LAS VEGAS -- It happened again: another victory by Rousimar Palhares, another controversial submission.
The bad blood between World Series of Fighting welterweight champion Palhares and Jake Shields culminated in the main event of WSOF 22 on Saturday at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. After being taken down in two rounds, Palhares retained his title with a slick, roll-up kimura in round three. However, in what has become a disturbing trend in Palhares’ fights, the submission was held a few seconds too long.
“I didn’t feel the tapping,” Palhares said after the bout. “When you are in the middle of the fight and feel the body against you, it’s hard to feel the tap.”
Before the shocking finish -- and an in-crowd brawl between the camps of Khabib Nurmagomedov and the Diaz brothers -- the showdown between the two grappling experts was easily one of WSOF’s most anticipated matches. It was expected to be a battle of Palhares’ leg locks versus Jake Shields’ seemingly impenetrable submission defense. What wasn’t anticipated was how everything turned out.
During the main event walkouts, an unexpected fracas between Numagomedov and Nate Diaz dissolved into a brief brawl that caught everyone in the arena off guard. By the time that dust settled, Shields and Palhares had just begun circling one another. Moments later, Shields took the champion down in what would be a grappling clinic in the first two rounds. Shields maintained top control and expertly strayed from putting himself in any danger by deploying ground and pound from within Palhares’ guard throughout the first round.
Just as everything settled outside of the cage, things were ramping up in the decagon. The second round found Shields again taking Palhares down, but this time the champion was able to land some elbows off his back and cut Shields over his eye. Shields maintained control and mounted the champion, but it appeared that Palhares was gouging and raking at his opponent’s eyes. Referee Steve Mazzagatti called a halt to the action, even though Shields was in a dominant position, and gave Palhares a stern warning (along with an extended break). When the action resumed, Palhares took advantage of the break and bucked Shields out of mount. In the ensuing scramble, Palhares snared his opponent’s leg but Shields managed to escape danger.
Shields was visibly angered between rounds and blinking from the eye pokes. When the third frame began, Shields went back to the takedowns and seemingly had success. However, once the fighters made it to their feet, Palhares -- who has never scored a knockout -- began throttling Shields with heavy punches. The champion snatched Shields’ arm during a takedown and nimbly rolled into a kimura, forcing Shields to tap out at the 2:02 mark.
Palhares did not immediately disengage and continued to crank the arm. When he finally released the hold, an exasperated Shields punched Palhares’ face out of frustration.
“He’s a dirty fighter,” Shields said afterward. “Not only is he a dirty fighter, but he poked me in the eye eight times. I told the ref but he didn’t stop. I have never had a fight like that in 40 fights. He’s a good fighter but still dirty as f--k.”
It is not known what kind of disciplinary action, if any, will come down on Palhares for the eye gouging and extended submission hold, or Shields for striking Palhares after the bell.
Moraes Keeps Belt with 3rd-Round Sub
In a battle of Brazilian bantamweights with the last name Moraes, WSOF champion Marlon Moraes retained his title with an impressive, third-round submission of previously unbeaten Sheymon Moraes.
It was an intriguing matchup between the stalking striker in Sheymon and the more creative striker in Marlon, but the champion impressed with crisp counters and leg kicks that kept his opponent at bay. However, Sheymon had a plan that revolved around landing the body kick to slow the champion down. In the first round, Marlon clipped the Team Nogueira fighter with a counter left hook during an exchange. Another exchange in the second frame saw Marlon drop Sheymon with a left right combination. Sheymon would pop up to his feet but another hook from the champion nearly put him out. But the challenger proved to have a stone chin, recovering quickly to continue his assault of body kicks.
In the third frame, things slowed down as Sheymon continued to stalk the champion and whip several body kicks into his torso. But a furious exchange between the two ended with Marlon crushing Sheymon with a hook that put down the Brazilian. Marlon wasted no time following the challenger to the ground and sinking in a rear-naked choke. Sheymon valiantly attempted to get to his feet but collapsed in a heap and tapped out at the 3:46 mark.
With his 10th victory in a row, Moraes remains unbeaten in his WSOF campaign and proves to be one of the best bantamweights on the planet.
Starks Upsets Kyle Despite Short Notice
Clifford Starks jumped at the opportunity to face Mike Kyle on short notice after Thiago Silva was denied a license to fight in the state of Nevada. The Arizona Combat Sports fighter made good on that decision as he scored the upset with a unanimous decision victory. It was a dreadfully slow paced fight that saw neither fighter do much of anything. However, Starks -- who defeated Jake Heun at WSOF 19 -- had an excuse, with him stepping up three days before the fight. Kyle, on the other hand, did not. It would only take a few takedowns and some counter strikes to sway the judges in favor of Starks, who had his hand raised with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Nurmagomedov Overwhelms Moreno in WSOF Debut
Making his WSOF debut, Abubakar Nurmagomedov proved his worth with relentless wrestling and accurate striking to overwhelm Jorge Moreno and earn a unanimous decision victory. The younger brother of Khabib Nurmagomedov was everywhere that Moreno moved from the outset as it started with a massive slam that led to a number of takedowns. Whenever the spirited but overmatched Moreno made it to his feet, the Russian would slam heavy fists into his face before getting inside for a takedown. Moreno desperately tried to get Nurmagomedov off of him but could manage little more than a weak submission attempts and getting clipped on the feet. In the end, it was Nurmagomedov getting his first WSOF victory (10-1 overall) as he took home the victory with scores of 30-26, 30-26 and 30-27.
Mamedov Pounds Out Spicuzza
Islam Mamedov wasted no time imposing his will and wrestling ability in a first-round finish of Jimmy Spicuzza. Mamedov took his time and picked his spots before dragging the fight to the mat. After a failed guillotine by Spicuzza, Mamedov kept top control until the Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu fighter made a fatal mistake during a scramble and gave up his back. Mamedov mounted him, sunk his hooks in, flattened him out and proceeded to deliver a nasty assault of ground and pound until the fight was called to a halt at 4:47.
In lightweight action, Xtreme Couture’s Gil Guardado (4-1) survived an early assault to catch Wand Fight Team’s Pete Martin (5-4) with first-round guillotine choke at the 3:31 mark. Cory Hendricks (3-0) of Syndicate MMA made short work of Bushido MMA’s Julio Hinojosa (3-2) with a barrage of punches and kicks before putting his opponent to sleep with a guillotine choke at 1:08 in the first round of their light heavyweight tilt. Wand Fight Team representative Marco Simmons (1-0) made his professional debut an impressive one by dominating Xtreme Couture’s Jimmy Jones (4-4) in the standup and ground game en route to a second-round finish via rear-naked choke (2:23) in their catchweight showdown. Wand Fight Team flyweight Donavon Frelow (5-0) kept his unbeaten record intact by welcoming Xtreme Couture’s Carlos Garcia (0-1) to WSOF in the rudest way possible with a submission via guillotine choke at the 2:49 mark in the first round. After a slow pair of rounds, American Top Team’s Jake Heun relied on his wrestling to get the come from behind third-round submission against Davin Clark with an arm-triangle choke at 2:46 in a battle of light heavyweights.