WSOF 6 Recap: Revelations and Reflections
The (Totally Skip-able) Prelims Recap, Sprinkled Sparingly With Self-Reference
f Ray Sefo and company at the World Series of Fighting were looking for an action-packed card to keep their momentum going forward, they certainly got what they wanted with WSOF 6: Burkman vs. Carl. Many fighters left the WSOF decagon having been temporarily relieved of their consciousness this last Saturday night at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, as the attending crowd, the online prelim viewers and the live NBC broadcast audience at home were treated to one of the most consistently action-packed cards of the year.
The preliminary bouts set the pace for the evening with two first-round finishes, both exactly two minutes and two seconds into their respective matches. First, Alexandre Pimentel felled Jade Porter with a super slick triangle choke. In the following match, the amicable veteran fighter, South Florida resident and MMA Owl interview subject Fabio Mello got caught and laid out cold by a head kick/ground strike combo knockout finish courtesy of undefeated fighter Nick LoBosco that was, to put it delicately, fucking brutal. In the next match, Josh Rettinghouse narrowed out a victory over Alexis Vila, scoring a 29-28 unanimous decision on all three judge scorecards. Chad “Robo” Robichaux, who graciously granted us an interview before the fight, sent the previously undefeated Andrew Yates into slumberville following a gorgeous sweep into a north-south choke in the second round. UFC transplant Jacob Volkmann fared poorly against Shooto, Pride, Dream and CFA veteran Luiz “Buscape” Firmino, who extended his win streak to four with a unanimous decision.
Alas, Miguel Torres’ losing streak extended to three for the first time in his career, as he was submitted via guillotine choke in the first round by Pablo Alfonso, who now moves to three in a row. It was later reported that Torres may have suffered a shattered orbital bone, shelving him for the near future. It’s career future powwow time for the Torres camp; they need to figure out what to do moving forward, because something is, at this point, undeniably wrong.
The last preliminary match (which, due to scheduling, turned out to be the final match of the night), was a total fizzle. Hans Stringer, who would have won the fight otherwise, ball-kicked his way into a point deduction draw against Francisco France. Before the bout even started, however, it was evident that both light heavyweights had peaked hours before and the rescheduling had put a damper on their preparatory efforts. Sadly, what was the result of weeks of pre-fight training wound up being an asterisk next to both fighters’ records.
The main card was split down the middle, with two matches being very compelling and competitive and the other two being absolute blowouts. In the space below, I’ll run over each fight, in order, and discuss what we can take away from each bout.
Justin Gaethje vs. Dan Lauzon – A Brutal Trend Continues
With this fight, 24-year-old Justin Gaethje moved to 10-0 in his lightweight career against a talented and game proven finisher in Dan Lauzon, who was on a five-fight win streak going into their contest. Both men threw heavy leather, connecting regularly, however it was Gaethje’s leg kicks – specifically the brilliant angles he cut in making those leg kicks work – which inevitably won him the match, as they opened up every other route of striking offense on the way towards a conclusion that saw Gaethje land a right hook-right uppercut-right hammerfist finish that put the tough younger Lauzon brother out of the game.
Gaethje’s creative, varied strikes and pursuant movement displayed an outstanding offensive fight IQ, though I’d like to see him be more evasive and/or guarded in the future, defensively. Keeping those hands up to defect incoming head strikes will serve him both in maintaining his undefeated record and in increasing his longevity overall. At his age he may feel as if he can absorb the types of strikes that Lauzon tossed onto his cranium forever, but go and ask Chris Leben how that’s working for him now.
But at the moment, let’s just focus on how promising a fighter Gaethje actually is already. He’s incredibly marketable – a young undefeated striker with power in both his hands and his feet who’s willing to stay in the pocket and go to war and, as a former Division I All-American at Northern Colorado who grappled with MMA wrestling standouts George St. Pierre, Cub Swanson and Clay Guida before transitioning into the sport, he has the ability to keep it wherever he wants to.
What a scary prospect indeed.
Jon Fitch vs. Marcelo Alfaya – A Revelatory Performance
Let me start this off by saying that, while watching it live and on-site, I thought that Jon Fitch – who was one of the nicest and most candid interview subjects I’ve ever had – lost that fight. I reconsidered my original impression upon rewatching the fight from my couch at home, however I have a newfound sympathy for the cageside judges; not everything is so easy to determine without the absolute best angle possible from which to determine things. As with almost everything, subjectivity leaves room for certain errors to occur.
So yes, though the bout did swing in favor of Fitch via split decision, it was a close fight. More so, it was a revelatory one, as it opened my eyes to something of a trend I’ve seen occurring in the performances that the former #2-ranked welterweight in the world has put forth in recent memory: Fitch has begun to fare progressively worse against opponents who show they can – or at least threaten to be able to – take him down. Though he displayed ample grit, fortitude and adaptability in working his way out of early problems on the ground (this is a guy who went the distance, mostly on the defense, against arguably the greatest submission artist in the game in Demian Maia), he was in takedown-anticipation mode for the remainder of the fight after the first round, stifling his go-to mode of grinding away his opponent’s will by putting them in a similar defensive position.
Doubly revelatory was Fitch’s standup, which was practically forgotten by fans until Saturday night’s fight. On the feet, he put on a clinic, jabbing, crossing and uppercutting Alfaya artfully, landing at the very least 75 percent of his strikes. In total, he outstruck his opponent 38-9 in significant strikes and, had that been his strategy from the get-go, we could have seen the first TKO Fitch finish since mid-2006. Add to that his absolutely beautiful ground and pound technique and I wouldn’t be surprised if, after reviewing tape, Fitch, his good buddy Phil Baroni (who was in attendance and whose joy in seeing his friend start a new win streak was so heartwarming it was contagious) and the rest of the guys at AKA began retooling the welterweight stalwart’s strategy for future battles.
Marlon Moraes vs. Carson Beebe – Bad Strategy vs. Good Strategy
Not to take anything away from Marlon Moraes’ perfect performance on fight night, but Carson Beebe may have employed possibly the worst strategy of the night. His ill-advised straight-forward attack against the powerful puncher translated the first few strikes the Brazilian-to-South-Florida transplant landed into metaphorical death knells to the Schaumburg, IL fighter.
Moraes came out with footwork ideally designed to stifle a wrestle-sub guy like Beebe – sidestep-sidestep, punch-punch-punch. Lo and behold, when Beebe should’ve seen what he was doing wasn’t working and adjusted and didn’t, he got knocked out.
It works as a confirming lesson in effective maneuvering and strategy for Moraes and a constructive lesson in ineffective technique and the need for a plan-B for Beebe.
Josh Burkman vs. Steve Carl — Strength vs. Strength
Before I begin opining on this last matchup, I’d just like to acknowledge how excellent this match was, and it’s solely attributable to the fighters involved. Both of these guys went out there, expectations be damned, and fought in the moment, neither one shying away from engaging in areas that may have catered to the other’s strengths. Sure, Burkman (whose exclusive MMA Owl interview is worth a read) didn’t dive stupidly into Carl’s guard and Carl didn’t throw careless haymakers at Burkman’s chrome dome, but both men respectfully, valiantly and agressively, and as a result the fight was the best of the evening.
There were a few identifiable foreshadowing trends that became stronger as the fight progressed. Among the first was Carl’s forward-moving aggression. It seemed as if Burkman was, for the entire first round and for the preponderance to the remaining three rounds, perpetually backing up. The exceptions to this were when Burkman threw combinations, at which point Carl began retreating. Were they to meet again, I would advise “The People’s Warrior” to press forward, stringing together strikes as often as possible.
Once they entered the clinch, though Carl would announce later he had experienced back issues and was unable to train in any capacity in the few weeks leading into the fight, it appeared Carl was the stronger of the two in close quarters, as he regularly overworked his opponent.
Inevitably it was that very pace and forward motion that determined the fight, wearing down Burkman until, in the fourth round, Carl caught Burkman in an absolutely beautifully executed triangle choke and, much like Burkman’s last opponent Jon Fitch, Burkman went out on his shield, going night-night, to be revived by the cageside medical staff.
(All photos courtesy of Sherdog.com except *, which appears courtesy of TheMMACorner.com)