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WSOF 31 'Ivanov vs Copeland' main card recap: Ivanov outlasts Copeland in bloody title fight

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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Last night (Sat., June 17, 2016) offered some greats fights under the World Series of Fighting umbrella.

On a day that featured Fedor Emelianenko's return to action opposite Fabio Maldonado, WSOF needed to produce. With a well-packed main card, the promotion certainly succeeded in standing out.

The Heavyweight strap was on the line, a slue of former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hopefuls wanted to prove their worth and unproven prospects searched for recognition. The action was crisp and the results definitive.

If you missed any of the in-cage destruction, here are the main card recaps for WSOF 31:

Blagoi Ivanov vs. Josh Copeland

In a fight that pitted Heavyweight champion Ivanov (14-1-1 NC) against veteran Copeland (12-4), both men were left bloodied, bruised, and battle worn. To much surprise, Ivanov and Copeland were both able to hang in the pocket at a rapid pace. But a nasty cut on the right side of the champ's forehead impeded on the action. Doctors were called upon and Ivanov was put under referee Dan Miragliotta's close watch. Still, the champ outlasted the wily challenger and landed an emphatic hip throw late into the fifth round to seal Copeland's fate. This marks Ivanov's second-straight WSOF title defense and certainly proves he's a budding Heavyweight name in mixed martial arts (MMA).

Jason High vs. Mike Ricci

Veteran High (20-5) was looking to continue his finishing ways in WSOF when he took on fellow UFC veteran Mike Ricci (11-5). After falling behind in the fight for the first five minutes, Ricci began to score in the second round. He pressured High on the ground until "The Kansas City Bandit" scored a vicious combo that stole the soul from Ricci. The Canadian hit the floor and High ended with a flurry of strikes. High leaves with the second-round technical knockout and Ricci loses his first fight since leaving UFC following a defeat to Myles Jury at UFC 165.

John Howard vs. Mike Arrant

In his first fight since getting released from UFC, Middleweight Howard (24-12) captured a unanimous decision win over Arrant (15-11), who was taking the fight on short notice. Both men went toe-to-toe for three rounds, offering solid exchanges on the feet. Howard was even able to secure a suplex on Arrant in the third round, essentially putting the stamp on his victory. With the win, Howard will likely move up in the divisional ranks and any ongoing title talks.

Luis Palomino vs. Sheymon Moraes

Veteran Palomino (24-13) attempted to thwart the divisional ascension of young Brazilian Moraes (9-1) in a battle of hopeful Lightweights. Despite an opening first round that centered around the control and patience of Palomino, it was Moraes who outlasted his elder down the stretch, landing countless kicks to the head, body, and legs. Moraes moves to 3-1 in the promotion after the unanimous decision win, while the 35-year-old Palomino drops to 1-2 since losing to champion Justin Gaethje back at WSOF 23.

Phil Hawes vs. Joshua Key

Undefeated Middleweight prospect Hawes (4-0) wasted little time in disposing of Key (6-12) Friday night, securing a first-round finish via technical knockout. As the more athletic fighter who has demonstrated the ability to put opponents away through his short MMA career, Hawes imposed his will from top position, stayed patient in his offensive approach, and waited for Key to make key (no pun intended) mistakes. A successful promotional debut for the 27-year-old Hawes could eventually lead to bigger opportunities in 2017.

For more WSOF 31 results and coverage click here.