David Branch has blossomed in the World Series of Fighting. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
David Branch wants to make some history as a two-division titleholder.
Branch -- the reigning World Series of Fighting champion at 185 pounds -- will meet Ronny Markes in the light heavyweight tournament semifinals, as they headline WSOF 20 on Friday at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Ledyard, Conn. The survivor will move on to face Teddy Holder, a surprise winner over Thiago Silva on March 28, for the vacant World Series Fighting light heavyweight crown.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, Branch has pieced together a five-fight winning streak since arriving in the WSOF in 2012. The 33-year-old last appeared at WSOF 15 in November, when he put away Yushin Okami with fourth-round punches at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla. Branch has delivered nine of his 15 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
Markes made his promotional debut at WSOF 12 in August, when he halted a two-fight losing streak with a three-round unanimous decision over Cully Butterfield at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A member of the Nova Uniao stable, the 26-year-old former Shooto Americas titleholder was released by the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2014 following consecutive defeats to Yoel Romero and Thiago Santos.
With the Branch-Markes showdown as the centerpiece, here are 10 facts surrounding WSOF 20:
FACT 1: The three men who have defeated Branch -- Anthony Johnson, Gerald Harris and Rousimar Palhares -- have 58 wins and 42 finishes between them.
FACT 2: Markes rattled off seven straight wins between Nov. 27, 2010 and Jan. 9, 2013, including victories over former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Paulo Filho and onetime Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder Andrew Craig.
FACT 3: Melvin Guillard (now off the card) has been submitted nine times: three times by rear-naked choke (Jim Miller, Joe Lauzon and Rich Clementi), three times by guillotine choke (Nate Diaz, Joe Stevenson and Carlo Prater), twice by triangle choke (Josh Neer and Santino Defranco) and once by armbar (Ryan Stout).
FACT 4: Ben Fodor, the younger brother of Strikeforce and UFC veteran Caros Fodor, has never fought professionally outside the state of Washington.
FACT 5: Nick Newell has executed seven of his 10 finishes in less than two minutes.
FACT 6: Emmanuel Walo got his start in MMA by joining an Army Combatives class after watching old Ultimate Fighting Championship DVDs to pass the time while he was serving in Iraq.
FACT 7: American Top Team’s Steve Mocco was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion, first at the University of Iowa (2003) and later at Oklahoma State University (2005). He represented the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
FACT 8: The six fighters Juliano Coutinho has beaten -- John Orr, Josh Hendricks, Eric Bedard, Randy Smith, Arthur Mullen and Jason Dolloff -- own a cumulative 51-70-1 record.
FACT 9: Ozzy Dugulubgov shares a birthday with Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, Spider-Man creator Stan Lee and “Saturday Night Live” alum Seth Meyers.
FACT 10: Joe Condon has fought in 10 different organizations across 19 pro bouts: World Series of Fighting, King of the Cage, BAMMA USA, Xplode Fight Series, All Star Promotions, Respect in the Cage, Karma Fight Nights, Fight Circuit MMA, California Xtreme Fighting and Rebel Fighter.