WSOF puts on two title fights this Saturday as champion Branch seeks to defend his middleweight belt while the vacant welterweight title is up for grabs.
What: WSOF 30: Branch vs. Starks
Where: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Saturday, the six-fight preliminary card streams live on MMA Fighting at 8:30 p.m. ET and the four-fight main card goes live on NBC at 11:30 p.m. ET.
Starks is a perfectly capable wrestler, but Branch's ascendancy to two-division champ is not a story that gets enough discussion (guilty as charged). I could see Starks having his moments here with positional control along the fence or even on top, but a) I can't see him doing much once he gets there and b) that's not enough offense against what Branch will return in kind. The New Yorker in Branch can do it all to at least some decent degree, which gives him options and offense in spaces where Starks has none. Over time, that should win out.
Fitch did succumb to the heel hook attacks of Rousimar Palhares and, if nothing else, Zeferino is an adept heel hooker. That said, Zeferino's game and body type are obviously quite different from Palhares'. I spoke to Fitch this week on my radio show and he assured me his preparation for the very thing Zeferino does well - and his understanding of how it differs from Palhares' - was on point. At 38 years of age, there's some reason to be skeptical of that, especially over the course of a five-round fight. I'm not picking Fitch with extraordinary confidence, but he did look just good enough against Yushin Okami to give me cause to think he'll grind out another decision victory.
Both fighters here are on a bit of a career rebound and Magalhaes has had moments where he underperformed, but Heun seems overmatched here. Heun might be able to defend the takedown for a while and even hurt the Brazilian on the feet by catching him in over pursuit, but in all likelihood, Magalhaes grappling - even if he has to resort to desperation mode - should be more than enough to get the job done.
This one has to be the biggest lock of the main card, right? Azaitar is a battle-tested prospect (although he's older than most prospects) who proved his worth on shows like ACB and is now making his WSOF debut. He has extremely heavy hands and excellent finishing skills. Davis is a .500 fighter on a two-fight losing streak. MMA is crazy and anything can happen, but this seems about as much of a foregone conclusion as one can have in the sport.