Luis Palomino for the second time in six months threw everything he had at Justin Gaethje, and it was not enough.
Gaethje retained the World Series of Fighting lightweight championship, as he disposed of Palomino with second-round punches in the WSOF 23 headliner on Friday at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix. Palomino (23-11, 2-2 WSOF) succumbed to blows 4:30 into round two of the hotly anticipated rematch.
As was the case in their chaotic first encounter on March 28, neither man paid much attention to defense. They traded heavy fire -- Palomino hit the deck on the end of a right uppercut -- in the first round, but Gaethje (15-0, 8-0 WSOF) emerged from the exchanges in better shape. The 26-year-old Grudge Training Center rep scored with a belly-to-back slam takedown and rode the momentum into the second round. There, Gaethje absorbed a number of vicious shots to the body and floored the MMA Masters export with a short, savage right hook. He then followed Palomino to the canvas and connected with another jackhammer right that forced referee Ryan Brueggeman to act, despite the Peruvian challenger’s immediate protests.
Related » WSOF 23 Round-by-Round Scoring
Branch Chokes Holder, Reigns Atop Two Divisions
In the co-main event, David Branch submitted Teddy Holder with an opening-round rear-naked choke to capture the vacant World Series of Fighting light heavyweight championship and become the promotion’s first two-division titleholder. Branch (17-3, 7-0 WSOF), who also holds the WSOF middleweight crown, coaxed the tapout 2:21 into round one.
Holder (9-2, 1-1 WSOF) entered the cage on an eight-fight winning streak but lacked the wherewithal to deal with the Renzo Gracie-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Branch struck for a takedown inside the first 40 seconds and then postured, punched and passed to side control. The 33-year-old transitioned to Holder’s back, set his hooks and cinched the fight-ending choke.
Branch has rattled off seven consecutive wins.
Valiev Streak Reaches 10
Takedowns, ground-and-pound and a tireless work rate carried Jackson-Wink MMA prospect Timur Valiev to a unanimous decision over Tito Jones in a three-round bantamweight showcase. Valiev (10-1, 4-0 WSOF) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 nods from the judges, as he recorded his 10th straight victory.
Jones (11-8, 0-1 WSOF) punched sporadically and landed a flash knockdown in the first round, but he struggled with output throughout the 15-minute match, choosing to incessantly circle on the perimeter. Valiev delivered a takedown roughly three minutes into round two and put his ground-and-pound to work, feeding the Strikeforce alum punches, elbows, hammerfists and forearm strikes.
By the time the third round arrived, Jones had lost the spring in his step. Valiev scored with another takedown, settled in half guard and applied his ground-and-pound yet again.
‘Phoenix Jones’ Scissor Choke Submits Yong
AMC Pankration’s Ben Fodor, aka “Phoenix Jones,” submitted Roberto Yong with a first-round leg scissor choke in a featured catchweight matchup at 160 pounds. The Arizona-based Yong (2-3, 0-1 WSOF) conceded defeat 3:09 into round one.
Fodor (6-1-1, 1-1 WSOF) and Yong traded liberally on the feet, staggering one another more than once during their initial exchanges. “Phoenix Jones” executed a takedown midway through the first round, slid to north-south position and framed a kimura. Yong bucked to avoid the shoulder lock, only to wander into the scissor choke. The tap came quickly.
Yong has lost three fights in a row.
Foster KOs Burley in 32 Seconds
Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Brian Foster knocked out LaRue Burley in the first round of their lightweight showcase. Burley (6-1, 0-1 WSOF), the man best known for upsetting Bubba Jenkins under the Bellator MMA banner, met a violent, toe-curling end 32 seconds into round one.
Foster (23-7, 1-1 WSOF) showed no regard for the Power MMA Team standout’s skills. He buckled Burley with a two-punch combination, sucked him into a clinch and threatened a takedown. After they separated, Foster ducked out of danger and fired a right cross that folded Burley where he stood. A hammerfist fell next, resulting in the immediate stoppage.
The 31-year-old Foster has won nine of his last 11 bouts.
Prelims: Undefeated Vagabov Stops Grinnell
In preliminary action, Dagestani prospect Vagab Vagabov (16-0, 1-0 WSOF) remained undefeated, as he stopped Brian Grinnell (8-7, 0-1 WSOF) with second-round punches and knees 2:29 into the second round of their middleweight duel; Arizona Combat Sports rep Clifford Starks (13-2, 3-0 WSOF) claimed a unanimous decision against the previously unbeaten Krasimir Mladenov (12-1, 3-1 WSOF) in their three-round encounter at 185 pounds, drawing 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 scores from the cageside judges; Matthew Frincu (7-1, 1-0 WSOF) eked out a split verdict -- 30-27, 29-28, 28-29 -- over Xtreme Couture’s Danny Davis Jr. (11-9-1, 3-1 WSOF) in their three-round welterweight pairing; Rage in the Cage veteran David Nuzzo (8-1, 1-0 WSOF) took a unanimous decision from Andres Ponce (1-2, 1-1 WSOF) in their three-round bantamweight tilt, earning 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 marks from the judges; Joey Miolla (6-1, 1-0 WSOF) knocked out former King of the Cage champion Randy Steinke (15-10-1, 0-1 WSOF) with a head kick 3:55 into round two of their encounter at 135 pounds; and Fight Ready export Benny Madrid (8-3, 1-1 WSOF) submitted Jeff Fletcher (11-11, 0-1 WSOF) with a rear-naked choke 1:26 into the first round of their 160-pound catchweight clash.