It’s been a while since a high profile attempt at creating an MMA company out of the blue has happened; Pro Elite is more or less out of business now considering how long it’s been since they put on a show. Right now it’s Bellator and various regional promotions vying for the second tier slot underneath Zuffa’s MMA supremacy. This weekend the World Series of Fighting will try to create lightning in a bottle on NBC Sports with a fairly interesting card culled from the best fighters not in the UFC.
Fight Breakdown: The crazy thing is that this isn’t a horrible fight to promote based on one criterion: this might be one of the best heavyweight matchups you can make outside of the UFC not involving someone who’s coming out of retirement. With Cole Konrad selling futures, and Fedor enjoying retirement in Russia, Arlovski vs. Cole is one of the higher profile matchups you can make.
It’s a fairly simple matchup as well; Arlovski wants to keep this standing and at range, keeping Cole away from a big power shot down the middle. Arlovski’s chin isn’t quite what it was but he can take some punishment still; he just can’t take the full blast down the middle like he used to. Look for him to use angles and his boxing to keep distance, making Cole do something stupid and get caught in the process. Look for Arlovski to use his high level Sambo to keep it standing and turn takedown attempts from Cole into scrambles.
Cole’s a one trick pony; a former NAIA All-American wrestler he wants to grab the clinch and get the takedown. He doesn’t have enough power to put down Arlovski, at least we haven’t seen so far in a fairly long career, and his striking has never been high level. He’s going to get picked apart if he keeps it standing and he’ll be hell bent to get the fight to the ground.
Why It Matters: Arlovski is essentially the Honky Tonk Man of heavyweight MMA. Not quite good enough to be back in the big show but still a big enough name to get big fights on the regional scene. Arlovski has made a solid living on the regional scene because he held the UFC title once for some time and has a nice niche going: he’s good enough to beat most regional heavyweights but knocked out impressively by anyone talented enough to be in the UFC. He’s had a couple of wins in a row and one here can potentially at least make him look like a good one-off opponent for someone like Daniel Cormier in Strikeforce. Another loss here, especially a bad one, and the calls for him to walk away get that much louder.
Cole has been around the block nearly as long and without nearly as much fanfare; a win here and a potential call up to the UFC happens. They flirted with bringing him up in the past and a big win here could be his ticket for one shot in the UFC. A loss here and the IFL veteran is probably done with his chances at getting to the UFC. He was talked about for the last UFC on Fox card but his criminal background doesn’t help his cause; this is probably as good as he can get unless a miracle happens.
Prediction: Arlovski by UD
Fight Breakdown: If any fight could be a setup to turn “Rumble” into a big star this could be it. Why? Because he’s being practically spoon fed an opponent to be knocked out.
Johnson is finally at light heavyweight after massive cuts to welterweight (where he was a Top 10 fighter) nearly ruined his body over a long period of time. Losing to Vitor Belfort may have been the best thing for him; he looks significantly better now that he’s fighting with a much easier cut to make. Johnson’s game is of heavy handed strikes and power wrestling. Look for him to throw big strikes early and often, mixing it up with his power double on occasion.
Linderman is a small heavyweight or slightly bigger light heavyweight, depending on his cut, and isn’t a great fighter. He’s durable, though, and has a resume of victories over average talent. Everything he does is simple in concept; he won’t go for a flying triangle but he can be effective with a kimura. He’s essentially a regional heavyweight fighting at light heavyweight; good enough to beat plenty of guys but no one with any serious level of talent from what he’s shown so far in his career. This is his first step into deep waters.
Why It Matters: Johnson has looked like a star now that he’s fighting at a weight his body can actually make this time around. He keeps making weight, and keeps winning, and he’ll be back in the UFC sooner than later. So far he’s looked dynamite at 205, properly, and it’s a much easier cut from a natural 225 or so for him as well. This is a fight to keep him busy as well as keep him on the UFC roster; another big win and they’ll be looking much more seriously than they are now.
Linderman is a small heavyweight who can make 205 but isn’t really all that spectacular at either weight. A win here puts him on everyone’s radar as Johnson is a tough out.
Prediction: Johnson by KO
Fight Breakdown: Moraes is an intriguing project who’s just off the radar in terms of being considered for the big show. Whereas guys like Michael MacDonald have developed at a much faster pace Moraes is probably a couple of years away from being considered for the UFC; watching his fights you can see he’s still raw. Think Jon Jones in his first fight level raw; he needs time to develop and outside the grinder that is Zuffa Moraes could turn into something palpable.
Moraes could be a great fighter but needs to develop some savvy. He’s a Muay Thai based striker with a developing ground game. Look for him to try and keep it standing because you don’t want to be on the ground with Miguel Torres unless you’re a high level grappler.
Torres used to be the best bantamweight in the world and now is fighting to keep his place in the Top 10. One of the best guard players in the sport, Torres has a slick boxing game to match. His bread and butter is on the ground, though, and he’ll want to get this to the mat as soon as he can.
Why It Matters: Torres has one high level UFC run in him, perhaps, even though a lot of people think he’s on the downside of his career. He’s been around the block a ton of times, too, and there isn’t anything new he’ll see from Moraes in this fight. A couple of wins and he can resurrect himself back into the UFC’s bantamweight division.
Prediction: Torres by submission.
Fight Breakdown: You have two very impressive grapplers with novice level striking; you almost wish they could make this a grappling match because it could be all that much better if they didn’t strike like two drunks in the alley of a bar at 3am for 15 minutes.
Why It Matters: Gracie teaches with Renzo and thus has the family name on the line. Steele is a burgeoning prospect with some grappling bonafides of his own in a deep division to try and make it to the big time.
Prediction: Gracie by submission
Fight Breakdown: What happens when you bring in a lightly regarded fighter known for knockout to take on one of the best heavyweight kickboxers in the world making his MMA debut? This fight … and it’s designed to be a light heavyweight slugfest to kick off the broadcast.
Bartlett is a journeyman with a fairly strong record on paper; none of his wins are over anyone who means something, though. How does he win against someone with a striking pedigree like Spong? Take him down and keep him there for 15 minutes or play the cage grappling game. He can grind a win out over 15 minutes, which is his best shot at winning. If he wants to stand and trade with Spong he’s going to be knocked out. Probably spectacularly, too, as Spong has insane power in his hands and feet.
And that’s what Spong needs to do; keep it standing. He needs to do what Chuck Liddell did and just sprawl ‘n’ brawl his way through the fight. He needs to keep his distance and prevent Bartlett from pushing him against the cage; a victory for him will mean he kept the fight in the middle of the cage, used his footwork to circle away and fought at a distance. Spong has the power advantage over nearly anyone in MMA, especially in the light heavyweight division, and probably will knock Bartlett out if he gets the chance. Spong has devastated high level kick-boxers with his power
Why It Matters: Spong is making his MMA debut after a fairly substantial career in kickboxing. He wins here, and a couple more times, and he’s UFC bound sooner than later. He has a big enough name from kickboxing, comes from a great camp and has that one shot power to make things interesting. A win for Bartlett and the world becomes a bit bigger for him.
Prediction: Spong by KO