Justin Gaethje aims to stay atop the WSOF’s 155-pound division. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Now comes the difficult part for Justin Gaethje.
The Grudge Training Center representative will defend the World Series of Fighting lightweight championship for the first time, when he meets Nick Newell in the WSOF 11 main event on Saturday at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. Between them, the two promising lightweights own a 22-0 combined record.
Gaethje has delivered nine of his 11 victories by knockout or technical knockout. The 25-year-old Arizona native last appeared at WSOF 8 in January, when he needed just 69 seconds to dispatch Richard Patishnock with elbows and punches to claim the vacant World Series of Fighting lightweight crown. Gaethje has compiled a 4-0 record since arriving in the WSOF promotion in March 2013.
A congenital amputee whose left arm ends just below the elbow, Newell moved into title contention with back-to-back guillotine choke-induced submissions. The 24-year-old former Xtreme Fighting Championships titleholder last fought at WSOF 7 in December, when he put away Sabah Fadai with a first-round guillotine at the PNE Agrodome in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Newell has finished 10 of his 11 opponents inside one round.
With the Gaethje-Newell title clash as the centerpiece, here are 10 facts surrounding WSOF 11:
FACT 1: Jon Fitch has landed 2,185 total strikes in Ultimate Fighting Championship competition, second only to Georges St. Pierre (2,523), according to FightMetric figures. He also ranks third on the promotion’s all-time list in career takedowns executed with 58, behind St. Pierre (87) and Gleison Tibau (71).
FACT 2: Dennis Hallman is the only man to ever submit UFC hall of famer Matt Hughes twice. The well-traveled “Superman” choked Hughes unconscious with a guillotine in 17 seconds at an Extreme Challenge event in October 1998 and then finished him with an armbar 29 seconds into round one of their UFC 29 rematch a little more than two years later.
FACT 3: Melvin Guillard since 2009 has trained with Jackson-Wink MMA, the Blackzilians, Grudge Training Center and American Top Team.
FACT 4: Two-time K-1 Hero’s grand prix winner Gesias Cavalcante has not recorded consecutive victories since winning eight straight between Dec. 3, 2005 and Sept. 17, 2007.
FACT 5: “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 alum Cody Bollinger was 15 years old when he debuted as a professional mixed martial artist at a Titans of the Pentagon show in 2006.
FACT 6: MMA Masters export Pablo Alfonso has competed in 12 different organizations during his 14-fight career: WSOF, Championship Fighting Alliance, Ruckus Entertainment, Jungle Fight, Strikeforce, Xtreme Fighting Championships, Square Ring Promotions, Revolution Fight Club, Reality Combat Championship, Costa Rica Fights, Absolute Fighting Championships and Badboy.
FACT 7: A staggering 27 of Luis Palomino’s 31 bouts have taken place in the state of Florida.
FACT 8: Lightweight T.J. O'Brien has secured 19 of his 20 pro victories by submission: 12 by triangle choke, four by rear-naked choke, two by guillotine choke and one by keylock.
FACT 9: Neiman Gracie is the 25-year-old nephew of Renzo Gracie and serves as an instructor at the two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission World Championships gold medalist’s academy in New York City.
FACT 10: Jake Heun played linebacker and running back in two seasons with the University of Hawaii football team.