The latest event for the World Series Of Fighting (WSOF) took place Saturday night (March 28, 2015) at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona - airing live on NBC Sports Network with four fights headlined by the lightweight title affair between Justin Gaethje and Luis Palomino.
Gaethje carried an undefeated record into WSOF 19 along with the promotion's lightweight title. Number one contender Luis Palomino finished his last two WSOF opponents with explosive strikes, and hoped Gaethje would be the third man to fall. Who prevailed in the main event?
Gaethje and Palomino wasted almost no time throwing simultaneous leg kicks, and from that point on it was a brawl for the ages. The two tested each other's chins repeatedly, but Gaethje was wobbling Palomino over and over through the first two rounds, landing three or four good strikes and covering up for most of Palomino's flurries. Still Palomino landed enough power punches in the second stanza that it could have gone either way.
As deadly as Gaethje's hands were, it turned out to be his low kicks that made the difference in the third round. Palomino was buckled once but referee Al Guinee stood him back up. The second time Gaethje nailed him with a low kick, Palomino could not get back to his feet. Gaethje poured on the ground and pound until the stoppage at 3:57. Zombie Prophet illustrates what happened.
Gaethje spoke to Joey Varner after the fight about his tremendous performance.
"This is the toughest man I've ever faced. I trained harder than I ever have before. I'm just glad I got somebody who wanted to fight me and he came. (I was rocked) a couple times, I'm going to get some stitches but I'm as happy as could be. He's a warrior. He ain't just gonna let me come out here and kick him. I had to work hard for everything."
Palomino was very gracious in defeat after a three round war.
"You have to love the guy you know because he fights with all his heart, he puts it all out here. He's the man he's the champion tonight. In the second round I started turning it on, my (right) hand is gone, my ankle is gone. He's the champion for a reason he kept the belt for a reason - it's his night."
Former Bellator MMA fighter Ed West took on the durable Russian fighter Timur Valiev, who is 8-1 as a pro and unbeaten in WSOF. A third straight win for Valiev had the potential to put him on a short list of contenders for bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes.
Speaking of short, this fight was just one click shy of 100 seconds. Valiev's striking was crisp from the start, West got dropped by a right hand and seemed to recover, but the second one left him defenseless eating hammer fists on the ground, forcing referee Ryan Brueggeman to make the save. Zombie Prophet provides the replay.
Underneath the title fight were two light heavyweight tournament bouts. WSOF had originally scheduled a Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hamill rematch, but Hamill withdrew due to illness and was replaced by Teddy Holder just hours before the event. That forced a change to the reserve bout as well, with Jake Heun facing former UFC fighter Clifford Starks instead.
Starks was able to make the most of the opportunity. He found the takedown every time Heun threw a body kick, and several times when he didn't, and was already ahead on the scorecards thanks to Heun getting a one point deduction for an illegal knee. He made it academic by using an arm triangle choke to finish the fight at 4:11 in round two. The visual is courtesy Zombie Prophet.
Starks spoke to Joey Varner after the fight.
"It feels great to go against 205ers, I'm a 185 pounder alright? I want Mladenov. I was supposed to have Mladenov the first time. He's 12-0, an undefeated fighter, I trained for him so therefore I was ready for anybody. Oh by the way my teammate Matt Frincu he's the future as well."
The other tournament bout didn't last much longer, and was the biggest stunner of the night. Teddy Holder found the chinks in Thiago Silva's armor with his right hand, and was merciless in delivering a beating on the ground once he had Silva down, forcing Ryan Brueggeman to save the Blackzilian fighter at 2:00 of R1. The visual again is courtesy of Zombie Prophet.
Holder spoke to Joey Varner about the upset victory afterward.
"It's probably the highlight of my life right now. I just want to thank God for everything. This happened last minute. I didn't have no stress going on, I had to go ahead and fight one of the top light heavyweights in the world, so it's good to come out with the win."
The televised bouts were paired with exciting preliminary action that aired exclusively on WSOF.com.