MMA

Running the Gauntlet – A WSOF 25 preview

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World Series of Fighting is back on November 20th with WSOF 25, and the promotion has a special card in store for their third anniversary event.

Eight of the organization’s best lightweight fighters will compete in a grueling one-night-only tournament, in which the finalists must fight three times in as many hours. The victor stands to win the opportunity to challenge reigning WSOF Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje sometime early next year.

Gaethje, undefeated, is the first and only Lightweight Champion in WSOF history. He defeated Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante via doctor stoppage for the inaugural belt back in March of 2013, and since then Justin has defended his title an impressive seven times. With new challengers becoming scarce in the division, there could not have been a better time for this tournament.

The action kicks off with four quarterfinal matchups: Luis Palomino takes on Rich Patishnock and Brian Foster meets Joao Zeferino, while on the other side of the bracket, Islam Mamedov draws Jorge Patino and Mike Ricci will square off against Brian Cobb. WSOF has prepared a contingency plan in case of injury or other unfortunate circumstances, with two reserve bouts scheduled as backup: LaRue Burley vs. Joe Condon, and Benny Madrid vs. Ramil Mustapayev.

Luis “Baboon” Palomino is coming off of back to back losses to the champion, but he asked for this opportunity and WSOF could not refuse the exciting veteran’s request. Palomino is a knockout artist with 34 professional fights under his belt. He has a victory over fellow tournament competitor Jorge Patino, and has defeated UFC fan favorites Daron Cruickshank and Jorge Masvidal.

His opponent Rich Patishnock is also rebounding from a loss to Gaethje. Rich has significantly less experience than Palomino, but he will be looking to make a statement after his last outing against the champion. Look for Patishnock to try and take this fight to the ground to avoid Palomino’s KO power and impose his will.

Brian Foster has been in the cage with some of the best welterweights the sport has to offer, and is now looking to make a run in the lightweight division. He has an astonishing finishing rate of 95%, including a TKO of former WSOF Welterweight Champion Steve Carl and a guillotine choke victory over Matt Brown at UFC 123.

Standing in Foster’s way is Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt Joao “The Brazilian Samurai” Zeferino, who brings an incredible killer instinct of his own with 15 finishes in the first round. This scrap has potential to be “Fight of the Night” and will most likely end by stoppage in the initial five-minute frame.

12-1 Russian MMA prospect Islam Mamedov is riding an 11 fight win streak, not having lost a fight since 2009 when he started his pro career. Mamedov has notched eight first round finishes and is looking to make it nine this Friday in order to stay fresh for the semifinals.

However, he has a tough fight ahead of him in Jorge “Macaco” Patino, a true veteran of the sport who has competed in over 50 professional MMA fights. Patino is no stranger to tournaments either. After starting his career way back in 1995 (that’s Vitor Belfort old school!), Jorge won five tournaments in a row on his way to a perfect 16-0 with 16 finishes. Perhaps even more impressive is his first round knockout of top UFC middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

Fighting for the first time since his championship bout with Gaethje two years ago, Brian “The Bandit” Cobb is eager to get back in the cage after injuries kept him out of competition. Brian has recorded 12 submission wins throughout his career, and what’s really interesting is that ten of them have been rear naked chokes! He also holds a first round knockout victory over heavy-handed Drew Fickett, a former UFC contender.

Cobb’s opponent Mike “The Martian” Ricci is probably most well known for his stint in The Ultimate Fighter back in 2012. He fights out of Tristar Gym in Montreal alongside his good friend Rory MacDonald, and holds a professional record of 10-4 with six finishes. Ricci is entering this tournament after impressive wins over MMA veterans Jorge Gurgel and George Sotiropoulos.

With so many talented fighters involved in it, this competition could unfold in a number of different ways. It truly is anybody’s ballgame, and surely Justin Gaethje will be watching live as he awaits his next title challenger. Whoever that may be, it won’t be easy as they run the gauntlet in the toughest tournament in recent memory.

Since the turn of the millennium and the dawn of the “Zuffa Era”, true mixed martial arts tournaments in North America have been few and far between. World Series of Fighting is taking MMA fans back to the roots of the sport with this event, 22 years after the legendary Royce Gracie dazzled spectators at Ultimate Fighting Championship 1. We can only hope that this is the rebirth of tournament style fighting and fans can enjoy it in all of the top promotions for years to come.

WSOF 25 takes place at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, AZ, live this Friday at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Network!

image credit – WSOF.com

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