Sunday, November 4, 2012

World Series of Fighting hits a home run

On a night when the power came back after 115 hours due to Hurricane Sandy, I got to finally relax, in the heat, and enjoy some MMA. After five days of cold darkness and unable to see TV period, I would have been content with reruns of the worst fights in history; Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Kevin Jordan, Nate Quarry vs. Kalib Starnes etc. Instead what I received was a pleasant surprise from upstart promotion World Series of Fighting.

In its inaugural event, WSOF had three things going for it right from the very start. One is its home base is in Las Vegas, Nevada, the fight capital of the world. Second is that it's President, Ray Sefo, is a decorated former world kickboxing champion, part-time MMA fighter and current MMA trainer. Finally, is that it signed a TV deal with the NBC Sports Network to broadcast its initial event. The result was World Series of Fighting hit a home run in its first at bat.

Ray Sefo's position as President and promoter cannot be understated here as he understands that to provide a good product, you need good fighters. Hence, he put together a ten fight card that was stocked with former world champions, well known MMA veterans and top flight castoffs from the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator. Add to that 'The Voice' Michael Schiavello and the uniqueness of 'El Guapo' Bas Rutten on the microphones and hold the fights in Las Vegas at the Planet Hollywood Hotel and you have a recipe for success.

However, none of it would have mattered if the fights didn't produce and for the most part they did. Three out of the four main card bouts ended in spectacular first round knockouts and the fourth was a fast paced three round bantamweight affair that saw a major upset via split decision. I don't think you can ask for much more for your initial event.

In the main event, former UFC heavyweight champion Andre 'The Pit Bull' Arlovski (18-9, 14 KO's 3 subs) showed he is far from done; looking comfortable in his boxing, he finished former Strikeforce and IFL veteran Devin Cole (20-10-1, 10 KO's 3 subs) with a quick overhand right to the temple 2:37 into the first round. Cole quickly fell and turned his back on the bear from Belarus, allowing Arlovski to throw a couple of hammer fists forcing the ref to step in.

The co-main event had a similar, but an even more spectacular end as former UFC welterweight (170 lbs.) vet Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (14-4, 10 KO's) finally looks comfortable in his own skin fighting at light-heavyweight (205 lbs.); I've stood next to this guy between fights for a photo and how he ever made 170 at all is a total shock. He did not lose a step as after a back and forth, both verbally before the fight and physically during, with Bellator vet D.J. Linderman (13-4, 4 KO's 4 subs), Johnson delivered a one punch KO that dropped LInderman face first onto the mat. The time was 3:58 of the first.

Prior to that we saw bantamweight (135 lbs.) action featuring young Marlon Moraes (9-4-1, 3 KO's, 3 subs) earning a deserved split-decision upset victory over former WEC champion and UFC veteran Miguel Torres (40-6, 9 KO, 23 subs). Moraes just looked too fast and slick for Torres, who not too long ago was viewed as a top five pound for pound best in the world. Now 31 years old and loser of five of his last eight, I made the comment to the MMA Junkie Radio crew that sadly Torres is looking more and more like a MMA journeyman.

Finally, kickboxer extraordinaire Tyrone Spong (1-0, 1 KO) lived up to the hype in his MMA debut as his striking was just too much for Travis Bartlett (7-3, 5 KO's 1 sub). Bartlett may be known as 'The Showstopper', but on this night Spong stopped the show with one punch three minutes into the first round. That punch kicked off a very entertaining two hours of fights and a successful debut for the WSOF. I'll be curious to see what they follow-up with to keep the momentum going; stay tuned.

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