World Series of Fighting (WSOF) returns to NBC Sports Network this Saturday (July 30, 2016) with its latest mixed martial arts (MMA) event, which will take place inside Xfinity Arena in Everett, Washington.
Two rematches will headline the card, both of which with world title implications. Marlon Moraes will attempt to defend the Bantamweight title for a fourth time against Josh Hill, while Alexandre Almeida will try for the first time against the man he beat to win the belt, Lance "The Party" Palmer.
WSOF 32 also includes a fratricidal bout that pits Caros Fodor against his superhero brother Ben "Phoenix Jones" Fodor at a Catchweight of 162 pounds.
Let's break down WSOF 32's main card matches below:
135 lbs.: Marlon Moraes (16-4-1) vs. Josh Hill (14-1)
If you saw their first fight at WSOF 18 in Edmonton, you may feel like the rematch is a foregone conclusion. Hill was unable to strike effectively in any round other than the first, couldn't get Moraes off his feet except for a leg sweep, and Moraes exercised effective cage control and had Hill backpedaling for four out of five rounds. And all three judges agreed. Moraes hasn't lost a fight since 2011 and not a single bout inside the Decagon. Other than Justin Gaethje or David Branch, he's arguably the most dominant fighter in the promotion.
Don't count Hill out too quickly, though. Moraes remains his only professional loss -- The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 setback not being counted on his record. He has a four-fight win streak going into this rematch, including a dominant performance over prospect Bekbulat Magomedov at WSOF 26, even though one judge who was clearly out to lunch scored Magomedov the winner. Moraes is more of a finisher with six knockouts and five submissions, but their first fight shows Hill knows how to make fights long and difficult for his foes. It's hard to go against Moraes at this point, though.
Final prediction: Marlon Moraes retains the Bantamweight title via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Alexandre Almeida (18-5) vs. Lance Palmer (10-2)
Palmer seemed poised to join the elite ranks of WSOF fighters with multiple successful title defenses, but Alexandre Almeida had other ideas in their first fight. Palmer is often the stronger man in his fights, but at 5'11" Almeida proved to be a monster at Featherweight, making it hard for Palmer to execute his signature Team Alpha Male takedowns anywhere but the first and final rounds. Almeida used his size, weight and reach (71" versus 65" for Palmer) to make his life miserable for three rounds, which was enough to garner the 48-47 win by unanimous decision and take the title.
Can Palmer turn the tide in the rematch? I picked Palmer to win the first time because I thought he had faced a tougher set of opponents and discounted how much the size advantage would matter. Undoubtedly, Palmer has trained with bigger foes in camp to work on this problem, and based on the scorecards, has to feel there's only a one round difference between losing the title or retaining it. Winning it is always harder than losing it, though, and I can't make the mistake of thinking Almeida isn't a quality opponent now after seeing how well he did against Palmer the first time.
Final prediction: Alexandre Almeida retains the Featherweight title via split decision
162 lbs.: Caros Fodor (10-5) vs. Phoenix Jones (6-1-1)
To make this "brother vs. brother" fight a reality both men and the promotion agreed to a Catchweight of 162 pounds. Given that Ben "Phoenix Jones" Fodor often fights at Welterweight and fought at a Catchweight more than 170 pounds in his WSOF debut. Meanwhile, his brother, Caros, fights at Lightweight. And despite a loss in his WSOF debut, he has twice as much experience as his brother and an international resume that took him far beyond the crime-fighting streets of Seattle.
Who prevails in this battle that strains sibling bonds until they break? Jones has the tools on paper given his height advantage (6'0" to 5'9") and age advantage (28 to 32), but has at times let his crime fighting alter-ego overshadow his development into a world class mixed martial artist. On paper, Fodor's record makes him a strong candidate with stints in Strikeforce, UFC and ONE FC; however, with four losses in his last seven fights, things could be going better for him. It almost pains me to say this, but I think the size mismatch here is just too much for Fodor to overcome.
Final prediction: Phoenix Jones wins via third round submission
185 lbs.: Phil Hawes (4-0) vs. Louis Taylor (12-3)
Taylor was originally expected to fight Shamil Gamzatov, but after his withdrawal Hawes agreed to take a short notice bout and keep the match on the main card. It probably wasn't a hard decision for Hawes given that in his WSOF debut in June he scored a first round technical knockout against Joshua Key in less than four minutes. Key's record was far from stellar going into the fight, though, and was as close to a "can" as you can get in MMA.
Taylor is definitely the legit test that Hawes needs to prove his worth, as some have made note of the fact he didn't make the cut in the elimination round for TUF 23. Let's also be fair, though, in noting that he lost to Andrew Sanchez, the same man who went on to win the men's tournament that season. It's not as though he got bounced out of TUF by a scrub. Taylor has four straight wins by guillotine choke and finishes 73 percent of his fights so this one is going to be a war and Hawes can't hope for Taylor to fold on punches the way Key did.
Final prediction: Louis Taylor wins via split decision
That's a wrap!
Remember: MMAmania.com will deliver live play-by-play coverage of WSOF 32: "Moraes vs. Hill 2" on July 30, 2016, beginning with the first preliminary bout at 7 p.m. ET on WSOF.com and continuing with televised fights at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.