In a quiet spell for the sport where most of the major organizations aren't holding shows, WSOF changes the pace with their 24th show Saturday. The event features two title fights and what has to be considered a title shot eliminator in the main event. It's also something approximating a last stand for two veterans in Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami.
What: WSOF 24: Fitch vs. Okami
Where: Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, Connecticut
When: Saturday, the seven-fight preliminary card streams live on MMA Fighting at 5:30 p.m. ET and the five-fight main card goes live on NBC at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Who knows what to expect here? Neither fighter has looked amazing of late. The truly bizarre part for me is that Okami was an enormous middleweight. How is he going to look at welterweight? I suspect he'll make the weight, but I have a hard time believing he's going to have big power or strength advantages. My guess is Fitch is going to fight off takedown attempts against the fence to varying success, but will ultimately win with his jab, defense or Okami gassing.
Blagoi Ivanov vs. Derrick Mehmen
Ivanov's ability to compete in MMA at all after his stabbing incident is a miracle, but it's obviously changed him as an athlete. He's still quite good, but tends to gas in lengthier fights (in fairness, he is a heavyweight). The difference for me here is Ivanov should have enough ability in the clinch and on the ground to control Mehmen. The champion has a nice array of takedowns either from underhooks or by changing levels and attacking the hips. His top control is a little loose, but should be sufficient to get the job done.
Vinny Magalhaes vs. Matt Hamill
I thought Magalhaes looked awesome at ADCC this past year. He felt short against the heavy pressure of Orlando Sanchez, but otherwise showed a strong array of skills from top and bottom. I don't know how that's going to play out against Hamill, though. I'm not confident in the wrestler here. I'm more just unsure of where the bottom will drop out here for either fighter. I'll go with the Brazilian if for no other reason than he's shown some vitality a lot more recently.
Nick Newell vs. Tom Marcellino
This should be a fight Newell can win. Marcellino likes to keep the distance striking and is an active attacker, but moves in straight lines and doesn't have any overly dangerous weapons. He can do everything, including wrestle and submit, but not with the kind of lethality necessary to stand out. If Newell is patient and can mix up his own offense, he should be just fine.
Magomed Bibulatov vs. Donavon Frelow
This call is admittedly very speculative. Frelow is more limited than Bibulatov, but the areas he specializes in are tricky. He has a phenomenal guillotine choke, but more than that, a ton of offense from defense to it. He cracks opposition who are too busy hand fighting, or throws knees from there or uses it to set up fireman carries and more. Frelow is also incredibly strong and loves high-amplitude throws. That said, Bibulatov has more weapons. He loves the spinning back kick and double leg himself, which makes me wonder how the takedown battle is going to go. Ultimately, though, I suspect Bibulatov will avoid the most of Frelow's attacks en route to a title win.