World Series of Fighting (WSOF) returns to NBC Sports this weekend (Sat., Oct. 17, 2015) for its latest event, which will take place inside Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
WSOF 24 features the first Heavyweight title defense for Blagoi Ivanov since winning the belt in June, the crowning of the promotion's inaugural Flyweight champion as Donavon Frelow and Magomed Bibulatov square off, and Yushin Okami taking his first crack at Welterweight against Jon Fitch.
Let's break down the WSOF 24 main card matches below:
170 lbs.: Jon Fitch (26-7-1, 1 NC) vs. Yushin Okami (30-9)
On one hand, I can't blame Okami for experimenting with moving down in weight in search of the dominant form he once had in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). On the other hand, the recent failure of Johny Hendricks to make weight for UFC 192 leaves me concerned about fighters who pack on too much size then try to shed enough water to meet the limit of a weight class they are nowhere near naturally.
He's actually the younger man at 34 (Fitch is 37), but if he was already making a big cut to be world class at Middleweight, he could wind up in the same trouble Hendricks was in before the fight.
Nonetheless, let's assume everything goes off without a hitch and both fighters make it to the scale safely and properly rehydrate before they step into the Decagon. (To WSOF's credit, it has in the past disqualified any fighter who can't no matter how much it screws up the televised card.) Fitch's only failure in his last three fights was being submitted by the dangerous Rousimar Palhares, while Okami has been finished via strikes in two of his last three bouts ("Jacare" Ronaldo Souza and David Branch, respectively).
Neither man has momentum coming off a loss, but at 6'2" I feel this weight cut affects Okami more than Fitch at 6'0, especially given he's done it for a long time and this is Okami's first attempt.
Final result: Jon Fitch defeats Yushin Okami via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Blagoi Ivanov (12-1, 1 NC) vs. Derrick Mehmen (19-6)
For knockout artist Derrick Mehmen (58 percent of his wins are via the power of the punch), this is his second chance at Heavyweight gold in WSOF, having lost the inaugural title fight at WSOF 14 via technical knockout in just 51 seconds.
Live by the sword, die by the sword.
For sambo and judo specialist Ivanov, it's a chance to prove he's a fighter reborn by his departure from Bellator and arrival in WSOF, where he beat the man who beat Mehmen at WSOF 21 to claim gold. Can things now come full circle for Mehmen in his second chance to grab glory? I suspect not.
The only person who ever gave Ivanov any trouble in the cage is Alexander Volkov, who now seems dangerously close to irrelevance following his last two Bellator losses. Meanwhile, Mehmen had a long streak of success coming up to Rama, but having to go to a decision over Brett Rogers in his last fight doesn't inspire confidence. He's got an outstanding wrestling base, but relies heavily on his hands, while Ivanov won't fear going to the ground with 50 percent of his wins coming by submission.
Final result: Blagoi Ivanov retains Heavyweight title via rear-naked choke
205 lbs.: Vinny Magalhaes (12-7, 1 NC) vs. Matt Hamill (12-5)
I don't want to take any fighter lightly -- and Hamill has certainly accomplished a lot in his 12 wins -- beating the likes of Tim Boetsch, Mark Munoz, Tito Ortiz and even (controversially and by disqualification) Jon Jones. I question Hamill's heart, though, given he went into self-imposed retirement after losing to Alexander Gustafsson, then came back and beat Roger Hollett in a boring match, left UFC after a loss to Thiago Silva, then disappeared again for another two years. He was supposed to fight Magalhaes in March, but got sick and wasn't able to take the fight.
Vinny Magalhaes is a decorated fighter when it comes to Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments and grappling competition, but in two stints with UFC he only picked up one win in five fights. Still, one has to feel Magalhaes has numerous advantages -- his age (31 vs. 39), overwhelmingly dangerous submission game (83 percent of his wins), and the fact that Hamill seems to have already put his best days behind him while Magalhaes is a fighter who has yet to fully tap his potential.
Final result: Vinny Magalhaes wins via first round submission
155 lbs.: Nick Newell (12-1) vs. Tom Marcellino (7-3)
There's no free lunch in mixed martial arts (MMA) ... no "gimme" fights. Indeed, anything can -- and often does -- happen at any time. Still, how many of you reading this expect Newell to lose to a fighter who lost his only WSOF bout to date via unanimous decision? I'm not high on Marcellino. He's a Renzo Gracie student (good) who has won 40 percent of his fights by submission (good), but lost to the guy who immediately retired from the sport after his successful UFC debut. I think every division in every promotion needs a few gatekeepers, and since Marcellino isn't in the eight-man tournament at WSOF 25, he's being fed to the wolves here.
Final result: Nick Newell wins via second round guillotine choke
125 lbs.: Magomed Bibulatov (9-0) vs. Donavon Frelow (5-0)
Frelow is a Syndicate MMA specialist, a former Team Wand fighter who is still on good terms with the gym. He is a fighter with a well developed ground game and 80 percent of his wins thus far via submission. Bibulatov, meanwhile, is a highly touted prospect from Grozny who just won his first-ever fight via knockout before signing with WSOF. He's got 44 percent of his wins by submission and 44 percent by submission, so it's hard to predict what kind of man will show up in this five-round title fight, but WSOF thought highly enough of both fighters to crown a Flyweight champion with this fight. I'd say they're both rising stars in a division sorely in need of them -- Demetrious Johnson seems to sit alone on that throne -- for now.
Final result: Magomed Bibulatov defeats Donavon Frelow via split decision
That's a wrap!
Remember: MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of WSOF 24: "Fitch vs. Okami" on Saturday night (Oct. 17, 2015), with the first televised fight taking place at 9 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
See you then!