In a rare occurrence, World Series of Fighting will have the Saturday MMA landscape all to itself as their WSOF 19 card airs on NBC Sports Network from Phoenix, Arizona starting at 9pm ET. Recent events from the promotion have seen fewer and fewer recognizable fighters, but WSOF 19 features some name fighters, and a headlining title fight which should provide excellent action. One of the organization’s flagship fighters, Justin Gaethje, defends his lightweight title against Peruvian striker Luis Palomino in the main event. Gaethje and Palomino both hit hard, and are aggressive with their strikes, which should make for a very entertaining bout. The hope of MMA many fans is that Gaethje will eventually end up in the UFC, as after Palomino there isn’t much in the way of challenges for him at WSOF. This card also features the first round of WSOF’s light heavyweight tournament, and while a pair of very recognizable names was originally scheduled to compete, the company had to do some shuffling the day of the event as Matt Hamill was forced from his bout with Thiago Silva due to illness. Now, 8-1 Teddy Holder will step in to take on the former UFC light heavyweight title contender. Holder’s original opponent, Jake Heun, will now take on UFC veteran Clifford Starks, who was promoted from the preliminary card. Rounding out the main card is Russian import Timur Valiev taking on Bellator vet Ed West. Valiev has won all eight of his bouts since losing his pro debut, while West has lost four of his last five bouts. In an organization desperate to create challengers for Marlon Moraes, the matchmaking seems clear here, although West’s tricky style may put up more of a test than expected. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas posted updated betting lines for WSOF 19 today at Several Bookmakers. Check them out:
Brad’s Analysis: I think Luis Palomino is in a prime spot to turn WSOF’s lightweight division on its ear. He is a sharp striker with big power and good takedown defense, who could give Gaethje’s wild style some real problems. Gaethje is the better overall wrestler here, but he has rarely needed to use his wrestling in recent fights, and Palomino may be good enough to keep this on the feet anyway. If it does stay on the feet I think this is a 50/50 fight, so at these odds I have to take a shot at the challenger. I think Teddy Holder actually poses more of a threat to Thiago Silva than Matt Hamill did. Holder has more power than Hamill, but aside from that I don’t think he’ll be able to offer much. However, that’s still more danger than Hamill would have posed at this point in his career. Aside from that power, Holder is outclassed everywhere in this match so I do think Silva handles him relatively quickly. Heun’s biggest weakness still remains his submission defense, and Starks doesn’t have a huge submission arsenal, but Starks should still be the better wrestler here. My issue with that is Heun will be the bigger fighter, and that can help him defend some takedowns early and tire Starks out. We saw back in his UFC tenure that Starks doesn’t have the greatest cardio, and I think Heun can outlast him and actually come through as the underdog here. Ed West is essentially a point-fighter who is facing a far more skilled striker. That is not a recipe for success, and as I said earlier, I’m not sure WSOF necessarily wants him to have much success here. Valiev has a bit of juice as a prospect, and beating a somewhat recognizable name will be good for him and the promotion to build towards a title fight with Moraes. I think Valiev takes a comfortable decision, or maybe if West’s chin is on the way out (which it may not be, as there is no shame in getting KO’d by Mike Richman) he gets a stoppage.