World Series of Fighting’s eighth event overall and first of 2014 took place Saturday night in Hollywood, Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The card featured two title fights, in the Lightweight and the women’s strawweight (115 lbs) divisions, both of which saw a one-sided result. The card’s co-main event featured two former UFC fighters in Anthony Johnson vs. Mike Kyle, wherein Johnson continued his winning streak outside of the UFC with a decisive knockout victory.
The card had its ups and its downs, and it’s time to take a look at these as we analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly from the event.
- Main card finishes. NBC Sports Network has got to be happy with how WSOF’s cards have had some great knockouts. Last night’s card was no exception, as three out of the five main card fights ended in knockouts, and one of the other two fights ended in a submission. Hometown fighter Luis Palomino kicked off the card with a powerful knockout of Jorge Patino late in the second round. The fight didn’t feature much in the way of technical skill, but delivered in terms of back and forth, brawling action. In the co-main event, Anthony Johnson knocked Mike Kyle flat on his face with a devastating one punch knockout. Finally, in the main event, Justin Gaethje won the inaugural lightweight championship with a brutal stoppage win over Richard Patishnock, something which Gaethje predicted here on ProMMANow.
- Rising Stars. The UFC and WSOF have become rather close of late, as Dana White and Ray Sefo have been complimenting each other’s respective promotions. While this may not seem newsworthy in other sports, in Dana’s world of mixed martial arts, it really is. Considering how he has fared with Bellator and Pride before, to see him compliment an opposing promotion is interesting to say the least, and opens the door to skepticism on the matter of whether or not the UFC will use WSOF as their main “feeder league”, so to speak. Last night’s card featured as many as three fighters that may find futures in the UFC in Justin Gaethje, Jessica Aguilar and Anthony Johnson. Gaethje is one of the hottest prospects in MMA right now, and with an 11-0 record featuring ten finishes, it’s easy to see why. Aguilar is ranked by many publications as the number one women’s strawweight fighter in the world, and with the news of the UFC sponsoring a women’s strawweight divison now public, it’s likely that we will see Aguilar in the UFC in little to no time. Finally, Anthony Johnson seems to have found his stride in WSOF. The man who, once upon a time, was a top welterweight contender in the UFC has found his home at light heavyweight, where it appears he is comfortable making weight. With his weight issues out of the way, Johnson has let his performances do the talking- six fights outside of the UFC, six victories to his name. Hopefully we see the man they call Rumble fighting in the promotion where he made his name in a short amount of time.
- Undercard fights. While it is understandable that a new promotion like WSOF would lack depth, the undercard to WSOF 8 was truly a stinker. Three out of the five fights were lackluster decision fights, two of which were fought with notably poor technique. In typical non-UFC, lower-tier heavyweight fighting fashion, Derrick Mehmen and Scott Barrett fought a wild, swinging, bar fight looking contest wherein both fighters were visibly tired midway through the first round. While it showcased some great heart on the part of both fighters, it was a technical nightmare. The same could be said about its preceding fight, where Alexis Vila defeated Sidemar Honorio by decision. Vila was able to execute some fantastic takedowns, but unfortunately had little to no idea what to do when he was on the ground. As a result, when the fight was on the ground, it was an awkward showcasing of jiu-jitsu ignorance featuring menial ground and pound. The undercard just felt like a local minor league show, something that the so-called “third best promotion” should probably fix within the next year.
- Tyson Nam vs. Cody Bollinger. Of all the fights on the main card, this was the fight I was looking forward to most. Nam, a victim of Bellator’s contractual ineptitude, was looking for his first win in WSOF after falling to top bantamweight Marlon Moraes in March. He faced Cody Bollinger, the highly touted prospect who was kicked off the last season of The Ultimate Fighter for failing to make weight. Both were looking to impress and hopefully find their way into the UFC, but both looked quite poor. Nam, who had Bollinger staggered on many occasions, rarely initiated the fight, and was content to sit back and let Bollinger work on the feet. The problem was that Bollinger, while talented, lacked force in his punches and purpose in his attacks. The result was a snoozer point fight, which saw Bollinger take home a controversial decision.
- The Streaming. In every event, WSOF seems to have some sort of production-related issue. For every step forward they take in this realm, such as getting rid of the awful Todd Harris on the mic, they take another step backward. This time it was the god-awful streaming of the undercard online at Sherdog and on WSOF’s website. Each fight had intermittent connection losses, the stream was well behind the live action, and in some areas the fights were blacked out all together. WSOF even tweeted from their official account for fans to tell them what kind of issues they were having and where they lived. Now that’s one way to interact with your fanbase.
- In-cage Interviews. For some reason, WSOF is convinced that they need to have a separate interviewer to talk to fighters in the cage post-fight, instead of a commentator like Rogan or Anik to go in the cage to interview the fighters. The guy that WSOF has had for the past few events has been truly insufferable and horribly awkward, and on top of that, the guy has to fulfill Boost Mobile’s sponsorship of the promotion with a terribly awkward offering to the fighter of a brand new cell phone. The most pricelessly terrible moment came last night when actor Danny Trejo appeared in the cage for Jessica Aguilar’s post-fight interview, made a weird joke about getting her number, held her back from her scheduled interview for a photo op, and then inexplicably stood over Aguilar during the entirety of the interview. It is clear that someone needs to reign in WSOF’s post-fight production, because as it stands, it is easily the worst part of the promotion.