For the first few years after its November 2012 launch, World Series of Fighting had quite a few things going for it: a broadcast deal with NBC Sports Network, apparently deep pockets and a fairly amicable relationship with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As such, its early events tended to feature a mix of recognizable UFC veterans and home-grown talents, and WSOF 3 was no exception. The home-grown talent was provided by the savagely entertaining Justin Gaethje, then just 8-0, while the event was headlined by a rematch between Jon Fitch and Joshua Burkman.
Fitch and Burkman had met all the way back in April 2006 at UFC Fight Night 4, with Fitch prevailing via rear-naked choke in the waning moments of the second round. While it might be a stretch to say anyone had been clamoring for the two to run it back, it was an impressively high-level headliner for the upstart promotion’s third event. Fitch was a former UFC welterweight title challenger whose dismissal was clearly due more to his grinding fight style and history of discontent with the promotion’s business practices than to any decline in skills, while Burkman was a longtime fringe contender who had gone on a 7-1 run since his own release from the UFC.
Where the first fight had been a largely dominant performance by Fitch, the rematch was complete domination by Burkman, but on a much more compressed time scale. “The People’s Champ” rocked Fitch badly with a short right, then pounced and slapped on a standing guillotine, falling to half guard. After a few seconds of working to extricate himself, Fitch went out, unnoticed by referee Steve Mazzagatti, who coincidentally had been the referee in their first meeting as well. Burkman was forced to release the hold and shove Fitch’s unconscious form off of himself like a disagreeable blanket as Mazzagatti waved the fight off, 41 seconds into the first round but several seconds too late.