One of World Series of Fighting (WSOF)'s stars in lightweight champion Justin Gaethje returns to the cage against top WSOF contender Luis 'Baboon' Palomino. Gaethje will not only look to defend his title, but keep his undefeated record in tact as he attempts to move his overall record to 14-0. The card also features two UFC veterans in Thiago Silva and Matt Hamill as they face off in a light heavyweight tournament bout.
What: WSOF 19: Gaethje vs. Palomino
Where: Comerica Theatre, Phoenix, Arizona
When: Saturday, the five-fight preliminary card streams live on MMA Fighting at 6 p.m. ET and the four-fight main card goes live on NBC Sports at 9 p.m. ET.
Justin Gaethje vs. Luis Palomino
Gaethje is a talented fighter who is a ton of fun to watch. His offensive pressure is overwhelming and a bit reckless, which makes for a wild combination. But it's just that: a bit on the reckless side. I keep waiting for someone to take advantage of that with angular movement and counterstriking, but credit to the champion, his relentless pressure forces opposition to fight him on his terms as they just try to survive. Someone is eventually going to counter Gaethje. I'm just not sure it's Palomino.
Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hamill
It's hard to know what either fighter can really offer and if they've prepared properly. When long-time UFC fighters fall below the UFC level, either from failure or career problems, they sometimes soar at the subsequent level. But sometimes they don't, either due to inability or a lack of interest. It's hard to ever be sure what we'll get with these two. Silva should have adequate takedown defense. If Hamill is anything like we know him to be more recently, he'll likely gas fairly quickly. But if I told you I was confident about this pick as I wrote it, I'd by lying.
I like West's style of fighting a lot. He might be the first MMA fighter to hit a berimbolo (modified one, anyway) in a televised bout and it's because he's submission active, to say the least. That said, he's about to hit a wall in Valiev. The Dagestani fighter will likely stop all of most of West's takedown attempts while boxing him up at range.
This is a tough call as it's still not really clear where either guy really tops out at, but I'll go with Holder. I always have serious misgivings about a fighter who has all of his wins (and in this case, one loss) in the first round, but I have even more for Heun given his ability to be overwhelmed by the kind of heavy-handed pressure fighter Holder is.
Arizmendi is coming in on short notice from an extended career layoff against a much better athlete and smothering wrestler. All things being what they are, Starks should cruise here.