Thursday. It’s not exactly a day fight fans associate with MMA events. Sure, there’s the occasional Thursday card, usually from either South Africa-based EFC or from California-based Tachi Palace Fights, but most fight promotions target Friday and Saturday for their events. Well, the World Series of Fighting has opted to buck that trend with its 18th show. So, Thursday just got a little busier for fight fans.
Those fans will want to tune in, too. The card offered up by the WSOF features an important bantamweight fight, not just because it will determine the promotion’s champion, but also because it will give the reigning champ, Marlon Moraes, a chance to further advance his climb up the overall bantamweight rankings. Moraes currently resides in or near the top 10 of the division in most rankings sets, including Combat Press’s own. He’ll put his title on the line against Josh Hill, an undefeated fighter and former The Ultimate Fighter cast member.
The championship tilt is joined by three other main card contests. Welterweight prospects Shane Campbell and Andrew McInnes get their chance to make an impression in separate bouts. Campbell will meet late replacement Derek Boyle in the co-main event, and McInnes welcomes UFC veteran Cody McKenzie to the WSOF cage. A featherweight battle between undefeated striker Hakeem Dawodu and veteran Tristan Johnson rounds out the televised portion of the festivities.
The two-fight preliminary card airs live on nbcsports.com at 7:45 p.m. ET. The four-fight main card follows on the NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET. Three “postlim” fights are also slated for the card, beginning at 11 p.m. ET and airing live on nbcsports.com.
Marlon Moraes captured the inaugural WSOF bantamweight title in March 2014 with a unanimous decision victory over Josh Rettinghouse. His first title defense was set to take place in September. His scheduled opponent? Josh Hill. However, Hill was forced to withdraw from the bout and Moraes ended up in a catchweight affair against Cody Bollinger, another former resident of The Ultimate Fighter house. Now, five months later, Moraes and Hill will finally meet inside the cage.
Moraes is a highly accomplished martial artist. The black prajied Muay Thai practitioner holds two Muay Thai National Championships. The Valor MMA and Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu product also holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu . He has used his well-rounded skill set to snag five wins by some form of knockout and four victories via submission. He has added an additional four wins on the scorecards. The 26-year-old hasn’t suffered a loss in more than three years, and he counts Miguel Torres and Tyson Nam among his notable victories.
Hill’s grinding approach didn’t endear him to the UFC brass during his stint on The Ultimate Fighter 18. He defeated Patrick Holohan to make it into the house, but dropped a decision to Michael Wootten in the elimination round and never saw the inside of the UFC Octagon at a live event. The show kept him out of official action in 2013, but once the series wrapped up its broadcast run, Hill landed in WSOF Canada, where he added a 10th win to his record. The 28-year-old trains out of House of Champions. He has powerful wrestling and great cardio, which has contributed to a record that features six decision wins to go along with three wins by some form of knockout and one submission victory. When Hill entered the TUF house, he was riding a streak of five straight decision wins.
Hill has defeated a number of prospects with respectable records, but he’s always struggled when it comes to stepping up and fighting at the next level. He did top Holohan in a TUF fight, but he also lost to Wootten and didn’t leave an impression large enough to earn him an invite to compete in the UFC. Moraes is a more highly regarded opponent than Wootten and features a much more dynamic and diverse skill set. His striking registers on an elite level and he’s quite capable on the ground. The Brazilian has never lost a decision either, which is an important fact to consider against a fighter whose primary strategy is to outwork his foe for three — or, in this case, five — full rounds.
Can Hill keep it up for five rounds? Can he even hang with Moraes for three rounds? Doubtful on both accounts. Moraes isn’t going to allow Hill to pin him against the fence or take him to the mat, and Hill is outclassed in every other aspect of the fight. The Brazilian has been at his best over the last three years, and Hill isn’t likely to be the man to bring that run of success to a close.
Moraes is going to answer with strikes to counter Hill’s attempts to close the distance. As Hill slows from the punishment, Moraes will turn up the offense and finish the wrestler either with strikes or an opportunistic submission when Hill gets lazy on a takedown attempt. Regardless, the Brazilian will emerge with the title, not to mention plenty of the same sort of buzz that has accompanied other top-10 fighters who ply their trade outside of the UFC.
Shane Campbell was set to meet fellow prospect Brandt Dewsbery in the evening’s co-headliner. However, with Dewsbery injured, Campbell is now set to encounter a familiar face. He’ll meet Derek Boyle, a fighter Campbell defeated three years ago.
Campbell’s win over Boyle came at Score Fighting Series 4. Campbell was 5-1 coming into the fight, and he outworked Boyle for three rounds to claim the decision victory. The 27-year-old has gone 4-1 since his win over Boyle. His most recent outing took place under the MFC banner, where Campbell topped prospect Marcus Edwards via TKO. His only losses came against veteran journeyman Dave Mazany and future UFC fighter Jesse Ronson. Campbell, who has four wins by some form of knockout and two via submission, is also an accomplished kickboxer.
Boyle might be tempted to stand with Campbell. After all, the 30-year-old has never been stopped by strikes and possesses eight victories by some form of knockout. His biggest weakness comes on the mat, where he has suffered four submission losses. Boyle’s last loss came to future UFC fighter Chad Laprise in a fighter where Boyle went the distance with the undefeated fighter.
Boyle is a tough competitor who has seen the final bell in losing efforts against some talented fighters in Laprise and Campbell. He appears to be more vulnerable against grapplers, whereas he can hang with even the best strikers he has faced. However, he has still come up short against those strikers. The short notice could play to Boyle’s favor, but Campbell has defeated him before and will do so again. Campbell will emerge with the judges’ nod once more.
Not long ago, it seemed as if Cody McKenzie’s days as a professional fighter had come to an end. The Ultimate Fighter 12 alum announced his retirement just before Christmas. Now, less than two months later, he has a new contract with the WSOF and a main-card fight against prospect Andrew McInnes at WSOF 18.
The outspoken McKenzie has been in the news lately for his criticism of the UFC, but the TUF 12 alum was already well known for his stint on the reality show and his variation on the guillotine choke, dubbed the “McKenzietine.” The Cesar Gracie disciple liked the choke so much, in fact, that he entered the UFC with a streak of nine straight wins by guillotine and added a 10th when he finished Aaron Wilkinson in his UFC debut. The road wasn’t so smooth for McKenzie in his subsequent UFC bouts. Over the next two years, he won just two of his six UFC contests before parting ways with the promotion. The 27-year-old hasn’t fared much better on the regional and international circuits, where he has dropped two of his last three fights.
McInnes hasn’t necessarily coined his own namesake-oriented submission hold, but his nickname of “Andrewconda” definitely conjures images of a slick submission specialist. The prospect is a talented grappler who has logged wins via rear-naked choke (twice), guillotine choke, a shoulder choke and a gogoplata. The 29-year-old has one blemish on his record, but any fighter can be forgiven for losing their pro debut to someone the caliber of Chad Laprise, who remains undefeated two fights into his current UFC run.
Let’s call this one the “Battle of the Chokes.” With such an obvious set of finishing preferences, however, it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see these men stand for three full rounds and test each other’s striking. That would be a shame, though. These two men excel on the ground, and even if they enter the contest with the intent of staying upright, one of these grapplers will eventually give in to their natural instinct to take the fight to the mat.
McKenzie is the one-trick pony of this pair. While McInnes has employed a variety of finishing techniques on the ground, McKenzie is always looking for the guillotine and often fails in all other areas. He’s been submitted on the ground by less aggressive grapplers than McInnes, whose streak of submission wins includes a first-round finish of Ryan Healy and a pair of sub-20-second stoppages.
McKenzie hasn’t been an overwhelming force in the cage since he stepped up to the bigger shows. He lost early in the TUF season and never put together consecutive wins inside the Octagon. McInnes has a chance to turn a lot of heads in this affair and you can bet he’ll capitalize on that opportunity. His aggressive tendencies and high level of competence in the grappling game make him a bad match-up for McKenzie. McInnes will pick up the second-round submission victory.
In Hakeem Dawodu, the WSOF has a chance to develop a homegrown star for its featherweight division. The next hurdle for the talented striker arrives in the form of veteran fighter Tristan Johnson.
Dawodu is a Muay Thai specialist who has trained under the tutelage of world-champion kickboxer Mike Miles. He fights out of the Champion’s Creed MMA camp. Dawodu’s spotless record consists of three victories under the WSOF umbrella of promotions. The Canadian fighter made his pro debut in early 2014 at WSOF Canada with a 67-second knockout of Behrang Yousefi. He returned less than four months later at WSOF Canada 2 and delivered a second-round knockout finish of Jake Macdonald. Six months later, he got the call up to the WSOF parent promotion and landed on the WSOF 14 card. Dawodu impressed once again with a first-round TKO stoppage of Mike Malott.
Johnson is also a striker, but he’s suffered some setbacks on his journey through the world of professional MMA. The Canada-based fighter debuted in 2007 and built up a five-fight winning streak before dropping back-to-back contests. He rebounded with two straight wins before running into Rick Glenn, who handed him a TKO loss. Johnson has since gone 2-2 with losses to Bellator veteran Jesse Gross and future UFC fighter Rob Font, who used the victory over Johnson as his springboard into the Octagon. The Fit Plus product tends to live and die in the stand-up game, scoring four wins by strikes, including one submission due to a punch to the body, and losing three contests via some form of knockout.
This fight has the potential to turn into another highlight-reel moment for Dawodu. Johnson’s first professional loss came via a first-round TKO at the hands of Guillaume Lamarche, a fighter who now has five submission wins and only the one TKO victory on his resume. The 31-year-old has suffered two additional losses by way of strikes against the aforementioned Glenn and Font. Johnson prefers being on his feet, but that might not be the best idea against a striker with as much power as Dawodu packs.
Dawodu features a dangerous striking arsenal that’s sure to give Johnson a lot of problems. Another first-round knockout finish seems like a near lock for the undefeated striker.
|MW: Marcus Hicks (19-24) vs. Graham Park (3-1)||Park by first-round submission|
|MW: Matt Baker (11-7) vs. Ali Mokdad (6-3)||Mokdad by third-round submission|
|LW: Mukai Maromo (8-4) vs. Jose Rodriguez (7-3)||Rodriguez by first-round submission|
|LW: Dan Lariviere (3-2) vs. Garret Nybakken (6-6)||Lariviere by unanimous decision|
|WW: Mark Drummond (6-2) vs. Spencer Jebb (9-3)||Drummond by second-round TKO|