Two title fights. Two rematches.
That’s the tagline for the 32nd edition of the World Series of Fighting. The fights in question? There’s the headliner between Marlon Moraes and Josh Hill for the bantamweight championship in a rematch of a February 2015 fight that Moraes claimed by unanimous decision. The second affair is the co-headliner, an immediate rematch for Lance Palmer against featherweight kingpin Alexandre de Almeida, who snatched the belt from Palmer’s grasp at the pair’s December meeting at WSOF 26.
There’s also another intriguing storyline on this card that pits brother against brother. One of those siblings is even a superhero of sorts. That man is Ben Fodor, also known as Phoenix Jones. The 28-year-old crime fighter takes to the cage on Saturday night against his brother, Caros, a recent addition to the WSOF roster after mixed success under the Strikeforce, UFC and ONE Championship banners.
These three fights top a four-fight main card that also features undefeated prospect Phil Hawes. The action kicks off with a free live stream of the preliminary card on the WSOF website at 7 p.m. ET before transitioning to the NBC Sports Network at 10:30 p.m. ET for the main card.
No one has pushed Moraes more in a cage than Hill. Hill hung with the bantamweight champ on the feet, both seeing his attacks well and matching his pace. Hill had his moments as well. He cut the champ above his eye and bloodied his nose. Moraes was the clear victor, but what stuck out was how well Hill saw the attacks. Not to say Moraes didn’t land, but Hill was blocking shots, getting out of the way of low kicks and catching kicks to the body even into the fifth round.
However, fights are won with offense, not defense. While Hill did fairly well and avoided damage, he should have caused a little more damage in rounds other than the first. This fight, unlike the evening’s co-headliner, has been a long time coming. The reason for Hill’s delayed second chance is up for debate — rumor has it that Hill performed so well that former matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz put him on ice — but Hill stayed active in the meantime, fighting four times since his first title bid against Moraes, with about three or four months between each bout. However, three of those fights were outside the WSOF, so the level of competition is not quite as strong as it could have been. Moraes has fought twice since defending the belt against Hill. He defeated Sheymon Moraes and Joe Barajas. Moraes conceded at the end of the first fight that he slept on Hill a little, so it’s difficult to imagine he would do that again.
Hill can hang. He looks like Sean Sherk and moves like Dominick Cruz. Moraes is the more dynamic striker, but Hill is the one who is more able to sit down on his strikes and find power. Both guys have pop, but Hill is more the wrecking ball and Moraes is more the bolt of lightning. These guys seemed pitched very closely in the first fight, but it cannot be discounted how much Moraes slept on Hill. While Hill can hang, he doesn’t have the advantage in any aspect of fighting other than maybe in footwork, but he needs to do more with it.
The main variable, as always in a rematch, is growth. Moraes has the better camp, and with Frankie Edgar having fought on UFC 200, they have spent their camps largely together. That may help the champ. While Hill moves like the aforementioned Cruz, he is not as accurate as the bantamweight champion of the UFC. He needs to hit more — he was successful at times landing on the champ, but not enough. He went the distance with a guy who takes people out, but that’s not enough to get the belt.
The counter game is key. Hill sees the attacks of Moraes so well that he was very difficult for the champ to hit. Now what Hill needs to do with that is to transition it into counter strikes. The issue here is that Moraes is a good counter fighter and may retreat into that tactic if Hill has some success countering. Hill needs to understand when it’s time to counter and when it’s time to push the action. He has the footwork to fight that kind of fight, but does he have the accuracy? That’s the question.
Moraes takes the victory.
Sometimes when it comes to judges, perception is reality. The perception of the first fight was that de Almeida was controlling the Decagon. To an extent, he was. He seemed to use his size to bully and “big brother” Palmer on the feet. A perhaps keener judge would have seen that it was Palmer’s choice to utilize footwork to stay on the outside and look for openings to both pick his shots and go for takedowns. This is a solid strategy. However, where it fell apart was when Palmer failed to land strikes. Palmer probably doesn’t think there was a lot of time in the first fight where he wasn’t doing what he wanted, but de Almeida had good counter right hands, good takedown defense, was active from his back when he was taken down and was the fighter coming forward for the majority of the fight.
Neither of these guys is going to step into the Decagon this weekend with a change in physical stature. The champion, de Almeida, is still going to be six inches taller and have a two- or three-inch reach advantage. Palmer is still going to be the superior wrestler, and de Almeida is still going to have the sharper hands and jiu-jitsu. These facts make for a fight that could go the same way as the first. Styles make fights, after all, and de Almeida’s style and stature will always be a problem for Palmer.
Analyst Bas Rutten said in the first fight that it’s just too hard for Palmer to get to de Almeida’s head, so he needs to go to the body. The trouble with this strategy is that judges don’t always recognize body punching how they should. However, the age-old axiom will always be true that if you take out the body, then the head will fall. If Palmer is going to win this fight, he needs to go after the champ’s body early and hope that opens up an opportunity to connect with the head. He should mix kicks to the legs and body so that he can keep de Almeida guessing and hope he guesses wrong more often than not. As far as going to the body with punches, it gets the momentum going in the direction of the takedown anyway.
The key here lies in the scrambles. Palmer needs to make this a wild fight. His opponent is good in scrambles, but it’s more Palmer’s world. If Palmer can get de Almeida to react to him on the ground by throwing wild technique at him, then he may find some openings there as well.
Ultimately, Palmer should be able to recapture the belt.
This fight has brought about a lot of controversy. Is it right that brothers should fight each other? Is this a side show? Does the fact they are adoptive brothers change anything? There are a lot of issues here, but is it a pretty good fight? All promotions do side-show fights, some because they “want” to, and some because they “have” to. Of all these type of fights, this pairing is the one that isn’t really a reach. The brothers fight in the same division, although they will be fighting at a catchweight here. All the stuff that exists to draw casuals aside, this could be a good fight.
Caros is a better fighter. He’ll tell you it. Phoenix will tell you it. The resume tells you it. The tape tells you it. Caros fights a lot more under control and has a more diverse skill set, whereas Ben is looking to mix it up and maybe find some technique along the way. It’s not that Ben lacks technique, but he just isn’t as adept at putting it into play in a cage environment under the lights. Phoenix is listed bigger at 6-foot, compared to Caros at 5-foot-9. However, Ben’s height listing might be generous unless we are counting the high-top fade. The other important thing is that they are fighting at a catchweight, which lands more in Phoenix’s comfort zone. This doesn’t mean Caros can’t carry the extra weight and maintain advantages, but he’s never fought at that weight as a professional.
The emotions will be a big variable in this contest. No matter what they say or how much they’ve sparred, they won’t know what it’s like to look across the cage at each other and seek a finish until it happens.They are super-competitive guys, and both will be looking to win and establish himself as the dominant sibling.
The edge here might go to Phoenix. He is the more emotional fighter and is more comfortable in that role. If the fight gets wild — if they start talking shit, or if there are eye pokes or low blows — this plays into Ben’s game plan. He’s a wild man who thrives in that environment.
However, just remember this: Cain was the first born and Abel was the first to die. Big brothers always have an advantage over little brothers until little brothers do something to change that. Caros is the big brother.
When last we saw Taylor, he was strangling Cory Devela in the first round and putting himself on the map. When we last saw Hawes, he was throwing Joshua Key a beating and finishing him in the first round. Devela did a lot more toward preparing Taylor for Hawes than Key did in preparing Hawes for Taylor, but Hawes is the blue chipper here. He was a national champion as a wrestler in college and he is 10 years Taylor’s junior. Hawes is being groomed for a shot at David Branch’s middleweight strap. He may be only two fights away from that title bid. If Hawes gets by Taylor, it’s Clifford Starks and then the title shot.
Hawes has the wrestling advantage. It’s kind of a given. He was a stud in college and has transitioned his wrestling well to the cage. His grappling is good, but his jiu-jitsu isn’t there yet. Taylor likes to choke guys. Over his last five fights, Taylor has scored four wins via choke. He’s a finisher who has only been to a decision once, in a winning effort. Taylor is a kill-or-be-killed kind of guy who does more killing than his opponents.
The effect relatively easy fights last time out had on both men is a big variable in this scrap. If it allowed them more time to get into the gym and evolve, then great. However, if it just conflated their belief in their skills and removed some self-awareness, then they could be in trouble.
From an in-cage perspective, Hawes needs to get takedowns and pass. Offensive top position is key. Hawes doesn’t want to to try to ground-and-pound through Taylor’s guard. Dirty boxing and dirty wrestling is the path to victory for the prospect. On the feet, he needs to close the gap and avoid the trap.
Hawes will claim the victory.
|FW: Hakeem Dawodu (5-0-1) vs. Marat Magomedov (7-0-1)||Dawodu|
|MW: Rex Harris (9-2) vs. Nicolai Salchov (6-0)||Harris|
|WW: Andrews Nakahara (4-3-2) vs. Travis Doerge (5-8)||Nakahara|
|HW: Matt Kovacs (11-16) vs. Bill Wilder (8-6)||Wilder|
|LW: Patrick Benson (2-0) vs. Brett Malone (1-0)||Benson|
|LW: Matt Coble (9-7) vs. Colt Hausauer (5-4)||Coble|
|BW: Justin Hugo (1-1) vs. Tycen Lynn (0-0)||Lynn|
|BW: Jon Marc Cortez (0-2) vs. Joey Elzea (0-1)||Elzea|