clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

World Series of Fighting (WSOF): The Top 5 moments of 2015

World Series of Fighting (WSOF) started and ended its 2015 in the fight capital of the world -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Along the way, the mixed martial arts (MMA) league staged several exciting matches, including some highly memorable upsets.

Photo courtesy of WSOF

World Series of Fighting (WSOF) can look back on the 2015 calendar year and claim success. It's difficult to be the No. 3 player in the game when rival promotions have Zuffa backing UFC and Viacom backing Bellator MMA, but that didn't stop WSOF and NBC Sports from putting on some fun shows.

The promotion book-ended the year with stops in the fight capital of the world -- Las Vegas, Nevada -- for WSOF 17: "Shields vs. Foster" at the Hard Rock and WSOF 26: "Palmer vs. Almeida" at The Cosmopolitan. All told, WSOF staged 10 events in North America in 2015 ... its second-busiest year to date.

So let's look back at 2015's Top 5 most memorable WSOF moments, including some "Fight of the Year" candidates and unforeseen upsets, as well as the crowning of its first-ever dual weight class champion.

WSOF 19: "Gaethje vs. Palomino"

If the world hasn't caught on by now to Lightweight champion and human highlight reel, Justin Gaethje, it isn't for lack of effort from the Arizona native. He certainly had the right audience to make a lasting impression at WSOF 19, playing the role of hometown favorite at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix.

Hard-hitting Luis "Baboon" Palomino had planned to spoil Gaethje's homecoming with one of his devastating knockouts, but after two of the most exciting rock 'em, sock 'em rounds you'll ever see, neither man seemed capable of finishing the other. Gaethje had to overwhelm Palomino with leg kicks to finally ground him long enough for a third round technical knockout.

WSOF 22: "Palhares vs. Shields"

You take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and then you have ... the most memorable moments of 2015. This main event was all of the above. Defending Welterweight champion Rousimar Palhares had a bad boy reputation to overcome, while Jake Shields had his own share of run-ins (literally) dating back to the Elite XC days.

Shields had a legitimate beef with being gouged in the eyes multiple times in the second round, but referee Steve Mazzagatti let Palhares off the hook with a warning -- which is more than can be said of Palhares when he caught Shields with a kimura in round three. His refusal to let go after the tap ultimately cost him the WSOF belt.

WSOF 25: "Zeferino vs. Foster 1 & 2"

Tournaments are a tricky thing in any promotion, especially when you try to hold the entire thing in one night. WSOF made a valiant effort to get everybody through clean to the finals in November by limiting early bouts to two rounds and banning elbow strikes until the finals, but things still didn't go as planned.

Brian Foster's night appeared to be over when Joao Zeferino caught him in a heel hook in the quarterfinals, but as injuries began mounting in the brackets, the uninjured Foster was reinserted and managed to overwhelm Luis Palomino to move to the finals, where he'd face Zeferino once again. Foster changed his entire gameplan and avoided submission attempts until he could land a knockout and emerge the unlikely tournament winner.

WSOF 19: "Holder vs. Silva"

Thiago Silva certainly seemed like a viable contender to win the WSOF four-man Light Heavyweight tournament, provided all his previous issues under UFC employment were behind him. He even had a favorable opponent in Matt "The Hammer" Hamill, a man he had already beaten while under the Zuffa banner.

However, when Hamill withdrew with an illness, the whole card was shaken up. And the new opponent was late alternate Teddy Holder. No one seriously expected him to leap into a tournament he was not previously scheduled for and knockout one of the heavy favorites in just two minutes, but that's exactly what he did.

WSOF 23: "Branch vs. Holder"

One could argue that "Gaethje vs. Palomino 2" from the same card in September is a better choice. As fun as that fight was, it was even faster and more decisive than their first encounter, so the more intriguing fight on the night was if upset specialist Holder could make it two in a row against Middleweight champion David Branch.

The answer as it turned out was, "NO."

Branch looked remarkably comfortable not having to cut down to his usual 185 pounds, and it showed in his performance as he was relentless from the opening bell, quickly taking a clinch and then forcing Holder down to the mat. He never gave him a chance to let his powerful hands catch fire. Once he had the back mount, a rear-naked choke was the inevitable conclusion, making Branch the first dual weight champion in WSOF history.

Making it even more memorable: The debuting WSOF announcer Chael Sonnen can be heard calling the finish.

To check out the latest WSOF-related news and notes click here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania