Two UFC veterans will do battle in the WSOF 30 main event when current WSOF Middleweight and Light heavyweight champion David Branch (17-3) attempts to defend his 185lb title against Clifford Starks (13-2). The event takes place April 2nd in Las Vegas, Nevada.

David Branch was never able to make it to the top in the UFC, however at his new home, the World Series of Fighting, the 34 year-old American seems to have finally found his groove. He is the reigning WSOF Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion. He’s currently riding a seven fight win streak, all of them have come under the WSOF banner. Branch has finished his past four opponents so Clifford Starks will need to be at his best on April 2nd.

Clifford Starks only has two losses on his professional MMA record, and both of those losses were in the UFC against Yoel Romero and Ed Herman. Outside of the UFC he’s perfect, including a five fight winning streak which has landed him in the title fight opposite David Branch.  Where Branch is able to end the fight anywhere, Starks will need to rely on a strong wrestling game to grind out his opponent.

WSOF 30 airs April 2nd on NBCSN, the prelims begin at 8pm ET and the main card has a later than usual start time at 11:30pm ET.  The co-main event is for the vacant WSOF welterweight title when Jon Fitch meets Joao Zeferino.  For more coverage of WSOF 30 and everything MMA keep checking back with Pro Fighting Fans.

Brent Haugh

Profightingfans.com Editor/Writer

 

The 2014 calendar for UFC has already become a very interesting one because of the rather sudden absence of not just Georges St. Pierre, but Anderson Silva, too. The sport, to an extent, is reeling and anticipating what is likely an inevitable (if hopefully temporary) drop-off in popularity without its two most prominent fighters. Anthony Johnson UFCHowever, one of the early 2014 events that has been getting significant attention in the wake of the St. Pierre and Silva retirements is UFC 172, where Jon “Bones” Jones will seek to stake his claim as the biggest name in mixed martial arts.

The headline event at UFC 172 will feature Jones defending his light heavyweight title against Brazilian jiu jitsu natural and former Chuck Liddell trainee Glover Teixeira in what is being billed as a major fight. It’s an interesting headline bout, though a look at the actual odds on the fight makes things seem a bit less interesting. The Betfair news sports betting section has early odds on UFC 172 posted, and it has Jones listed as a fairly overwhelming favorite (at 1/5 backing odds) to win the fight. By contrast, the site offers 9/2 odds for Teixeira to pull off the upset, indicating perhaps a slightly wider gap between the fighters than some fans might expect.

However, for those thinking that UFC 172 may feature a lopsided bout at the top of the card, some intrigue was added this past week when it was announced that Anthony Johnson would be making a return to UFC, and was added to the card in a fight with Phil Davis.

While Johnson has not exactly put together a remarkable career in UFC, returns are always interesting, and he’s had a fairly convincing run in fights outside the octagon. MMA Junkie discusses that after Johnson was let go by UFC for failing to make weight one too many times, he’s essentially gone on an impressive winning spree with Titan Fighting Championships and WSOF.

Now on his way back to UFC, Johnson is actually a particularly entertaining fighter, having taken six of his seven UFC victories via knockout. His overall record is not that impressive (7-4 in UFC fights), and he’s by no means a definite favorite over Phil Davis, who is on a four match winning streak of his own (betting odds for the fight should emerge shortly). But in the end, this fight should add some excitement to a card that UFC is starting to depend on rather heavily in early 2014.

For some guys the bright lights of the big show are just too much to handle, they crack under the pressure.  If history is any indication, Anthony Johnson is one of those guys.  His UFC career was full of failed weight cuts and disappointing performances inside the cage.  It all came to a head when “Rumble” showed up 11lbs overweight for a middleweight bout with Vitor Belfort and on fight night Johnson was easily submitted by the Brazilian.  Following the incident he was subsequently released from the promotion.

That experience may have been the wake-up call Anthony Johnson needed.  Because, since being released from the UFC, Johnson has gone a perfect 6-0, with 4 TKO victories.  That run has now included 3 fights with the World Series of Fighting, where he has really come into his own.  Unfortunately injuries have prevented him from fighting as often as he might like.  However, last night at WSOF 8 Johnson returned to action for the first time in 10 months to face Strikeforce veteran Mike Kyle.

From the moment Anthony stepped on the scales at weigh-ins it was obvious he was in shape and prepared to do battle.  Fight night was no different as Johnson came out right away and established himself as the aggressor.  He patiently stalked Kyle around the cage in the opening moments, wearing him down with some thudding leg kicks.  With his back to the fence Johnson began to engage and it only took one huge right hand to flatten Mike Kyle, putting him face down on the mat.

It was a devastating knockout victory for “Rumble” and it just happens to have come when he is at the end of his WSOF contract.  A win like the one last night won’t hurt once Johnson as he heads into negotiations with the organization.  Anthony Johnson may never return to the UFC.  But, if he can thrive elsewhere, is there really anything wrong with that?  Because being the king of a smaller hill is a lot better than constantly falling off the highest peak and not learning from your mistakes.

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Staff Writer

It is no secret to MMA fans that Team Alpha Male is manufacturing some of the best fighters in the world.  There is former WEC champion and current UFC bantamweight contender Urijah Faber, as well as UFC flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez and Chris Holdsworth, who just won season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter.  It is a pretty impressive list and after Saturday night World Series of Fighting’s Lance Palmer (7-0 MMA, 0-0 WSOF) hopes his name will be added to that list of stars.  If he can get past MMA veteran Georgi Karakhanyan in their WSOF featherweight title fight, he should have no trouble getting mentioned among the sport’s best.

Considering all of the success his teammates have experienced so far this year, it would be understandable if Palmer was feeling extra pressure heading into Saturday night.  He insists that is not the case, “there is no added pressure based on what my teammates have accomplished because we’re all our own fighters.”  It’s a great attitude to have, because comparing yourself to the superstars training next to you could do a lot of damage to a fighter’s mentality going into a big fight.  And this is unquestionably the biggest fight of Palmer’s career and he’ll need all the confidence he can get when he steps into the cage with Karakhanyan at WSOF 7.

Because it’s such an important fight for him, it’s a good thing Palmer was able to benefit from a great training camp.  He wasn’t the only Team Alpha Male member preparing to fight and that certainly makes it easier to get ready.  Palmer was very quick to admit “we had our whole team in there, so it was a strong camp and everybody’s pumped up and it was on a different level with our training.”  Along with Palmer, teammates Faber, Benavidez and Holdsworth were all training for big fights of their own at the same time.  It will be interesting to see if it the hard work pays off on Saturday night.  No matter what happens Lance Palmer made on thing clear “I’m just excited to go out there and compete, it’s why we’re all in this sport, to compete.”

Palmer vs. Karakhanyan will serve as the main event for The World Series of Fighting 7 which takes place Saturday December 7th from the PNE Agrodome in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Other fights on the card include a middleweight tournament semifinal between Elvis Mutapcic and Jesse Taylor as well as Nick Newell vs. Sabah Fadai.  It promises to be a great night of fights and keep checking back with Profightingfans.com for more updates.

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Staff Writer