The World Series of Fighting is back in Las Vegas. The promotion would like to end the most successful year to date in the cage with another great card. On paper, this one might not blow away fans, but there are a lot of fights that could determine the makeup of several divisions in 2016.
With Tyrone Spong out of his match-up with Jake Heun, the focus of this card now centers on the 135- and 145-pound divisions. These are two divisions that are stacked globally with a lot of high-level guys, but Lance Palmer seems to be in the position of waiting for the rest of the division to catch up with him, or for the promotion to sign some new challengers.
Last weekend’s UFC card unified the UFC’s featherweight and interim featherweight belts, and now, at WSOF 26, the WSOF will give us a look at what this promotion’s featherweight champion can do. Palmer isn’t Conor McGregor, but he doesn’t have to be a highly marketable and promotable fighter who translates into eyes and dollars for the WSOF. He has a connection to a high-profile gym, and his stock is rising in and out of it.
The action begins with four preliminary-card bouts airing live on the WSOF website at 6:30 p.m. ET, before transitioning to the NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET for the five-fight main card.
FW Championship: Lance Palmer (10-1) vs. Alexandre de Almeida (17-5)
Let’s start with a pretty interesting piece of information from this past weekend: Team Alpha Male member Lance Palmer was in the corner of an Alpha Male fighter on all three nights of the consecutive fight events held by the UFC. That may be something, or it may be nothing. Did watching teammates lose sharpen his focus, or did his duties in supporting them wear him out? Only time will tell.
Here’s what is known. Palmer has looked really sharp in his last two fights, finding the back and the submission finish in both contests. The four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler out of Ohio State is absolutely tremendous on the ground, but training daily at Alpha Male will do that to a fighter. Palmer is a lion amongst lions in the Alpha Male gym, which has so much star power that it’s easy for Palmer to get lost in the shuffle. However, if you told every current champion at Alpha Male to stand up, there’d be a lot of full chairs. Palmer wouldn’t be among those still seated, though. He has strong wrestling, of course, but he throws straight lefts with really bad intentions. It makes the ground look appealing, until you get there.
Let’s start with some good news for Palmer’s opponent, Alexandre de Almeida: His opponent’s name isn’t Fabiano. Since 2011, de Almeida has lost to two men: Fabiano Silva and Fabiano Nogueira. It’s also good news that de Almeida has tremendous skills on the ground, so much so that Palmer really needs to think about whether he wants to take the fight there or not. In the performance that earned de Almeida this title shot, he took a very game Saul Almeida out quickly in the first round. He took Almeida’s back so quickly that announcer Jazz Securo barely had time to get a wrinkle in his pants from sitting down.
Here’s the rub. If de Almeida can get Palmer to fight a game that isn’t his normal game, then that’s the first step in getting a fighter out of his rhythm and comfort. The only problem with that is Palmer is better on his feet. De Almeida has never been knocked out, but he’s never fought Palmer.
It’s hard to nitpick a guy who is 10-1, but Palmer’s one loss came via submission. Therefore, de Almeida does have a chance, especially against a guy who submits guys regularly. Yet, Palmer is too high level of a guy to get caught. The champ will stay away and engage when he has to. However, he will still find a submission in a scramble.
LW: Ozzy Dugulubgov (7-2) vs. Nic Herron-Webb (18-6)
A conversation with WSOF President Ray Sefo after Justin Gaethje’s second victory over Luis Palomino yielded a very important piece of information. “Sugar” Sefo thinks very highly of Ozzy Dugulubgov and viewed him as a title contender at the time. Why he wasn’t in the eight-man tournament is unknown, but it may have benefited him in the end. There’s a high level of risk and reward involved in tournaments. Dugulubgov is in the most talent-rich division in the WSOF and, with an impressive win here, Dugulubgov, along with Jason High, could be fighting to get the first title bid after the Gaethje clash with Brian Foster.
So what does Dugulubgov like to do? He likes to crack guys. He has seven wins, including four in which he was knocking someone silly. Even more impressive is when they happened. He knocked two guys out in the first round, one in the second round and one in the third. It’s not a huge sample size, but what it says is that he is head-hunting for the whole fight and maintains his power throughout.
Nic Herron-Webb isn’t on the same career trajectory as Dugulubgov. The brass is probably not sitting around the offices doodling about a Gaethje vs. Herron-Webb headliner. However, that’s not Herron-Webb’s problem. His focus should reflect the old fight adage, “When you beat a man, you assume the story being written about his career.” When a fighter beats someone, they have in a sense beaten everyone their defeated opponent has beaten and have thereby taken that fallen foe’s legacy. Herron-Webb, who is nearly impossible to finish with strikes, has the durability to withstand what Dugulubgov may throw his way. Herron-Webb is really slick on the ground — he has 14 finishes via submission — and that may be his path to victory.
The game plan seems clear for Dugulubgov. He needs to stay on the outside, find his shots and go in for the finish. Dugulubgov probably doesn’t want a fight where Herron-Webb is closing the distance, clinch fighting and grinding. He’ll stay disciplined with strikes and wait for a mistake to find the finish.
BW: Josh Hill (12-1) vs. Bekbulat Magomedov (16-0)
This bantamweight contest between Josh Hill and Bekbulat Magomedov is a more interesting fight than some might think. This is a fight where a “veteran” fighter has seen a lot and should be in the process of putting it all together. However, there is just something about the other guy. In this case, that something is a resume littered with finishes.
Magomedov has beaten every Russian put in front of him. But that’s the thing: All the fights have been in Russia. Will those skills travel? They don’t always. Dagestan is producing some killers right now, though, and this kid comes in with a clean record and a lot of finishes.
Hill wants to be a star for the WSOF. The problem? He’s not being used, in his opinion, to his full extent. He wants to be more active. Typically, inactivity would be a huge red flag. However, Hill has stayed active. Since his last fight in the cage — which, let’s not forget, was for the 135-pound WSOF belt — he’s received permission to fight in other organizations to stay fresh. He picked up two wins, a finish and a decision. So while the competition may have been a step down, Hill’s fight frequency is good for the year.
So there are a lot of fights that I could point to for an idea of these two fighters, but there’s one that didn’t happen. Magomedov was set to face Will Chope at UFC Fight Night 34. The fight was only scrapped because of Magomedov’s contract status. He has a UFC pedigree. While Magomedov has some finishes, it’s been a couple of years since his last one. He’s a solid fighter, but this is Hill’s night. There are a lot of things swirling around Hill, and they will all come together to produce a solid win. This fight goes the distance, and Hill edges out Magomedov.
BW: Sheymon Moraes (7-1) vs. Robbie Peralta (18-6)
This might be the “Fight of the Night.” It pits young Brazilian Nogueira fighter Sheymon Moraes, who is coming off a title loss and looking to not fall too much further down the ladder, against veteran fighter Robbie Peralta, who has made his bones a weight class up and is looking to fast-track his way to the title. Both of these fighters come into the cage with the same goal: to earn a dance with bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes.
Sheymon Moraes was a finisher in Brazil. Those skills have not cleared customs yet. He is split while fighting in the United States — he took a split decision from Gabriel Solorio and got choked out by the champ, Moraes. He put forth a solid effort, though. He was unafraid to trade with Moraes and even opened up the champ’s forehead. In the end, he just couldn’t protect his back and was finished.
Peralta has fought a lot of UFC mid-level guys and hung with them. He’s gone the distance with Clay Guida and Akira Corassani in losses and beaten Rony Jason and Estevan Payan, splitting a decision with Jason and finishing Payan. Peralta is a durable guy who has never been knocked out. He’s open to slugging it out.
Moraes and Peralta are both open to lowering their heads and banging it out. The Brazilian’s Muay Thai background has led to some dense shots that he is able to send out, and Peralta throws right hands with bad intentions. Peralta made his bones at 145 pounds, and although he is going down to 135 pounds, the drop doesn’t favor him physically. He’s not taller than his opponent and doesn’t have a significant reach advantage. His power should come with him, but he will mostly likely be at a speed disadvantage against Moraes.
This fight is most likely going to be a slugfest that doesn’t make it to into the third frame. Peralta is the pick here, even though Moraes pushed the champ. Peralta has more paths to victory.
LHW: Jake Heun (8-4) vs. Clinton Williams (7-2)
Jake Heun was originally set to face Tyrone Spong. For the sake of Huen, his family and the holidays, it’s probably better he didn’t.
No fight is a forgone conclusion, though. but even had Heun won, Christmas dinner would have sucked. He would have been feeling everything Spong threw at him.
But enough about Spong. Heun certainly can’t be thinking about him. If he walks into the cage upset over the fact that he lost out on a high-profile fight, he will realize quickly that Clinton Williams can handle himself.
Williams is going up in weight and fighting on short notice, but this is a big opportunity for him. A good showing here — he has it in him and can finish on his feet and the ground — and the next time Spong gets in a WSOF cage, he may be looking at Williams and not Heun.
The pick is Heun, but this is a big spot for Williams.
Preliminary Card Predictions
WW: Abubakar Nurmagomedov (10-1) vs. Danny Davis Jr. (11-9-1)
Nurmagomedov by decision
FW: Hakeem Dawodu (5-0) vs. Marat Magomedov (7-0)
Dawodu by first-round knockout
LW: Giga Chikadze (0-0) vs. Gil Guardado (4-1)
Guardado by second-round submission
LHW: Kelvin Tiller (7-1) vs. Andreas Spang (9-3)
Tiller by first-round submission
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