World Series of Fighting: What We Learned From WSOF 1
World Series of Fighting 1 is now on the record, and the night had entertaining but decidedly mixed results.
Although the card was packed with exciting matches, memorable finishes and plenty of star power for the NBC Sports broadcast, overall production had some noticeable issues that left viewers confusedly scratching their heads.
But was the free fight card worth watching?
Is this promotional upstart a company that the UFC and Bellator should be worried about?
Well, that's not an easy answer, but there are plenty of things we know for certain.
From fighters' futures to the potential for the second WSOF card, here's a quick list of what we learned about World Series of Fighting's first event.
WSOF Has Some Impressive Sponsorship
Everywhere you looked, World Series of Fighting was plastered with logos of well-known companies.
Boost Mobile, Sapporo, Vizio, NOS Energy Drinks, and Planet Hollywood (the venue) all adorned the 10-sided cage, hinting at the massive cash flow that's gone into the promotion's first fight card.
That level of support is definitely a good sign for WSOF's debut, although a sustained schedule likely depends on ratings and subsequent advertising dollars as much as it does on sponsor money.
Still, it helped to give the WSOF the appearance of being a slight notch above your typical regional MMA promotion, and if you want to stay on the air, that's important for your first show.
Rashad Evans and the Blackzilians Are Pretty Popular
Despite the fact that their team really hasn't been doing too well in the UFC, the Blackzilians are still an incredibly visible MMA super-camp.
During the WSOF 1 broadcast on NBC Sports, Evans was featured on camera multiple times by the arena crew and in a Jaco Hybrid Training Apparel advertisement. Even Michael Johnson was spotted in an F3 Nutrition TV spot.
Truth be told, it's kind of strange for UFC fighters to get paid commercial time on a competitor's show.
Anthony Johnson's Jaco commercials made more sense, as he's currently signed with World Series of Fighting. But seeing Alistair Overeem shilling supplements was ironic, considering he's currently on suspension for elevated testosterone levels.
No One Has a Clue How TJ O'Brien Is Still Walking
You had to see it to believe it.
Gesias Cavalcante jumped on O'Brien with a vicious heel hook and damn near ripped his leg apart like it was a handful of celery stalks.
Almost as surprising was O'Brien, who started walking again almost immediately when he probably should've waited for a wheelchair or some crutches.
That was a highlight-reel win I'll be glad to never see again.
Josh Burkman May Have Stolen Gerald Harris' UFC Return Ticket
It's a shame that the crowd didn't start to fill into the venue until after Burkman and Harris finished their fight.
From bell to bell, their match was a competitive fight with a few entertaining momentum swings, complete with a long submission scare from Harris. In the end, Burkman outlasted, out-grappled and out-struck Harris to a unanimous decision victory.
That has to be crushing for Harris, who was dumped from the UFC for an overly cautious decision-loss effort against the frightening Maiquel Falcao.
Since Burkman's gone 6-1 on the regional circuit against respectable opponents, he might get the UFC callback that Harris craves. With Burkman having given that kind of performance, it wouldn't be shocking.
Whoever Made the Decision to Not Stream All the Prelims Should Be Fired
MMA Fighting's Mike Chiappetta relayed that the call to not air the entire WSOF 1 undercard online was actually NBC Sports' decision.
Hopefully, the responsible producer or executive was slapped.
As a result, several Internet viewers missed out on some good fights.
Bellator veteran Steve Carl pulled off a slick submission finish against Ramico Blackmon. Highly-hyped Nova Uniao lightweight Ronys Torres was upset by split decision at the hands of well-rounded submission specialist Brian Cobb.
And in a fight that was pulled off the main card, impressive Canadian prospect Tyson Steele beat multiple-time grappling champion Gregor Gracie by KO.
Moreover, that resulting hour-and-a-half intermission between the prelims and main card caused quite a lot of confusion with online viewers (all 5,000-plus of them, according to Livestream), a critical mistake by World Series of Fighting. For such an important event, that kind of decision-making hurts.
We Shouldn't Get Too Excited About Tyrone Spong's Win
Spong is a multiple-time kickboxing and Muay Thai champion who was highly touted going into his match against Travis Bartlett.
Bartlett looked incredibly out of shape and reacted to Spong's punches and kicks as if physical contact was suddenly illegal. Considering that Bartlett hadn't fought in two years, it was hardly surprising.
Spong's MMA debut would've had an asterisk on it if the fight got out of the first round, so he did exactly what he was supposed to do against an overmatched opponent—nothing more, and nothing less.
Sure, there's temptation to throw Spong in the cage against someone near the top of his weight class. But let's see how he does with a few talented journeymen, especially some decent grapplers.
Miguel Torres' Killer Instinct Still Needs Work
Former WEC bantamweight champion Torres started his fight with Marlon Moraes aggressively enough, but quickly turned gun-shy when Moraes escaped some submission attempts and turned things up on the feet.
From that round onward, it was a terse game of predicting when and if Torres would get caught trying to slip his long jabs and kicks past Moraes' defenses.
Throughout the whole fight, the difference in power was obvious, and Torres shied away enough that the crowd turned on him at points.
Still, Torres shouldn't be completely written off, and he can possibly find his heat again at some point down the road. He adjusted as the match went on, negated Moraes' last takedown with some fantastic guard work and pulled off some great striking on his back—not an easy task.
Anthony Johnson Must Return to the UFC Before He Accidentally Kills an Opponent
Any promoter signing Johnson to face a regional fighter needs to be arrested for negligence.
As stated before, the Blackzilians have turned "Rumble" into a dangerous 205-pounder. He looks faster and stronger with each match, and he's had five of them in a rather busy year.
Johnson will probably have trouble against the UFC's top light heavyweights, but his brutal knockout victory over D.J. Linderman should have UFC matchmaker Joe Silva sprinting to the nearest phone as soon as Johnson's contract with WSOF is up.
So far, Johnson's made weight for three fights straight, and he's on a 4-0 winning streak. Just bring him back, Dana White—do it for the safety of the regional division.
Greg Jackson Just Might Save Andrei Arlovski's Career
Arlovski looked decent in his fight against Devin Cole, staving off takedown attempts and clocking Cole cold with one-punch KO power.
It should be a great moment for long-time fans of "The Pit Bull"—and for hardcore MMA fans in the know, it's got to be somewhat of a relief that the former UFC heavyweight champion isn't so faded that he would lose to the convicted felon and alleged rapist.
However, Cole is far from the top of the food chain at heavyweight, and WSOF is going to have to come up with better opponents.
But how will Arlovski fare against better fighters that can take his punches? There's no telling, but coach Greg Jackson hopefully has some time to spare with the aging Belarusian legend.
World Series of Fighting Can Produce a UFC-Quality Event
From the excellent selection of fighters to the high production values, WSOF 1 was actually an exciting night with plenty of memorable moments.
Even better, there were high-quality sponsors and even some touring UFC talent present to give the promotion some credibility.
If you broaden the scope to casual fans tuning in for the event, WSOF even made a smart move to include Bas Rutten in the commentary team. With his pre-existing fame and recent exposure from Kevin James' movie Here Comes the Boom, his addition added a touch of mainstream celebrity power.
Moreover, it's all been enough to give the WSOF a second event, which will reportedly be airing in January 2013.
UFC and Bellator might just have a new player in the MMA scene to worry about.
It's obvious that MMA World Series of Fighting is here to stay. As long as the WSOF staff fixes its production mistakes and keeps producing events like this, it'll be interesting to see how far WSOF goes.
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