Heavyweight Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski (20-10) wanted to prove to his doubters that he can still take a punch. He took several of them from a bruising Mike “MAK” Kyle (20-10-1) but picked himself up off the canvas to score an impressive decision win on the main event of Saturday’s World Series of Fighting 5 fight card.
The headlining contest took place at New Jersey’s Revel Atlantic City and aired live on NBCSN. A replay of the show airs on the network Monday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. ET.
Arlovski, who stepped in on one month’s notice for an injured Anthony Johnson, was fighting for the first time since having his jaw shattered in a March outing. He wasn’t gun shy in his return, and Arlovski went toe-to-toe with Kyle throughout the 15-minute thriller.
Kyle, who also competes in the 205-pound division, looked incredible from start to finish, and he scored knockdowns in both the first and third rounds. But Arlovski rebounded well each time, and his volume of work in both the first and second frames – landing his own stiff punches and kicking the legs, as well – proved enough to erase his faults, and he was awarded an entertaining decision win, 29-28 on all three cards.
“It was a great fight,” Arlovski said after the win. “He’s a top fighter, and I really appreciate him for this fight.
“I guess I could have followed the gameplan more, but I did what I did. It was a good comeback from my fight March 23.”
In the night’s co-main event, David Branch (13-3) assured he’ll fight for the World Series of Fighting middleweight title with a one-sided decision win over Brazilian veteran Danillo Villefort (14-5) in the middleweight tourney semifinal bout.
While Villefort looked to strike, Branch repeatedly took the fight to the floor and controlled the position with a dominant top game that stifled his foe. While Villefort was strong in defense from his back, he was never able to offer any counter offense, and Branch was awarded all three rounds, claiming the clear decision win.
Branch will now meet an opponent yet to be determined for the inaugural World Series of Fighting 185-pound belt.
“It feels good,” Branch said after the win, his third for the promotion. “This is my destiny. I was the first fight for the WSOF, and I want to be the first middleweight champion.”
Heavyweight Derrick Mehmen earned the biggest win of his career, scoring a second-round knockout over submission ace Rolles Gracie.
Gracie surprised in the opening round, largely forgoing the ground game in favor of boxing with his opponent. The unexpected gameplan worked well early but backfired in the second frame, when Mehmen started to get comfortable in his striking game.
With Gracie retreating in a standup exchange, Mehmen blasted him with a clean right hand to the chin. Gracie was out on his feet, and his body slowly twirled before crashing to the canvas in a highlight likely to be seen for years to come. Mehmen was awarded the knockout win at the 2:40 mark of the second round.
In a bizarre moment rarely seen in combat sports, New Jersey State Athletic Control Board officials called off a middleweight tournament bout between Elvis “The King” Mutapcic (13-2) and Jesse “JT Money” Taylor (26-9) just moments before the two were scheduled to hit the cage.
According the commission, Mutapcic took a prescription pill that had not been cleared for use.
“There were some prescriptions that weren’t given to our doctors during the physicals and that weren’t approved by us, the commission,” a commission official said. “So since we don’t know what they are and what they do, we canceled the fight.
“We can’t take that chance to have that fight go off, so those things need to be looked at, and they need to be talked about. We just feel that we’re not going to have a fight in New Jersey when we don’t know what someone is taking.”
Mutapcic insisted he didn’t take any pills and that the inspector may have mistaken him for his manager, who is currently using medication for a heart condition.
“I really don’t know what happened, what [the inspector] saw,” Mutapcic said. “She might have been taking some medication, herself. I put in a good 10-week training camp. I worked my ass off. I know Taylor’s ready. I’m not sure if she mistaked me for my manager, who has a heart prescription. He was the one that had it. We’re all dressed the same – same T-shirt, same hat. I mean, there’s four of us, and she’s pointing me out, that I took it. I say I’ll take a blood test. I’ll give a hair sample if they need it. I’ve got nothing in my system. I’m completely clean.”
Nevertheless, the decision had already been made.
World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo said both Mutapcic and Taylor would still receive their show money, and the company would look to reschedule the fight as soon as possible, with the winner meeting Branch for the promotion’s first 185-pound belt.
“It is sad to see this happen,” Sefo said. “I’ve been in martial arts for 25 years and have never seen anything like this. Elvis has been training for this fight for 10 weeks, but the commission has made its decision and we have to live with it.”
Competing for the first time under the World Series of Fighting banner, featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan (22-3-1) announced himself as an instant contender in the promotion with an impressive first-round finish of Waylon Lowe (14-5).
The fight, which kicked off the evening’s NBCSN-broadcast main card, saw Karakhanyan set the tone from the opening bell with powerful kicks to the legs and body. As Lowe looked for an opportunity to move inside agains the strikes, he made a costly mistake, leaving his neck exposed on a takedown attempt. Karakhanyan latched on to a guillotine choke and fell to his back, quickly squeezing and earning the tap at the 3:37 mark of the first frame.
“I would’ve like to have showcased my standup more, but if it goes to the ground, I’m always looking for a finish,” Karakhanyan said after the win. “If you step in this cage, I’m going to finish you. I’m a finisher.”
In the night’s featured preliminary bout, Rick “The Gladiator” Glenn (14-2-1) patiently worked through a first-round armbar that seemed sure to end his night to bounce back for a decision win over a previously undefeated Artur “The Arabian Nightmare” Rofi (6-1).
Rofi, who offered up a constant barrage of trash talk before and during the contest, looked as if he’d end the fight with the quick submission attempt, but Glenn patiently waited through the hold and kept his limb safe until the bell. Over the final 10 minutes, Rofi looked as if the intense attempt had sapped his energy, and Glenn peppered him with left hands on the feet.
Rofi moved forward until the final bell, but it was Glenn who was the busier, more accurate fighter, and he was awarded a unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28. Afterward, Glenn admitted he enjoyed silencing his outspoken foe.
“It’s the best,” Glenn said. “When someone talks smack to you like that, and they’re disrespectful, I just try to stay humble. I’m glad I won.”
New Jersey’s own Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera survived an incredible opening-round barrage from opponent Sidemar “Sideco” Honorio to battle back for an incredible unanimous-decision win.
A pinpoint counter hook sent Rivera crashing to the floor in the first, and Honorio rushed to mount and looked to finish the fight with punches. But a courageous Rivera somehow survived the assault and escaped the position.
Once back on his feet, Rivera turned up the volume and pressed the action as a stunned Honorio fought on in disbelief. The two entertained until the final bell, but Rivera’s workload swayed the judges, and he was awarded a unanimous-decision win with scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
“It’s about pushing the pace,” Rivera said after the fight. “That’s what I do every fight, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing, non-stop.
“I don’t give up until I’m out or the referee is jumping in. I keep going to the fight. That’s what’s always going on in my head.”
With a 12-fight win streak, Rivera may very well soon see himself vying for a World Series of Fighting title.
In welterweight action, Rich Patishnock (6-1) became joined a small fraternity of fighters who have defeated multiple members of MMA’s First Family by scoring an impressive decision win over Gregor Gracie (7-4).
It was Gracie who took the fight to the floor early, but Patishnock crawled back to his feet and punished his opponent on the feet. Gracie stood firm in the pocket and traded blows, but it was the constant pressure of Patishnock that saw him through to a unanimous-decision win, with scores of 30-27, 29-28and 29-28.
Afterward, Patishnock admitted he wasn’t sure if he had executed well enough in his sprawl-and-brawl approach but was happy to get the result.
“That was my strategy,” Patishnock said. “I really didn’t think I did that well with my strategy, but that was my strategy, and I’m glad everybody thought I did it.”
Ozzy Dugulubgov (5-1) improved to 2-0 under the World Series of Fighting banner with an impressive submission win over Andrew “Ozzy” Osbourne (7-6).
The action started on the feet, with both fighters trading thunderous kicks at various levels. But in the second, Dugulubgov caught one of those kicks and dropped his foe with a straight left counter. From there, Dugulubgov pounced on his opponent and dropped back to attack the leg, securing an Achilles lock that earned a tap 72 seconds into the second round.
“Victory comes only from God,” Dugulubgov said after the win. “If you truly believe, your thoughts become your actions. I wanted to show my standup, try a little bit of new things here and there, but I knew if the fight went to the ground, I have much more opportunity there. When it went down, I saw [the submission] was there, and with confidence, I just went for it. Thank God it worked.”
In the night’s first contest, debuting middleweight Neiman Gracie (1-0) proved victorious in his first appearance as a professional, scoring a first-round submission win over Darren Costa (0-2).
It was Costa who scored with his hands early, but submission ace Gracie clinched up, brought the fight to the floor and rolled quickly into an armbar, forcing the tap at the 3:57 mark of the first round.
“I’m very happy to be here,” the 24-year-old Gracie said after the win. “This is a dream. Since I was a kid, I always wanted to fight, and finally I’m here.”