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Jon Fitch has title fight booked at WSOF 30 in Las Vegas

Jim Edwards

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World Series of Fighting (WSOF.com) announced today that it will make its much-anticipated return to Las Vegas with a star-studded, world championship Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) doubleheader event at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Saturday, April 2, live on NBCSN (11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT), headlined by a middleweight (185 pounds) title bout between reigning kingpin David Branch (17-3) and Clifford Starks (13-2).

In the co-main event, superstar Jon Fitch (27-7-1, 1 NC) will collide with recent World Series of Fighting one-night, eight-man tournament runner-up Joao “The Brazilian Samurai” Zeferino (20-7) with the vacant World Series of Fighting welterweight (170 pounds) championship at stake.

In other action on the four-fight, live NBCSN telecast, submission expert Vinny “Pezao” Magalhaes (13-7) will square off with Jake “The Honey Bear” Heun (9-4) in a light heavyweight (205 pounds) contest, while World Series of Fighting newcomer and knockout artist Abu “Gladiator” Azaitar (11-1-1) will throw down with Danny “Dee1” Davis, Jr. (11-10-1) at welterweight.

The complete WSOF30 preliminary bout card will be announced soon.

David Branch vs. Clifford Starks

The 6-foot-1, 34-year-old Branch of Brooklyn, N.Y. made history in his last start at WSOF23 on September 18, 2015 when he notched a first round (2:21) submission (rear-naked choke) victory over Teddy Holder to become the first World Series of Fighting light heavyweight champion in history as well as the first-ever two-division champion in promotional history.

A protégé of MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Renzo Gracie, Branch will seek his eighth consecutive win.

Also 34 years of age, the 5-foot-10 Starks of Tempe, Ariz. earned a shot at Branch’s middleweight title after three consecutive victories in the World Series of Fighting decagon cage. In his last effort at WSOF23, Starks handed Krasimir Mladenov the first defeat of the Bulgarian wrestling standout’s career by way of unanimous decision.

Starks is riding a five-fight win streak that began with two consecutive wins under the promotion of Bellator.

Jon Fitch vs. Joao Zeferino

A former world top 10 ranked competitor who has faced and defeated a collection of rival icons over the course of his 14-year professional career, the 6-foot, 38-year-old Fitch of Fort Wayne, Ind. earned a unanimous decision in his last appearance, over fellow accomplished superstar Yushin Okami at WSOF24 on October 17, 2015.

Originally from Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, the 5-foot-11, 30-year-old Zeferino who fights out of Middletown, N.Y. has notched 15 of his 20 career wins by way of submission. Zeferino demonstrated superior physical and mental toughness in his last appearance in the cage, going to battle three times in one night in the one-night, eight-man lightweight (155 pounds) tournament at WSOF25 on November 20, 2015.

After defeating both Brian Foster and Jorge Patino by way of heel hook submission in the first round of action in the quarterfinal and semifinal stages of the tournament, respectively, Zeferino again faced off with Foster, who had advanced to the championship stage as a “lucky loser,” but suffered a second round (4:51) KO (punches) at the hands of Foster in a barnburner affair.

Vinny Magalhaes vs. Jake Heun

Magalhaes of Las Vegas via Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will make his second start under the promotion of World Series of Fighting after pulling off a stunning, first round (1:08) submission (kneebar) of wrestling stylist Matt “The Hammer” Hamill at WSOF24.

A 6-foot-3, 31-year-old world grappling champion, Magalhaes has claimed 11 of his 13 career MMA wins by way of submission and is looking for his fourth consecutive victory.

Heun of Coconut Creek, Fla. is seeking his third straight win after edging out a split decision over Clinton Williams at WSOF26 on December 18, 2015.

A member of South Florida-based American Top Team, the 6-foot-2, 28-year old Heun has claimed 6 of his 9 professional wins by way of (T)KO or submission.

Abu Azaitar vs. Danny Davis, Jr.

The number one ranked middleweight (185 pounds) in Germany and the number five ranked middleweight in Poland, the 5-foot-11, 30-year-old Azaitar of Cologne, Germany will enter the World Series of Fighting decagon cage for the first time at 170 pounds, after tearing through the ranks of competitors in Europe over the last seven years.

To date, the heavy-handed Azaitar has notched 7 of his 11 career wins by way of (T)KO. His lone defeat came in 2012, and he has since remained unbeaten in his last 8 starts.

Davis, Jr. of Las Vegas will look to rebound from two consecutive losses – a split decision defeat at the hands of Matthew Frincu at WSOF23, and a unanimous decision loss to Abubakar Nurmagomedov at WSOF26.

Prior to the matchup with Frincu, the 6-foot-2, 33-year-old Davis, Jr. had run to five straight wins, three of which were World Series of Fighting contests.

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Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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