Fight fans! Are you surviving the recent drought?
And of course, by drought, I mean that we’ve gone a couple of weeks without a major MMA event.
Old fans will laugh at that — but these days, our friends at the UFC hold events every week, and sometimes three in a week. Meanwhile, Bellator and MMA World Series of Fighting average out a show per month or so, and an Invicta FC pops up every couple of months.
So in 2015 has kept a frantic pace… that is, up until now. The last big North American show was UFC 192 back on October 3.
Luckily, MMA World Series of Fighting has one of their biggest events of the year tonight. Unlike the last WSOF event we profiled (WSOF 22 back in August), they’ve got no competition this weekend on the MMA front — but I think would be a show worth watching anyway.
- Two of the best welterweights in recent years. Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami both have challenged for a UFC title in a previous life, but ran into legends in Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre. They’re now in the twilight of their careers, and are coming off losses besides — Okami to current WSOF light heavyweight titlist David Branch, and Fitch to former welterweight champion Rousimar Palhares. We’ll see what they have left when they face off tonight.
- One of MMA’s best stories in recent years. He may not be a household name, but WSOF heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov is a name you should know. In fact, he earned a spot in martial arts history before he ever set foot in the ring for his first major MMA bout.
It was back in 2008 when Ivanov faced off with the man seen as the greatest MMA fighter in the world — and beat him at his own game.
That game was Combat Sambo, and the Bulgarian’s opponent, the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, had won four previous championships at the event. Author Matthew Polly would later describe the scene in his book Tapped Out:
So great had been Fedor’s dominance of SAMBO… that the Soviet-style opening ceremony was dedicated to awarding him a Russia Sportsman gold medal. So great had been his dominance that the wags at Fightlinker.com compared his continued participation in this event to Barry Bonds at a T-Ball tournament.
Ivanov would win and then win another match to score the world title. His MMA career would be stalled by a horrific attack outside the cage in 2012, which saw Ivanov, then 12-0 and fighting for Bellator, stabbed in the heart. After 21 months, a medically induced coma, and a lot of recovery time, Ivanov made his return. Not only did his career get back on track, he eventually scored gold again — beating Smealinho Rama earlier this year for the WOSF title.
Ivanov faces Derrick Mehmen tonight in his first defense of the WSOF heavyweight championship.
3) The show’s undercard isn’t bad. It’s anchored by one of MMA’s most decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists: light heavyweight Vinny Magalhaes, who has quietly put together a two fight win streak since leaving the UFC in 2013. His opponent is former TUF standout Matt Hamil, who is making his return to MMA after two years away from the sport. Also, the inspirational Nick Newell, who has assembled a 12-1 MMA record despite the lack of a left arm (below the elbow), will face Tom Marcellino in a lightweight bout.
WSOF 24 will air on NBC Sports Network in the US beginning at 8:30 ET, 5:30 PT.