WSOF returns for their twelfth stateside event with a card that doesn't feature many notable names. It's headlined by a lightweight bout between rising contender Lewis Gonzalez and established veteran Luis Palomino. The card also has a number of noteworthy prospects and veterans from Elvis Mutapcic to Alexis Vila.
Will Gonzalez stay undefeated or is Palomino going to make it two wins in a row? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Saturday's fights.
What: WSOF 12: Gonzalez vs. Palomino
Where: Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Saturday, the four-fight preliminary card streams live on MMA Fighting at 8 p.m. ET and the five-fight main card goes live on NBC Sports at 10 p.m. ET.
Lewis Gonzalez vs. Luis Palomino
Palomino probably has more finishing ability, but Gonzalez is certainly the better wrestler. Almost all of his meaningful offense comes from top control. Palomino is no submission slouch, but he's likely to be controlled for long enough periods in this fight to either drop a decision or get ground and pounded into a stoppage victory via TKO. There's an outside chance Gonzalez could use his patented brabo choke, but Palomino's sub defense likely negates that possibility.
Elvis Mutapcic vs. Kelvin Tiller
A very intriguing bout between two fighters on the cusp of something greater. Tiller has bonkers power and will chew fighters up with diverse combinations on the outside. He has no real guard game to speak of, but loves to use kimuras for sweeps or scrambles. Mutapcic is a guy with a ton of promise, but hasn't won the fights at the most important moments. For me, though, Tiller's defensive wrestling - especially against the cage - is suspect. Mutapcic has more than enough power and pocket courage to give Tiller a run for his money on the feet, but if he decides to mix up his offense, that should be plenty to get the job done.
Ronny Markes vs. Cully Butterfield
This seems like a bit of a blowout for me. Butterfield has had some success on the regional circuit and Markes has disappointed as a UFC washout, but the skill gap here is hard to overlook. Markes has his issues, but he's durable enough to withstand most big shots if he's en route to pressing Butterfield against the fence and working clinch takedowns. I suppose the Brazilian's cardio is a wild card issue, but even with that, Markes should cruise.
Alexis Vila vs. Brandon Hempleman
I struggle with this prediction. On the one hand, despite being 43, Vila is still a decent athlete. He's also clearly got the wrestling edge against Hempleman, but can he sustain it for three rounds? That's really the issue here. I don't know. Hempleman isn't particularly adept at one aspect of the game, but uses a lot of movement, which could slow Vila's offense. He's also incredibly durable, meaning he's likely to be game from beginning to end. In the end, I can see Vila taking two of three rounds, but this one is likely going to go down to the wire.
Bryson Hansen vs. Matt Sayles
Here we go again with the Xplode Fight Series padded records problem. Sayles trains out of Alliance MMA, which is as legitimate as it gets, but his only two professional bouts took place under their banner against competition with a combined record of 1-4. Watching tape on him doesn't do much to sway the idea that the Xplode Fight Series did him a decent favor. I welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong, but it's hard to see how Sayles can get the job done.