MMA's number three promotion returns tonight with an event venturing into Canada and an interesting if modest main event between an established featherweight veteran against one of the game's hotter prospects, both vying for the inaugural WSOF featherweight title. The card also features the return of the ever-affable Nick Newell and potential next big thing in Elvis Mutapcic.
Will Palmer prove he's capable of taking the next step in his career? Does Nick Newell have what it takes to keep his win streak alive? Is this the night Elvis Mutapcic gets past a bigger, dominant wrestler in Jesse Taylor? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: World Series of Fighting 7: Palmer vs. Karakhanyan
Where: PNE Agrodome, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
When: Saturday, the five-fight preliminary card starts at 6 p.m. ET on a live stream on MMA Fighting, and the four-fight main card kicks off on NBC Sports at 9 p.m. ET.
I was really unimpressed with Palmer's last fight in RFA opposite Jared Downing. Downing's not a bad fighter, but he was able to shut down Palmer's wrestling for two rounds and then a bit more. Palmer struggled to get the win and if it were not a five-round bout, he would've lost pretty handily. Once his wrestling was eliminated from the equation, he didn't have much else to fall back on. I'm not suggesting Karakhanyan isn't going to have his own struggles with Palmer's takedowns, but I do think he can pick up where Downing left off.
This is the most curious fight on the main card. Mutapcic is the hot prospect who can blast people to smithereens, but can he deal with a larger opponent and one who has relentless takedown pressure and top control? I don't think we really know the answer to that, at least not definitively. This is very, very much just guesswork on what is likely to be the dominant influencing factor here. I'm going to lean towards the rising prospect, but counting Taylor out would be a big mistake. This is perhaps Mutapcic's most important fight to date.
Unless something goes tragically off the rails, this should be a very quick fight with Newell as the victor. Fadai is a regional-level fighter (until he proves otherwise) and while we aren't really sure what the upper limit is on Newell yet, he's clearly a step beyond Fadai. Newell will do what he does best: takedown (potentially from strikes first), pass, then submission. Don't blink.
Both of these guys are journeymen at this point, which makes deciphering who has the clear advantage a bit difficult. Lewis is the bigger puncher of the two, but Starnes, who is on a three-fight win streak, is the more accomplished. He's also slightly more polished with his striking defense, but not by much. I'm going to lean Starnes, but ever so slightly. Lewis has the ability to put Starnes' lights out at any point, but Starnes should have enough general savvy to avoid the big bomb en route to either his own late stoppage or a decision win.