World Series of Fighting 23: Gaethje vs. Palomino 2 preview and predictions

Bellator MMA is back, with its craziest card ever! However, that’s tomorrow night. Tonight, WSOF gets the stage, as the rematch of one of the promotion’s greatest slugfests headlines a damn solid card. Normally, I don’t cover WSOF events, largely due to lack of time. However, I finally have some, so might as well give it a try!

Anyways, two of the WSOF’s best will partake in title fights, starting with Middleweight champ David Branch attempting to attain a second belt within the promotion, as he takes on Teddy Holder for the Light Heavyweight crown in the co-main event of the evening. Then,  Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje, who might be the best fighter in the entire promotion, will once again face off with Luis Palomino, just six months after their last fight.

Also on the card, “crime fighter” Phoenix Jones will take on Robert Yong, Russian Bantamweight prospect Timur Valiev will take on Tito Jones, and MMA veteran Brian Foster will take on Larue Burley to open up the main card. During all this, controversial MMA star Chael Sonnen will make his debut as a commentator for the promotion. Hopefully, he come off as the incredible analyst that he was during his unforgettable stint as host of UFC Tonight, and not the troll that he’s been since. Alas, here are my picks for tonight’s main card, which will air at 10/9c on NBC Sports Network, as well as their website.

Brian Foster (22-7) vs. Larue Burley (6-0)

Brian Foster is an MMA veteran who has faced some of the most heinous, egregious, blood-curling luck in MMA history.  He was 3-2 with the UFC, fighting for the promotion from September 2009 until November 2009, but dealt with brain hemmorage, as well as a burst-heck, I can’t even finish the sentence without feeling squeamish! Regardless, he was let go by the UFC due to his health issues, and he has gone 6-2 since returning to the sport just 11 months since his UFC release. He is a finsher, having gone the distance just once in his career.

Burley may be a decent fighter, but he’s not at Foster’s level. He’s a solid prospect, who’s never lost, and has a 3-0 mark with Bellator MMA. He is making his WSOF debut tonight, and could pose a challenge to just about every other Lightweight in the promotion, barring Justin Gaethje. However, he is not going to best Foster tonight, and I see him losing via quick finish. Prediction: Foster via tko, round 1.

Phoenix Jones (5-1-1) vs. Roberto Yong (2-2)

Phoenix Jones is about as good at MMA as he is at fighting crime. Okay, so maybe he’s not that good. That said, WSOF clearly wants to keep him around, which is evident, considering that they’re giving him a very green opponent. Anything short of a finish will be a disappointment. Prediction: Jones via tko, round 2.

Timur Valiev (9-1) vs. Tito Jones (11-7)

Up next, potential Bantamweight star Timur Valiev will step onto the canvas. I’m not saying that he’ll be the UFC Bantamweight champion one day, but a win tonight could earn him a title shot for WSOF. I expect him to win, and win handily. Prediction: Valiev via tko, round 2.

Light Heavyweight Championship: David Branch (16-3) vs. Teddy Holder (9-1)

In the co-main event of the evening, David Branch will look to make promotional history by trying to become a champion in multiple weight classes. He’s already the WSOF Lightweight Champion, and a win tonight will garner him the promotion’s Light Heavyweight title. Standing in his way is a perennial underdog in Teddy Holder. Initially someone who was supposed to be  alive dog against Thiago Silva, Holder stunned the MMA world by finishing the former UFC title contender via first round tko. It was a momentous occasion, and one where many felt justice was weirdly served. He is a finisher, having never gone the distance.

That said, Branch is a completely different animal. He’s better on the feet, as well as on the ground. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, has won six straight fights, and has never lost in WSOF. While Silva was out of shape and rusty, those two words that are the antithesis of Branch. This fight will be a delight for anyone who is not related to Teddy Holder. I see Branch dominating, and winning within the first two rounds. Prediction: Branch via submission, round 2.

Lightweight championship: (C) Justin Gathje (14-0) vs. Luis Palomino (23-10)

In the main event of the evening, two men who just faced each other will face off yet again. Normally, immediate rematches are reserved for controversial fights. However, the initial bout was anything but. Basically, WSOF realized that they had nobody else that was worthy of a shot, and decided that the first fight was good enough to warrant an encore.

Palomino is a journeyman of a fighter, and he’s worthy of the attention that he’s finally getting. A pure action fighter, he’s been entertaining throughout his nine-year MMA career. He’s a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, has 13 knockouts to his credit, and is always good for a thrilling fight.

Meanwhile, Gaethje is a young, surging highlight machine. In other words, he perfectly lives up to his nickname, “The Highlight.” He’s won 11 times via knockout, and is capable of putting on a striking clinic against just about anybody.

In the end, I don’t see this bout being any different from the first one. Palomino will have his moments, but he’s just not good enough to beat Gaethje. The champion is just too good, and I see him finishing this fight even earlier than last time. Prediction: Gaethje via tko, round 2.

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