David Branch mapped out the path to his latest conquest with his hands.
The Renzo Gracie protégé battered and abused Vinny Magalhaes for the better part of five rounds, as he retained the World Series of Fighting light heavyweight championship with a one-sided unanimous decision in the WSOF 33 headliner on Friday at the Municipal Auditorium Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. Branch (19-3) carried all three scorecards by a comfortable 50-44 margin, earning his ninth straight win.
Virtually nothing went right for Magalhaes (14-8). Branch paired a punishing left jab with two- and three-punch flurries, as he kept the 2011 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist on his heels. He leveled Magalhaes with a lunging left hook in the second round and seemed to be closing in on a finish on more than one occasion. The challenger was never the same. Branch spent rounds three, four and five picking apart the Brazilian from the outside with his jab and ripping intermittent left hooks to the head.
Afterward, Magalhaes announced his retirement from mixed martial arts competition.
In the catchweight co-main event, Joao Zeferino cut down Jason High with third-round punches. High (20-6) succumbed to blows 51 seconds into round three, and while he was clearly dazed, he was lucid enough to immediately protest referee Marc Wasem’s decision to call for the stoppage.
Zeferino (21-8) extricated himself from a guillotine choke inside the first 30 seconds, slowly gained control of the match and kept his opponent off-balance with takedowns, positional control and ground-and-pound. Early in round three, High buzzed the Brazilian’s tower with a stiff punch but left his own head unguarded. Zeferino was quick on the counter and sent a right hand plunging into High’s face, dropping “The Kansas City Bandit” where he stood. He then swarmed the punches until Wasem had seen enough.
The victory snapped Zeferino’s two-fight losing streak.
Meanwhile, onetime Victory Fighting Championship titleholder Brian Foster tapped Luiz Firmino with a surprising triangle choke in the first round of their lightweight attraction. Firmino (19-7) conceded defeat 3:14 into round one, as the Blackzilians standout was submitted for the first time in more than six years.
Foster (27-9) forced the Brazilian to retreat to his back with a quick punching burst but wandered into his guard in his haste to administer a beating. Firmino swept into top position under the threat of a leg lock but failed to capitalize on his newfound prosperity. After a brief struggle from his back, Foster set the triangle choke, cut off the exit and brought it to a close.
The 32-year-old Foster has rattled off nine wins over his last 12 appearances.
Elsewhere, American Kickboxing Academy export Abubakar Nurmagomedov cruised to a fifth consecutive victory, as he outpointed former Ring of Combat champion John Howard to a unanimous decision in a featured bout at 170 pounds. All three cageside judges sided with Nurmagomedov (13-1): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Howard (24-13) had issues in all phases. Nurmagomedov operated behind a crisp and consistent jab, mixed in occasional leg kicks and executed takedowns in all three rounds. The 26-year-old was within arm’s reach of a finish in the second round, where he floored Howard with a short, sweeping elbow and jumped into half guard with a follow-up attack in mind. “Doomsday” withstood the assault but lacked the horsepower necessary to turn the tide in his favor.
Howard, 33, has lost five of his past seven fights.
Finally, American Top Team’s Shawn Jordan made a successful promotional debut, as he disposed of reigning CES MMA champion Ashley Gooch with first-round punches in their heavyweight showcase. Gooch (10-5) wilted 4:40 into round one, his eight-fight winning streak having run its course.
Jordan (19-7) staggered the 41-year-old MMA Lab rep with right hands before executing a takedown inside the first 90 seconds. He settled in half guard, cut loose with his ground-and-pound and ultimately advanced to the back. Jordan then flattened out Gooch and prompted the stoppage with a volley of unanswered punches.
In other action, Timur Valiev (11-2) pocketed a unanimous verdict over Chris Gutierrez (9-2-1) in their rematch at 135 pounds, sweeping the cards with 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 scores; Bekbulat Magomedov (17-1) took a unanimous decision from Jesse Brock (22-9) in a three-round bantamweight affair, drawing 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 nods from the judges; Abu Azaitar (13-1-1) captured a unanimous verdict over Michael Arrant (15-12) in their welterweight battle, earning 30-27 marks on all three scorecards; Magomed Magomedkerimov (18-5) eked out a split decision -- 30-27, 28-29, 30-27 -- against Bobby Cooper (12-7) in a 15-minute clash at 170 pounds; and Bryce Mitchell (7-0) submitted Brandon Phillips (6-2) with a triangle choke 3:14 into the second round of their featherweight pairing.