World Series of Fighting (WSOF) returns this Saturday (Aug.1, 2015) for its first event since "Palmer vs. Horodecki" in June with two title fights in one night and an intriguing line-up of bouts for NBC Sports Network.
The main event features two men who could arguably be called the two of the world's best Welterweight fighters. Rousimar Palhares is the current champion and well known for his devastating leg locks. Former Elite XC (Welterweight) and Strikeforce (Middleweight) champion Jake Shields believes Palhares is a dirty fighter and wants to clean up WSOF.
If you're going head-to-head with UFC 190: "Rousey vs. Correia" on the same night, WSOF would be hip to build intrigue around the fight.
Second from the top is Bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes going one-on-one with the similarly named -- but completely undefeated -- Sheymon Moraes, a bout WSOF President Ray Sefo promised would be "highly technical."
Let's break down, and predict, WSOF 22's main card below:
170 lbs.: Rousimar Palhares (c) (17-6) vs. Jake Shields (31-7-1, 1 NC)
If you're a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA) submissions, look no further than this fight. In fact you could characterize this bout as "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. American Jiu-Jitsu," the latter term referring to Shields' brand of the martial arts form. He gets far more finishes from his jiu-jitsu (31 percent) than his striking (10 percent). And after a long drought of submissions stretching from Nov. 2009 to March 2014, the Shields of old returned with a vengeance against Ryan Ford.
His wealth of experience can't be ignored, nor can his career highlight wins over Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler and Paul Daley just to name a few.
Palhares has a fearsome reputation for leg locks dating back to his UFC tenure, which came to an ignominious end after submitting Mike Pierce. WSOF was the only organization to offer Palhares a second chance, and he made the most of it with quick first round submissions of Steve Carl and Jon Fitch. An astonishing 82 percent of Palhares' wins come via submission, and he hasn't had a (technical) knockout in his career.
If he were to stop Shields standing he wouldn't be the first, but he'd be one of the few (it's only happened twice).
Shields is rarely stopped in any fashion. He has not been submitted in his entire career spanning back to 1999. Given the low probability of Palhares getting a win via striking -- and the even lower probably of Shields wanting to put his chin to the test -- it's a race to the ground to see who can get a dominant position. If Palhares telegraphs a dive for the leg he could get choked out quick via guillotine. If Shields waits too long to go for a takedown, he could wind up tapping out for the first time in his career.
And if they completely neutralize each other, you have my prediction for this fight.
Final prediction: Rousimar Palhares retains the Welterweight title via split decision.
135 lbs.: Marlon Moraes (c) (14-4-1) vs. Sheymon Moraes (7-0)
It's hard to get a good read on the challenger Sheymon Moraes given his only WSOF bout ended in a split decision win. Bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes has an undefeated ledger (7-0) of his own -- unbeaten in his entire WSOF career, including a successful title defense in February. With so many of the world's top 135-pound talents already signed to Bellator or UFC, WSOF has to take contenders where they can find them, so an unblemished professional record and the interesting confusion of "Moraes vs. Moraes" will have to do.
Moraes (the champion) is about as well balanced of a fighter as you could ask for -- five striking stoppages, four submissions and five decisions. His win streak runs back to 2011 and he's got the confidence of already having successfully won and defended his belt.
The power of Moraes (the challenger) should not be underestimated, winning 57 percent of his fights via (technical) knockout. The biggest problem I have with Sheymon here is that none of his previous seven opponents were on par with Marlon and he couldn't finish three of them, which leads me to believe he won't find success here.
Final prediction: Marlon Moraes retains the Bantamweight title via fourth round submission
205 lbs.: Mike Kyle (21-12-1, 2 NC) vs. Clifford Starks (11-2)
A late change to WSOF 22's fight card (Thiago Silva was a last-minute scratch) sees Clifford Starks once again accept an unscheduled opponent on super short notice. That worked out fairly well for him at WSOF 19 against Jake Heun, so he'll try to make it four in a row here against the hard-hitting Kyle.
The biggest improvement Starks has made since leaving UFC is his submission game, finishing his last two opponents with chokes. He hasn't scored a (technical) knockout since 2011; therefore, don't expect "Big Cat" to rely on power in this fight.
Kyle, meanwhile, was preparing for a stand-up war, the kind of fight he's an expert in, with 13 of 21 wins coming via some form of knockout. However, that also accounts for 50 percent of his losses, which means Kyle will bang until one man falls. The only person to touch Starks' chin, though, has been Yoel Romero. Regardless, I see that as bad news for Starks given both Kyle and Romero rely on physique and power more than technique and footwork.
Final prediction: Mike Kyle defeats Clifford Starks via technical knockout
170 lbs.: Abubakar Nurmagomedov (9-1) vs. Jorge Moreno (4-0)
If the name feels familiar it's not a coincidence -- that's top-ranked UFC Lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov's younger brother. WSOF clearly hopes to get some rub off the famous name and who can blame them with Abubakar's record? He's finished six fights via technical knockout and three by submission, so all that remains to be seen is if he can hang in the big leagues. Both fighters are newcomers to the promotion and Moreno seems like an able prospect with two technical knockout victories and one submission, but you can't escape the feeling he's being fed to the wolves (or perhaps bears) to make Abubakar a star.
Final prediction: Abubakar Nurmagomedov wins via first round knockout
155 lbs.: Islam Mamedov (11-1) vs. Jimmy Spicuzza (6-2)
My feeling is that this will wind up a swing bout that airs after the main event if it ends early, but since it's listed as part of the televised card I'll include it in this preview.
Mamedov made a successful debut at WSOF 20 with a technical knockout win over Leon Davis, while Spicuzza is a promotional veteran who has won 75 percent of his WSOF bouts. The latter is best known for his submissions (50 percent of his wins) and the same can be said for Mamedov (64 percent). Spicuzza is a "live dog" as they say in the betting parlance, but I think WSOF is looking to break Mamedov out of the pack and mint a new Lightweight challenger.
Final prediction: Islam Mamedov via first round armbar submission
That's a wrap!
Remember: MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of WSOF 22: "Palhares vs. Shields" on Saturday night (August 1, 2015), with the first televised fight taking place at 9 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
See you then!