It wasn’t very pretty at times, but Anthony Johnson got through his heavyweight debut with a win over a former world champion.
Johnson scored a mild upset of former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski with a unanimous decision win in the main event of World Series of Fighting’s second event.
WSOF 2 took place at New Jersey’s Revel Atlantic City. The evening’s main card aired on NBC Sports Network.
Now Johnson likely will return to light heavyweight after what appears to have been a one-time-only fight up a weight class for the man who fought at both welterweight and made an attempt at middleweight in the UFC.
Johnson swung heavy early and mixed in inside leg kicks. Arlovski swung and missed, and Johnson got inside and landed some big shots. But Arlovski stayed in and kept swinging, himself. A pair of high kicks from Johnson were blocked. But moments later, he landed a 1-2 combination, then a punch that had Arlovski stunned for a moment. But again, he stood in and offered a pair of attempts to the body with a combination behind it.
Johnson shot for a takedown with two minutes left, but Arlovski sprawled out of it without much difficulty. But after 45 seconds of stalled action, Kevin Mulhall split them up. On the restart, Johnson again looked for a takedown. But Arlovski spun him around and looked to land knees. Again, they were separated with 15 seconds left and swung for the fences. Johnson dropped Arlovski with a right hand with just seconds left, and he pounced and nearly got the finish – but Arlovski was saved by the bell to see the second round.
Johnson looked to head hunt in the second, but Arlovski found a home for a few counters. After another fairly lengthy stall with Johnson pressing Arlovski against the cage, Mulhall again started them fresh. Johnson again landed in the standup, but Arlovski continued to land some of his own. Midway through, Arlovski again sprawled out of a takedown attempt as Johnson appeared to be tiring some.
But tied up, Arlovski landed a low knee and Johnson was given time. On the restart, Johnson landed several big bombs, but then halted and went for a takedown. He got it this time with 80 seconds left. But Arlovski worked back to his feet while Johnson continued to try for a takedown.
Johnson seemed to rock Arlovski with a pair of kicks and some punches behind them in the third. But seconds later, he again shot on Arlovski and kept him pressed against the fence. Johnson clearly was the more tired of the two, and Mulhall became increasingly impatient with the lack of work along the fence. Midway through, Johnson again shot and was sprawled out with ease.
After they went back to the standup, again Johnson appeared to be getting the better of things – and again he looked to shoot. Johnson continued to play things safe by going after takedowns late that never came.
“Try to not get hit so hard – that was the game plan,” Johnson said after the fight. “The man hits like a ton of bricks, and I have so much respect for him. He’s one of my idols. I watched him when he first came on the scene and had the (UFC) title, lost the title and moved on with his career. I’m just thankful to be able to fight another legend.”
Johnson said repeated going after the takedowns had a little something to do with hurting. He also said he won’t be staying at heavyweight.
“I hurt my right hand, and I hurt my right shin kicking him,” Johnson said. “So I was just doing what I had to do. These guys are too big for Anthony Johnson. But if the World Series of Fighting asked me, I’d do it again.” Johnson (15-4) won for the fifth straight time since his release from the UFC. Arlovski (19-10) lost for the first time in six fights over a more than two-year period.
Moraes stops Nam with head kick, first-round KO
If Marlon Moraes was looking to prove he’s the real deal, he may have gotten the job done.
The Brazilian bantamweight, coming off a sizable upset of former champion Miguel Torres at the first WSOF show, stopped Tyson Nam with a first-round knockout.
Both fighters opened with kicks, and Moraes tried to work in uppercuts with leg kicks behind them. Nam tried to work his offense, but it was Moraes who appeared to be getting his strikes through just a little bit quicker. Midway through, Moraes shot for a takedown and let Nam right back up, and may have gotten the takedown into Nam’s head.
But out of nowhere, Moraes threw a high right kick that grazed Nam’s head. Nam fell to the canvas, and Moraes was on him immediately with a pair of right hands, then three lefts on the ground before referee Keith Peterson shut it down.
Nam had been one of the most highly touted bantamweight prospects in the world after stunning Bellator champ Eduardo Dantas this past August in Brazil. But this was his first fight since that upset.
“My game plan was to do everything – mix it up, boxing, kicks, takedowns,” Moraes said. “MMA is MMA. I was ready for the war. I really trained hard. I was ready to fight 100 percent for the whole 15 minutes.”
Moraes (10-4-1) won for the fourth straight time and second time under the WSOF banner. Nam (12-5) had a four-fight win streak snapped.
Branch dominates Filho in lopsided unanimous decision
Dave Branch said he wasn’t sure which Paulo Filho was going to show up. But he found out pretty quickly.
Branch dominated Filho, mostly on the ground, to sweep the judges’ scorecards – including a 30-26 score – for a unanimous decision.
Filho moved in early, but Branch quickly looked for a takedown and got it. He went to work on Filho’s body from half guard, landing short shots to the ribs, then the head. Branch eventually tried to pass, but Filho recovered to full guard – but that’s where Branch was able to posture up and land some big shots with Filho pressed against the cage. Filho survived to see the second round, but he spent all but about 25 seconds of the first frame on his back.
Branch started right away in the second, teeing off on the Brazilian with punch and kick combinations. And about 35 seconds in, Branch again went to the ground with him. Filho was up this time, though, and after a stalemate, referee Kevin Mulhall separated them. But immediately after the restart, Branch planted Filho into side control. He pinned his arms and began raining down punches. Filho finally scrambled his way out to at least avoid some of the punches. And in perhaps a new one, Branch began counting his unanswered strikes to the head out loud, reaching 20 – perhaps as a way to tell Mulhall to shut things down. Branch briefly moved to the north-south position, but then went back to side control and looked to land elbows.
The doctors looked at Filho between the second and the third, but he started the frame. And after Filho threw some spinning kicks to no avail, Branch dropped him with a right and went to work on him on the ground along the fence. It was more of the same throughout the round, though, with Branch dominating. Mulhall stood them up with 75 seconds left, but Filho had nothing to offer in the way of offense as the fight closed out.
“I trained three hard months for it, and my family and friends all suffered,” Branch said. “I didn’t know who was going to show up. I have so much respect for this guy. He was one of my idols coming up. (I wanted) to take my openings. I train with the best guys in the world, the Gracie family, and they keep me sharp. I was ready for this. I hope that I proved myself here tonight. I’m going to keep improving and opening up – it’s my time. Me and Danillo Villefort were supposed to do it before, and I don’t have a problem doing it now.”
Branch (12-3) won for the second time under the WSOF banner and fourth time in his past five fights. Filho (23-5-2) has lost three of his past five, which includes a draw.
Burkman knocks out Simpson with first-round knee
In a battle of UFC veteran welterweights, Josh Burkman never let himself worry about Aaron Simpson’s wrestling.
Instead, Burkman let his hands do the talking. The fight never went to Simpson’s wheelhouse on the floor, and Burkman won with a first-round knockout from a knee to the chin along the fence.
Simpson tried to back Burkman up early, and when Burkman threw a big right hand, Simpson ducked under to look for his first takedown of the fight. But Burkman defended and turned Simpson around to look for knees along the fence. After separating, Burkman landed a big right hand. But Simpson worked through it and continued to look for chances to take the fight to the canvas.
But Burkman never gave him the chance. He landed a right hand that stunned Simpson, and he followed it with several punches in succession. As Simpson backed up to the fence, Burkman landed one more right hand, and as Simpson started to duck down, Burkman landed a perfectly placed right knee that had Simpson on the canvas with Dan Miragliotta running in to stop it.
“About a week ago, I thought I was out of this fight with an injury, but my wife found some home remedies and got the swelling to go down,” Burkman said. “I never stopped training after my fight with Gerald Harris. I worked on timing and distance.
The win apparently set up Burkman for a fight at WSOF 3 in June with recent UFC castoff Jon Fitch – announced by WSOF President Ray Sefo prior to the fight. But Burkman wasn’t so sure about that immediately following his win.
“I’m going to talk to them about it,” Burkman said. “I think I deserve a title shot. I beat Harris, I beat Simpson, and those are two of the best guys outside of the UFC. I think Jon Fitch needs to earn his title shot and then we can talk about it.
Burkman (25-9) has won four straight and seven of his past eight since being cut from the UFC in 2008. Simpson (12-5) has lost two straight and three of his past four fights. The bout was his first since being released from the UFC after an 11-fight run with that promotion.
Justin Gaethje opens up J.Z. Cavalcante to get TKO stoppage
Justin Gaethje came in highly touted, and he didn’t disappoint.
Facing arguably the toughest opponent of his career, the Colorad-based fighter came forward early and often before finally opening up a cut on Cavalcante’s forehead that cageside doctors, midway through the first round, determined was too deep for him to continue.
Gaethje tried to open with an uppercut before Cavalcante countered with a knee. But 30 seconds in, Gaethje landed a good right hand and had Cavalcante backed to the fence. Gaethje kept the pressure on with knees to the head, and then a left-right combination. He slipped, giving Cavalcante a chance to get out and back to the middle – though he was cut on the top of his head.
Moments later, Gaethje again landed in a short flurry and pushed the Brazilian to the cage and opening up Cavalcante further. Midway through the round, referee Keith Peterson called time to have the doctors look at the cut, and it was a big one and deep above his eye. That was enough for the doctors to wave it off.
“That’s always the game plan: just move forward – don’t take a step backward,” Gaethje said. “Keep clear and hit him and just let it happen. I practice hard enough.”
Cavalcante, understandably, wasn’t happy with being forced out of the fight thanks to the doctors.
“The cut was on the head, not on the eye,” Cavalcante said. “It’s not in a dangerous place to stop the fight. When I come here, I’m ready to die. It’s what I do. When I come in here, I want to give everything. I think it was a good fight. That’s my goal – come back, and if we can do a rematch, it would be my pleasure.
Gaethje (8-0) stayed unbeaten and now has finished seven of his eight opponents, with six by KO or TKO. Cavalcante (17-7-1) is back in the loss column after his WSOF debut victory over T.J. O’Brien in November. He has dropped three of his past four fights.
The full World Series of Fighting 2 results included:
- Anthony Johnson def. Andrei Arlovski via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Marlon Moraes def. Tyson Nam via KO (head kick, strikes) – Round 1, 2:55
- Dave Branch vs. Paulo Filho via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Josh Burkman def. Aaron Simpson via KO (knee) – Round 1, 3:04
- Justin Gaethje def. Gesias Cavalcante via TKO (doctor stoppage) – Round 1, 2:27
- Danillo Villefort def. Kris McCray via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Rick Glenn def. Alexandre Pimentel via KO (strikes) – Round 3, 1:51
- Waylon Lowe def. Cameron Dollar via KO (punch) – Round 1, 2:58
- Richard Patishnock def. Igor Gracie via TKO (injury) – Round 1, 5:00
- Ozzy Dugulubgov def. Chris Wade via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Brenson Hansen def. Tom Marcellino via TKO (flying knee) – Round 2, 3:24
- Bill Algeo def. Frank Buenafuente via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:36
For more on WSOF 2, stay tuned to the MMA Events section of the site.
(Pictured: Anthony Johnson)