Steve Carl has not lost a fight in more than three years. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The time has come again for the sad, fight-obsessed souls to sink their sadistic chompers into a World Series of Fighting event.
WSOF 9 takes place on Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and airs live on NBC Sports Network, highlighted by two title bouts. Here is what to watch for at WSOF 9:
CARL, THE CHAMPION
Steve Carl’s first defense of his welterweight title will close the show, and for good reason. The 29-year-old has not lost since September 2011 and owns 16 of his 21 victories by way of submission.
Carl captured the World Series of Fighting strap in stunning fashion in October, putting the resurgent Josh Burkman to sleep with a fourth-round triangle choke to end their grueling championship headliner at WSOF 6. Prior to that triumph, Carl had notched six straight first-round finishes, with half of his victims tapping inside of two minutes.
Now, Carl must contend with fellow submission expert and leg lock boogeyman Rousimar Palhares. I think a victory over the powerful Brazilian would be regarded as the most impressive of Carl’s career, and this bout should tell us much about his true caliber.
In Palhares, Carl faces a man looking to clear his name, as well as win championship gold.
As many will recall, “Toquinho” was expelled from the Ultimate Fighting Championship last year after failing to release a heel hook once Mike Pierce tapped out. Although Palhares denied any malicious intent in the act, the fact remains that he is a repeat offender in this regard.
A guy can justify holding a submission, but at the end of the day, it is irrelevant. I seriously doubt that Pierce, Tomasz Drwal or David Avellan cares whether Palhares is a mean dude or simply oblivious to the moral implications of his in-competition decisions. The result is the same either way: pain and possible damage to an incredibly important, weight-bearing joint.
Though Palhares has been given another chance, WSOF President Ray Sefo has publicly stated that if “Toquinho” slips up again, he will be shown the door. I have to wonder if this could stifle what is undoubtedly Palhares’ best and most dangerous weapon. Will the stocky Brazilian be as effective if he steps into the cage with that ultimatum in the back of his mind? I, for one, am interested to find out.
True, there are more entertaining ways to spend 15 minutes than watching Okami win a fight and “Thunder” was always a middleweight bridesmaid, but the guy is clearly still a top-10 talent.
Okami lost just five fights in 18 Octagon appearances, dropping bouts to Rich Franklin, Chael Sonnen, Tim Boetsch, Anderson Silva and Ronaldo Souza. To recap, that list is comprised of two former world champions, a two-time title contender, an ex-Strikeforce champion and a “Barbarian.” That is a pretty tough group of dudes.
Nevertheless, Okami found himself unemployed after eating a ton of leather in September in his clash with “Jacare,” and the Japanese talent will now face Bulgarian newcomer Svetlozar Savov. Okami is expected to earn a title shot if he can get past the 25-year-old finisher. Will “Thunder” come through in his WSOF debut?
If you are still in the dark about Marlon Moraes, that is too bad, because this guy has been absolutely killing people.
Along with Eduardo Dantas, Moraes is one of the few bantamweights outside the UFC who should be considered world-class. The Brazilian expat has been on fire of late, winning his last six fights and topping the likes of ex-World Extreme Cagefighting champion Miguel Torres, Tyson Nam and Carson Beebe.
With all due respect to Torres and Nam, Moraes’ win over Beebe was arguably his most impressive, as the 25-year-old destroyed his fellow prospect in just 32 seconds in October. Moraes will now contend for the inaugural WSOF bantamweight crown when he meets another surging up-and-comer in Josh Rettinghouse.
Moraes should no doubt be regarded as the favorite in this one. Can he take care of business and further cement his place in the bantamweight top 10?
THE PEOPLE’S PUSHBACK
Burkman was on a serious roll.
After receiving his UFC release in 2008, “The People’s Warrior” rattled off eight wins in his next nine fights. Following his 2011 loss to Jordan Mein, Burkman earned five straight victories against progressively more difficult competition.
Burkman bested Koffi Adzitso and Jamie Yager prior to joining the WSOF, where he outpointed Gerald Harris and nuked Aaron Simpson. Most impressively, Burkman avenged his 2006 defeat to Jon Fitch in June, putting the onetime UFC title contender to sleep with a guillotine choke to win Sherdog’s “Submission of the Year” for 2013.
The 33-year-old was rightfully awarded a shot at the inaugural WSOF welterweight title, but he eventually succumbed to both Carl’s triangle choke and the fatigue of a hotly contested bout. Burkman will now look to rebound from his first WSOF defeat against Strikeforce and Bellator MMA alum Tyler Stinson. Can “The People’s Warrior” get back on track?