Justin Gaethje is 3-0 with three finishes since joining the World Series of Fighting. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
The World Series of Fighting will return to the Sunshine State on Saturday, when WSOF 8 goes down from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. The show’s main draw airs live on NBC Sports Network, while the undercard streams immediately prior on Sherdog.com.
Here is what to watch for at WSOF 8:
Justin Gaethje seems to be improving with every fight, and I find it slightly unsettling.
The prospect was impressive as a greenhorn, but he has looked like a straight killer during his WSOF run. Gaethje made his promotional debut in March, cutting Gesias Cavalcante and forcing the cageside doctor to wave off the contest. The 10-fight pro next disposed of onetime Ultimate Fighting Championship talent Brian Cobb, chopping down “The Bandit” with leg kicks in June before separating Dan Lauzon from his consciousness on Oct. 26. The hard-hitting southpaw was originally scheduled to rematch “JZ” for the inaugural lightweight title at WSOF 8, but that booking was soon scrapped due to a Cavalcante injury. Lewis Gonzalez was then called upon to face Gaethje, but he was also forced to withdraw.
Now paired with up-and-comer Richard Patishnock, Gaethje should find favor with the bookmakers ahead of the show. Can the prospect take care of his business and cement his status as the WSOF’s top lightweight?
With a victory over Mike Kyle, Anthony Johnson will receive a shot at the WSOF’s inaugural light heavyweight title, according to World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo.
Though Johnson has explicitly stated he is solely focused on Kyle, it is undeniable that this bout holds great significance for his career. Johnson’s contract with the WSOF will be complete after his fight with “Mak,” and I would imagine the Blackzilians rep and his management will then perform their due diligence at the negotiating table.
If “Rumble” is victorious, he will not only be next in line for a crack at the gold, but he will also hold more leverage if he decides to sign another deal. Johnson is one of the promotion’s most recognizable names, and his profile would no doubt continue to rise if he ends this fight in spectacular fashion.
Jessica Aguilar is regarded by many as the sport’s top 115-pound talent, and while it may seem like a waste for her to fight in the WSOF as the UFC opens its new strawweight division, “Jag” certainly does not look at it that way.
Everything I have heard from Aguilar has indicated she is content with her decision to sign with the WSOF. The former Bellator MMA talent is now poised to stand tall as the face of the organization’s newborn women’s division on the strength of two victories over Megumi Fujii, arguably the greatest female fighter this sport has ever known.
The difficult aspect of this situation for Aguilar is that due to the WSOF’s current lack of depth at 115 pounds, it appears she will be placed in some tough situations. If she continues to win, fine. That is what is expected. If she loses, however, it will likely be to a fighter without the name recognition to justify the defeat.
Even so, I am interested to see what awaits “Jag” in the WSOF decagon, and you should be, too.
Patishnock, Kyle and Alida Gray are not favored to win their fights, but do not be surprised if one of these underdogs bucks the bookmakers.
Patishnock was already training for a fight with Luis Palomino when he got the call to replace Gonzalez, so the lightweight should be in good shape when the cage door shuts, despite the short-notice nature of his new bout. The seven-fight pro has acquitted himself well thus far in his WSOF stint, finishing Igor Gracie in March and then outpointing Igor’s brother, Gregor Gracie, on Sept. 14.
In the co-headliner, Kyle could be looking at his biggest victory in recent memory, should he overcome the hard-hitting Johnson. After retiring at the beginning of 2013, Kyle promptly un-retired and went 1-1 in his next two fights, demolishing Travis Wiuff before dropping a hard-fought decision to former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski.
Meanwhile, Gray will look to knock Aguilar from her perch and forcibly insert herself into the strawweight top 10 in just her fifth pro fight. The 36-year-old brings an elite judo background and serious punching power into her WSOF debut. She may well be the stronger competitor on fight night, and if her vicious knockout of Soannia Tiem is any indication, Aguilar would be foolish to drop her hands at any point.
Which, if any, of these underdogs will win the day and shake up their division?
Cody Bollinger and Tyson Nam are both exciting bantamweight talents, but I do not think either of them can afford a loss right now.
Bollinger saw his star fall hard as a member of “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” eating his way out of the fighter house and quitting during his weight cut -- a maneuver that would later be replicated by Anthony Gutierrez. Nam, meanwhile, put five years of pro competition to good use in knocking out Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas in August 2012. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, his next fight would end with him staring up at the lights after running into a buzzsaw named Marlon Moraes.
Bollinger now has the opportunity to show people he should not be defined by a single moment of weakness. Likewise, Nam can prove that his victory over Dantas was no fluke with a win over the much-hyped 22-year-old. Which 135-pounder will avoid his second loss in his last three fights?