Give Jon Fitch credit: He rarely diverts from his plan.
Takedowns, periods of mild ground-and-pound and suffocating positional control carried the former UFC welterweight title challenger to a unanimous decision over Yushin Okami in the World Series of Fighting 24 headliner on Saturday at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. Scores were 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27, all for Fitch (27-7-1, 3-2 WSOF).
Okami (30-10, 1-2 UFC) set up shop in his comfort zone in the first round, where he jockeyed for position in the clinch and stymied his opponent in close quarters. His situation deteriorated from there. Fitch struck for multiple takedowns in the second and third rounds, bottling up Okami on the mat while bleeding time off the clock and testing his resolve.
The Japanese veteran reversed position late in round three but snatched an ill-conceived guillotine and wound up on his back, his last chance at victory slipping through his hands.
In the co-main event, 2008 combat sambo world champion Blagoy Ivanov put away Derrick Mehmen with second-round punches to retain the WSOF heavyweight title. Mehmen (19-7, 3-2 WSOF) wilted 4:33 into round two.
Ivanov (13-1, 2-0 WSOF) benefitted from an inadvertent clash of heads in the first round, but his powerful left hand was the story. The Bulgarian battered Mehmen for the better part of nine minutes, as he had him bleeding from the nose and from a cut near his left eye. Ivanov sent a sweeping left hook crashing into the American’s face late in round two, and Mehman was in immediate distress. He fled to the fence and then the canvas, where the 30-year-old was met with a fight-ending flurry of punches.
Meanwhile, heralded prospect Magomed Bibulatov married traditional striking techniques with more exotic spinning attacks and timely takedowns, as he captured the inaugural WSOF flyweight championship with a unanimous decision over Donavon Frelow. All three cageside judges scored it 50-45 for the unbeaten Bibulatov (10-0, 1-0 WSOF).
Frelow (5-1, 2-1 WSOF) boxed effectively but struggled with output, his offense often limited to single punches and kicks. Bibulatov spent 25 minutes showing off a wide range of skills, from repeated spinning back kicks to the body and spinning backfists to the head to crisp counters and stinging jabs. The Chechen even mixed in a cartwheel kick and a jumping spinning back kick. Frelow always seemed one move behind. Bibulatov executed takedowns in all five rounds, using his opponent’s desperation and aggression against him.
The light heavyweight showcase between Vinny Magalhaes and Matt Hamill did not last nearly as long.
Magalhaes recorded his ninth win in 11 fights, as he submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 graduate with a first-round kneebar. Competing outside the Ultimate Fighting Championship for the first time in more than a decade, Hamill (11-6, 0-1 WSOF) tapped 68 seconds into round one.
Wobbled by a right uppercut, Magalhaes retreated to his back and lured “The Hammer” into his web. Hamill took the bait and wandered into the kneebar while trying to get his ground-and-pound in gear. Following a brief struggle, submission became his only option. Hamill, 39, has lost four of his last five bouts. He had never before been submitted.
Elsewhere, Nick Newell leaned on takedowns and positional control in banking a unanimous decision over Tom Marcellino in a featured showdown at 155 pounds. All three judges arrived at the same verdict: 29-28 for Newell (13-1, 4-1 WSOF).
Rounds one and two belonged to Newell, as he jumped to a mounted guillotine and then transitioned to an attempted armbar in the first before advancing to the back and setting his hooks in the second. However, the 29-year-old ran out of gas in the third, where Marcellino (7-4, 0-3 WSOF) trapped him in a full-guard guillotine and later bludgeoned him with a few standing-to-ground punches. Neither sequence resulted in the finish he needed.
In preliminary action, former WSOF featherweight champion Rick Glenn (16-3-1, 4-1 WSOF) knocked out Adam Ward (15-8, 0-1 WSOF) with ground-and-pound 1:27 into round two of their encounter at 145 pounds.
Marcos Alexandre Campos de Almeida (17-5, 1-0 WSOF) submitted Bellator MMA veteran Saul Almeida (18-6, 1-1 WSOF) with a rear-naked choke 1:23 into the first round of their featherweight scrap; “The Ultimate Fighter 16” winner Colton Smith (6-4, 1-0 WSOF) claimed a unanimous verdict from Washington Nunes da Silva (5-2, 0-1 WSOF) in their three-round welterweight tilt, drawing 30-26 scores across the board; Wai Kru MMA’s Patrick Walsh (7-2, 1-0 WSOF) earned a unanimous decision against Tyler King (9-4, 0-1 WSOF) in their three-round heavyweight tilt, earning 30-27 marks from all three judges; Cage Fury Fighting Championships alum Rex Harris (8-2, 1-0 WSOF) eked out a split verdict -- 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 -- over Justin Torrey (7-2, 0-1 WSOF) in their matchup at 185 pounds; and Bruce Boyington (11-8, 1-0 WSOF) took a split decision -- 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 -- from Rodrigo Almeida (12-3, 0-1 WSOF) in their featherweight pairing.