LAS VEGAS -- Different organization, same outcome. Fighting for the first time since his unceremonious UFC release, leglock specialist Rousimar Palhares made quick of Steve Carl on Saturday night in the main event of WSOF 9, seizing the WSOF welterweight title in his debut fight with the promotion.
Palhares (16-5) secured a takedown off the opening bell and immediately took the fight to his old domain, the mat. Working from Carl's guard, Palhares shook off an armbar attempt before latching onto the American's right leg. Carl (21-4) rolled desperately to fight off the Brazilian, but at that point the tap was inevitable, and once Palhares cranked, it came quickly, forcing referee Yves Lavigne to yank Palhares away at 1:09 of the first round.
The stoppage officially came via inverted heel hook, Palhares' ninth career leglock victory.
"I'm so happy I won this title," he said through a translator afterward.
In the night's co-main event, bantamweight sensation Marlon Moraes (13-4-1) subjected the legs of Josh Rettinghouse (10-3) to a brutal, brutal sustained beating, earning Moraes the inaugural WSOF bantamweight title via a unanimous judges' decision.
Moraes, now an undefeated 5-0 in the WSOF cage, effectively rendered Rettinghouse's legs useless with a relentless salvo of low kicks, reminiscent to the walloping Urijah Faber took at the hands of Jose Aldo at WEC 48, before letting off the gas late. The Brazilian nearly finished his handiwork towards the latter stages of round three, pummeling Rettinghouse's legs and then swarming with punches and knees to the midsection once the American tumbled to the canvas, however, amazingly, Rettinghouse survived.
Several times throughout rounds four and five, Rettinghouse resorted to butt-scooting across the cage in an effort to stay off his legs, though he still managed to hang tough as Moraes dialed back his aggression until the final bell mercifully brought the contest to an end. All three judges scored it 50-44 in Moraes' favor.
"This was my first time going five rounds so I knew I had to save myself and conserve my energy," Moraes said.
"I respect him, he's stayed in there and didn't quit, but I'm the champion."
Fighting outside the UFC for the first time since 2006, top-10 middleweight Yushin Okami (30-8) outright dominated Bulgarian newcomer Svetlozar Savov (12-5) en route to a second-round submission finish -- his first submission win in eight years.
Okami achieved full mount early in the opening frame against Savov, then stayed there for a majority of the first and second round, methodically wearing down his overmatched opponent. With time running down late in the second, Okami finally made his move, locking in an arm triangle choke and jumping into side control to coax the tapout with 14 seconds left in the round.
"My gameplan was to use my striking game, but once we got going I saw that he had good distance so I was forced to change my gameplan," said Okami, who was unexpectedly released by the UFC in late-September following a loss to Jacare Souza.
"I don't have any plans for my next fight. I know there is talk about doing a show in Japan and I want to fight for a world title."
Elsewhere on the main card, Josh Burkman (27-10) wasted no time shaking off any leftover bad vibes from his failed title bid against Carl last October.
Burkman toppled Grudge Training Center product Tyler Stinson (27-10) with a wicked right hook midway through the bout's opening frame, then blasted his downed foe with one more looping right for good measure. Victorious, Burkman sauntered away, shrugging as referee Jason Herzog jumped in to save Stinson.
The official time of the stoppage came at 2:15 of round two.
"I think I am a highlight reel and I pride myself on that. I want to make my art look good and I always try to be entertaining," Burkman said.
"I'm not going to wait for a potential title shot. I want to fight."
In the night's televised opener, hometown product Johnny Nunez (5-0) kept his undefeated record intact, edging Ozzy Dugulubgov (5-2) to take a contentious split decision win.
Nunez spent much of the fight on his back, but avoided any significant danger and managed to stay busy with strikes from the bottom along with a pair of notable submission attempts, including a second-round sweep into a tight D'arce choke. Dugulubgov ended each of the three rounds with successful takedowns and controlled a majority of the action, however it wasn't enough to sway the scorecards in his favor.
Judge Glenn Trowbridge and judge Junichiro Kamijo respectively scored the contest 30-27 and 29-28 for Nunez, while judge Lester Griffin was the lone dissenter, scoring it 29-28 for Dugulubgov.
"I don't care what anybody says," Nunez said of the decision. "I'm not worrying about anyone but myself and my team."