MMA's number three promotion returns this evening with several new UFC veterans in their stable and a semi-bizarre if very compelling main event between a former top UFC welterweight and UFC heavyweight champion.
Can Andrei Arlovski continue his path of redemption after leaving Strikeforce? Is Anthony Johnson destined to be the next big thing with a win over Arlovski? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for tonight's events.
What: WSOF II
When: Saturday, the NBC Sports-televised card begins at 10 p.m. Eastern. However, MMAFighting.com will carry the preliminary fight card beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Revel Resort & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Andrei Arlovski vs. Anthony Johnson
What a weird fight. It's a fight so weird, no one really knows what to make of it. My hunch is that trying to fight at a weight where you're not comfortable or at least not practiced is not the best idea. Johnson should ideally have the speed advantage, but he's fighting while carrying a fairly high amount of weight. I can't confess to thinking this is an optimal way to compete.
Arlovski's chin has been tapped enough times to cause concern, but he's also patient at times. I suspect he's going to lay back here while waiting for Johnson to get tired, out of position or simply countered in the immediate exchanges. Regardless, I see the fighter who despite his many flaws, still has enough juice for this rather strange match-up.
This is a well-matched fight and a fairly difficult one to call. Ultimately I'm forced to side with the Brazilian. Moraes has weaknesses, particularly in submission defense and back-takes. That's not a skill set where Nam necessarily thrives. I'm not going to call his knockout of Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas a fluke necessarily, but this bout presents an entirely new set of challenges. Expect Moraes to get tagged a number of times along the way, but do enough to earn a decision nod.
I just don't know what to say about Filho anymore. I'm not that high on Branch necessarily, but I'm basically forced to pick him because it's not entirely clear Filho has the goods to get much done in good professional MMA. Branch should have enough defensive wrestling and submission neutralization on top to not make this much of a contest. And if he can avoid a wild punch from Filho, the stand up is his to lose as well.
Josh Burkman vs. Aaron Simpson
I don't expect much from this bout. Burkman could conceivably knock him out with an errant punch, but more than likely Simpson wrestles his way to a decision.
Gesias Cavalcante vs. Justin Gaethje
Gaethje holds his hands a little low for my tastes, but I suspect he's being brought into this bought with a promoter's design. That can often lead to disaster, but there's good reason to think that won't happen this time. Gaethje is a very capable MMA wrestler (especially given his amateur background) with quick hand speed and excellent power. Cavalcante a few years ago would've walked over someone like Gaethje, but not anymore. I'll take the young buck in a tough, hard fought decision.