje was originally supposed to fight Gesias Cavalcante in a rematch from WSOF 2; however, when "JZ" went down with injury, Lewis Gonzalez was thrown into the fire briefly before suffering an injury of his own, forcing the promotion to settle on Patishnock.
Patishnock is a relative unknown in WSOF’s lightweight division and currently sits as high as +660 in betting odds. His two-fight WSOF tenure is highlighted by wins over Igor Gracie and Gregor Gracie. In both he utilized superior striking and take down defense, but will face a step up in striking pedigree here against the likes of Gaethje.
A huge part of his game plan should be trying to keep the bout on the mat.
Don't hold your breath though, as Gaethje is good on the defensive side himself and should be able to pick away at his opponent via strikes. Patishnock has shown that he can eat a shot, but based on what I have seen and read about Gaethje, I don't see this fight going the five scheduled rounds.
There is a reason Gaethje is considered the top WSOF prospect at lightweight. His arsenal of nasty leg kicks and powerful hands classify him as a viable threat. His record speaks for itself -- eight of his 10 victories have been via (technical) knockout.
Don't expect anything different tonight.
Prediction: Justin Gaethje via knockout
This fight was supposed to have happened three times now, but injuries have derailed those plans. Company President Ray Sefo has made it clear that Johnson will receive a title shot with a victory over Mike Kyle on Saturday.
"Rumble" is back at 205 pounds after dispatching of Andrei Arlovski once at heavyweight. With a 15-4 record and having fought some big names in his career, his match up with "Mak" should be a walk in the park and chalk this up to his superiority in all facets.
While both men have the ability to land devastating punches, Johnson's head kicks are the game-changer, having already knocked out multiple opponents with his shins and feet. Equally as damning, Kyle's weakness is on the ground and is something that will be focused on by Johnson, possibly leading to Kyle's cardio being tested.
In the end, "Rumble" is just far too much for Kyle to handle. "Mak" has shown time after time when he attempts to take steps up in competition that he is not on the proverbial elite level. While Johnson is far from proving everything he is capable of, a win here will go a long way in his MMA re-ascension.
Prediction: Anthony Johnson via technical knockout
Women's Strawweight Championship -- Jessica Aguilar (16-4) vs. Alida Gray (4-0)
Aguilar comes into tonight's bout the top-ranked women's Strawweight on the planet. She has everything to lose in her match up with Gray, while the unbeaten challenger has the opportunity to stroll in and leave with a belt.
"Jag" is a former Bellator fighter who looks to make a name for herself without the bright lights of UFC's soon-to-debut Strawweight division. She comes into WSOF 8 riding a seven-fight win streak and dual victories over Megumi Fuji, who is a legend in her own right.
Gray will fight for just the fifth time in her MMA career -- she is undefeated with three of her wins coming by way of the fist. The 36-year-old packs a serious punch and will pose a threat to the submission-based Aguilar every time she rears back.
When the two collide, if (and it's a big if) Gray is able to make sure the fight remains on the feet I will not be surprised if she is able to knock out Aguilar for the first time in her 20 professional fights.
Prediction: Gray by knockout
Bollinger and Nam are both recognizable for significant moments in their MMA careers ... albeit very different moments.
The 22-year-old Bollinger was apart of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 and failed to make weight during the show, resulting in him getting kicked off the program and stiffed by Dana White of a UFC contract. He went on to sign a six-figure deal with WSOF shortly thereafter.
The two fighters have similar styles and this scrap should vie for "Fight of the Night" honors. Expect Bollinger to come into the fight having gained back some of his weight and maybe gaining a slight edge in the wrestling department when paired with his height advantage. In the end this one's close, but I'll give the nod to my fellow Rancho Cucamongan.
Prediction: Bollinger via knockout
Palomino was originally scheduled to fight Patishnock, but Patino stepped up on short notice and will make his WSOF debut.
At 40-years-old, Patino isn't exactly a newcomer. But "Macaco" is extremely well-rounded and has been around the block, having beat guys like Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Mike Bronzoulis already. His stand up is good, but he is facing a Peruvian boxer; therefore, he should employ his ground game to take out "Baboon."
Palomino fought in Bellator for a few seasons before being released following a submission loss to Pat Curran in 2011. Having gone just 1-2 in his last three, he must have the opposite approach if he wants to win. Keeping the fight standing and within his range will create an opportunity at finishing the bout.
I have a feeling this one is going the distance, with Patino relying on his specialty to ground the known boxer. Unless Palomino is able to avoid the take down, I see this having snoozer potential and the Houston, Texas, native ultimately outpointing his opponent.
Prediction: Jorge Patino via decision
WSOF 8 "PRELIMS" QUICK PICKS:
That's a wrap for now. Be sure to share your WSOF 8 predictions in the comments section below.
And for complete WSOF 8 results and blow-by-blow coverage of all the night's action, including a LIVE stream of tonight's "Prelims" bouts, be sure to return to MMAmania.com later this evening.