The human blanket is back. At WSOF 24 in Mashantucket, Conn., the Jon Fitch of old showed up in full force, securing a unanimous decision victory over former-middleweight-turned-welterweight Yushin Okami.
It wasn't pretty, but with Fitch, it rarely is. Throughout his professional career, Fitch cashed his checks with his relentless takedowns and his smothering top game. Even at his highest peak - when he challenged for Georges St-Pierre's welterweight title at UFC 87 - Fitch was not the most athletic man in the cage. He never packed game-changing power in his fists (or shins, elbows or knees). His submissions weren't slick, polished and technical.
But more times than not, Fitch got the job done. That's just what he does. He neutralizes his opponent with a strategy that's one part high-level wrestling, one part iron will and all parts frustrating for opponents and fans alike. After taking Okami down multiple times throughout rounds two and three, it became clear that Fitch wasn't about to show off any new wrinkles.
He was who we thought he was: Jon Fitch, grappling extraordinaire, decision machine. He was simply too strong, too prepared and too motivated for Okami. While the former UFC middleweight title challenger controlled the pace in Round 1, he offered little resistance for the bout's final 10 minutes, and Fitch capitalized.
Now, Fitch gets the chance to turn this victory into gold, as he'll challenge WSOF welterweight Jake Shields for the promotion's vacant 170-pound strap.
Also on the WSOF 24 card, championships were earned (and retained). Kicking off the main card, Magomed Bibulatov defeated Donavon Frelow via unanimous decision to secure the promotion's inaugural flyweight strap.
Despite receiving low billing in the bout order, these two 125 pounders came to scrap, showcasing technical, well-rounded skillsets throughout their five-round tilt. Ultimately, Bibulatov's powerful throws and unorthodox combos on the feet won out, notching him the victory and running his professional undefeated record to 10-0.
Heavyweight Blagoy Ivanov will also take home a belt to shine tonight, as he retained his WSOF title against Derrick Mehman in devastating fashion. After delivering a thoroughly one-sided thrashing to Mehman's dome in Round 1, Ivanov sealed the deal in the fight's second frame, ending the fight with a left hook that sent his opponent tumbling defenseless to the canvas.
Before the heavyweights took the stage, lightweight Nick Newell earned a unanimous decision victory over Tom Marcellino. After the relatively languid three-round contest, Newell was announced the victor, and Marcellino was none too happy.
"Be a better sport. You lost, man," Newell told Marcellino in the cage after being denied an initial post-fight handshake.
Shortly after, reports circulated that Newell retired in the cage, a rumor confirmed by MMAFighting after the night's main event. The 29-year-old fighter will retire with a 13-1 record and two straight victories.
Rounding out the main card, Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Vinny Magalhaes forced Matt Hamill to tap out in short order. After eating some uppercuts and short blows from Hamill early, Magalhaes rolled for a leg, and the end was near. Just moments after locking onto Hamill's extended limb, the tap came, and Magalhaes was crowned the victor via first-round kneebar.
For his efforts, Magalhaes will fight Thiago Silva to determine the No. 1 contender to David Branch's 205-pound title.
"I think it's awesome," Magalhaes said upon hearing the news inside the cage. "Although Thiago is coming off a loss -- I'd like to fight somebody that's coming off a win--or wait for Branch, but it's not a big deal. I'll fight him."
On the undercard, Alexandre de Almeida earned a title shot against Lance Palmer with his submission win over Saul Almeida.