There was probably no more controversial cut in UFC history than a few months back when Jon Fitch was given his walking papers with a 14-3-1 record, and a top 10 ranking in the welterweight division.
The controversy came to a head once again this week as Fitch was ready to make his first fight outside the UFC since he was an unknown back in 2005. UFC President Dana White had cited Fitch's 1-2-1 record in his prior four fights and his age, 35, as reasons. Fitch aired out a series of grievances during his time in UFC.
But Fitch (27-6-1, 1 no contest) ran into the wrong guy Saturday night in at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to try and make the decision look bad. Josh Burkman (26-9) choked him completely unconscious with a guillotine in only 41 seconds.
As much as the result of the main event of the third show put on by the World Series of Fighting was shocking, the method was even more so. Fitch was thought to be impossible to choke out. In practice, he'd routinely give his back to the best Jiu Jitsu fighters he could find and nobody could ever finish him. From a statistical standpoint, nobody in the UFC had successfully defended as many submission attempts as Fitch without ever being finished once.
The only time he had ever been finished in his career by submission was in his first pro fight back in 2002 against Mike Pyle. In recent years, he had battled B.J. Penn, Georges St-Pierre, Demian Maia, Thiago Alves and others with strong submission ability and was never once in danger of being finished. He was only finished once in 18 UFC fights via knock out to Johny Hendricks.
"I got knocked off balance with a punch or elbow I think he caught me with," said Fitch. "I went for the lift instead of fighting the choke. I got a little too overconfident with my choke defense and I was going to try to slam him but he locked it in too tight, a mistake on my part. I should have fought the choke right away."
Fitch had beaten Burkman via choke in their previous meeting on April 6, 2006, at a UFC show in Las Vegas.
"I feel really good, I'm thinking, Is this real life?" said Burkman after his hand was raised.
Having beaten former UFC fighters Gerald Harris, Aaron Simpson and Fitch on the three WSOF shows thus far, the latter two with spectacular first-round stoppages, suddenly it has to be questioned whether Burkman isn't one of the most underrated fighters around. Burkman, who competed in the second season of Ultimate Fighter back in 2005, was bounced by UFC himself after three straight losses in 2008. Since then, the former junior college football All-American running back has gone 8-1, seemingly looking more impressive each time out.
"I really have a great team, great coaches, I really believe my performances are just a reflection of the way I'm living my life," said Burkman, whose wife's birthday is Saturday and he joked that it takes a brave man to fight the day before. "I didn't want to go for this choke, but I just felt it was tight. I just stood, up, felt it was really tight, and I locked it in when he grabbed that leg."
Both came out swinging immediately and Burkman knocked Fitch down with a left and right hook, and followed with punches on the ground before grabbing the guillotine. Fitch never tapped and ref Steve Mazzagatti didn't stop it. Fitch went out and Burkman recognized it, simply let go and stood up, with Fitch unconscious on the ground.
After the fight, Fitch noted that each had beaten the other with a choke, and campaigned for a rematch.
"I think we should do it again," he said. "Let's do it for five (rounds) and let's do it for that belt (a proposed WSOF championship)."
During the television broadcast on NBC Sports, they pushed a fourth show for Aug. 10 in Ontario, CA, with WSOF President, 42-year-old Ray Sefo (2-1) announcing that he would be fighting 39-year-old Dave Huckaba (20-5). Sefo is a legend in kickboxing where he was one of the most popular fighters of the K-1 heyday in Japan.
"I want to compete in 100 fights," said Sefo. "I've got 93. I want to reach 100 and then call it quits."
Nick Newell (9-0), who became one of the best known small promotion fighters in the country because he has gone unbeaten while competing with the handicap of being born with a left arm that ends just past the elbow joint, debuts with WSOF on the same show.
The semifinal was nearly as quick as the main event as Steve Carl (20-3) stopped Tyson Steele (10-2) in just 1:32 with a choke. Carl landed punches, but was taken down. But as soon as the fight hit the ground, Carl reversed, got Steele's back, and choked him out.
"I feel pretty good, but at the same time, I wanted to come out here and wanted to put on a better show for the fans," said Carl. "I wanted to put on a good fight and get some cage time. I wanted to mix it up a little more with Steele. You could tell he wasn't too comfortable on his feet with me. He dove in with that shot, He got out of position. It was too easy and I just took it.
Former UFC fighter and three-time Division I All-Amercan wrestler Jacob Volkmann (16-4) won a convincing decision over former Strikeforce fighter Lyle "Fancy Pants" Beerbohm (21-3) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Beerbohm spent most of the fight trying, with little success, to take down the higher caliber wrestler. He paid for it during the first round, where Volkmann sprawled and maneuvered behind Beerbohm.
After a dull second round that consisted largely of Beerbohm pushing Volkmann in to the cage and doing little else, Volkmann clinched the fight in the third round. Volkmann this time did the shooting, and got Beerbohm's back. He locked on a body triangle and kept back position for the rest of the round, although was unable to finish.
Cobb got behind Gaethje in the first round and pounded on him with punches and elbows, having Gaethje in trouble on several occasions But Gaethje controlled the rest of the fight, with his most significant blows being low kicks. At 2:19 of the third round, Cobb signaled he wanted no more as he was barely able to stand from all the leg damage.