The Fight Horizon – Josh Burkman vs. Jon Fitch
The World Series of Fighting 2 event just concluded this past weekend and one of the highlights was Josh Burkman’s performance against Aaron Simpson, which concluded with Burkman putting Simpson down with a series of strikes in the first round. It was announced before the fight that the winner would meet the former UFC veteran and championship contender Jon Fitch, but the question still hanging in the air is whether or not it will be for the WSOF Welterweight Title (which has yet to be created).
The Matchup: Josh “The People’s Warrior” vs. Jon Fitch
Josh Burkman is now on a four fight win steak, his last loss coming to rising UFC star Jordan Mein two years ago. “The People’s Warrior” got the boot from the UFC in 2008, after losing that magical number of consecutive fights (three) that will likely get you canned. After his loss to Mein, Burkman fought twice for Showdown Fights before joining WSOF. He decisioned Gerald Harris in the first WSOF last year and is now sitting at the top of the welterweight food chain in the World Series of Fighting organization.
Jon Fitch is easily the biggest name to be cut from the UFC roster in it’s recent down-sizing. His draw with BJ Penn was the start of what many people look at as the downward slide of his career. Johny Hendricks famously knocked him out in 12 seconds in his next fight, shocking the world. Fitch rebounded with a nice win over heralded up-and-comer Erick Silva, but his last fight in the UFC was a lack-luster performance against Demian Maia in which he was controlled on the ground for the entire fight. This will be Fitch’s first fight outside of the UFC in 8 years.
The Date: June 14 – WSOF 3 in Las Vegas, NV
Weight Class: Welterweight
What led to it: Burkman is the top welterweight guy at WSOF…except maybe for Jon Fitch. Burkman just beat Aaron Simpson in convincing fashion and wants to be crowned the (still theoretical) WSOF welterweight champion. Fitch of course, got cut from the UFC and found a new home at WSOF. He is easily the the most accomplished and recognizable fighter on the WSOF roster and it makes sense to give him the best welterweight guy for his first fight, especially if it’s going to be an inaugural title fight.
Why it matters:
This is actually the second time Burkman will be fighting Fitch, the first being seven years ago when Fitch made Burkman tap to a rear naked choke. For Burkman, this is the biggest fight of his career. Jon Fitch is the perfect storm of opponents:
1. He’s beaten Burkman before so Burkman could avenge that previous defeat.
2. Fitch is an elite fighter with the reputation and resume that gives WSOF, and anybody who beats him, a huge measure of credibility.
3. And finally, whether this fight is for a title or not, the winner will clearly be the best welterweight in WSOF.
Burkman has already stated that he doesn’t believe Fitch deserves to fight him (title fight or not) until Fitch notches a win against someone else in WSOF. Everybody else in the whole MMA world probably disagrees with him, and most people will probably look at Fitch as a huge favorite to win this fight. Fitch is the big fish arriving in this small pond and that has to play in Burkman’s mind some. Burkman has a chance to accomplish a great deal in this fight, so look for him to be ultra-motivated to beat Fitch, and beat him thoroughly.
This is obviously a big fight for Fitch, for many reasons. It’s a chance, first and foremost, to prove his doubters wrong. Many people, including Dana White, believe Fitch is past his prime and is now on the downside of his very impressive career. If Fitch fights well here, it would have to be a satisfying feeling for him, vindication that the UFC made a mistake in cutting him. It would be a “I still got it” type of moment and if he wins, he could throw it in the faces of his critics who believe he’s lost his A-game.
It’s also a chance for Fitch to sit at the top of the mountain for once in his career. He is a subject of many GSP highlight reels and was on his way to a rematch before the BJ Penn fight derailed all of that. Sure, it’s not the UFC, but reigning supreme at the top of the WSOF organization is no easy feat and would give a measure of comfort to a guy who has long been regarded as one of the best welterweight fighters in the world. Regardless of what Fitch says in the media, it’s got to bother him that the UFC cut him when he was still ranked so highly by many pundits, including the UFC itself.
There is a lot of pressure for Fitch to perform here; but an impressive victory and he could make a lot of people eat their words and simultaneously become the undisputed #1 welterweight at WSOF.