In a throw-back to the early years of the sport WSOF hold a one-night eight-man lightweight tournament to determine a #1 contender for current champion Justin Gaethje. In the mix are UFC vets, up-and-comers, and one fighter who already fought Gaethje twice. The tournament takes place November 20th at WSOF 25 which will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network.
The quarterfinals are:
- Islam Mamedov vs. Jorge Patino
- Mike Ricci vs. Brian Cobb
- Luis Palomino vs. Rich Patishnock
- Brian Foster vs. Joao Zeferino
One has to start an analysis with Luis Palomino due to his two previous clashes with Gaethje. 23-11 Palomino may be a perennial “gate keeper” but he has proven twice he is willing to go toe-to-toe with Gaethje. Their first meeting Gaethje himself describes as the toughest fight of his career while the second Palomino had Gaethje in trouble a couple times, both bouts ending with Gaethje victorious by TKO. Palomino may not be a UFC vet or big-show champion but he has fought in just about every significant promotion below the UFC, his most significant winning arguably being against Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante.
In the semi-finals Palomino faces Richard Patishnock. Patishnock also has a loss to Gaethje but his was much more one-sided with Gaethje scoring a first-round TKO after a series of leg kicks left the up-and-comer vulnerable. Now 6-2 Patishnock is the least-experience tournament competitor.
The most experienced fighter in the tournament is 38-15 Jorge Patino. The UFC and Pride standout has been for the last four years fighting in smaller shows with his record in that time holding two WSOF bouts as the highlights. In those two WSOF bouts Patino went 1-1 with a loss to Luis Palomino and a win over Eric Reynolds. Since those two Patino picked up a TKO of Sergio Soares last December and a unanimous decision over Celso Venicius in June, both in regional promotions.
The main name to watch out for is Patino’s first-round opponent Islam Mamedov who will be making his third WSOF appearance. 12-1 Mamedov won his last eleven bouts with first-round TKOs in both his WSOF fights, Leon Davis in April and Jimmy Spicuzza in August. Much has been said about the Dagestan fighters and Mamedov stands out amongst those standouts with seven submission wins, three by KO/TKO, and two decisions. To date the only fighter to defeat Mamedov was Bellator’s Alexander Sarnavskiy in July 2009 with a KO at 5:34 of the first round.
Another Gaethje victim in this tournament is UFC vet Brian Cobb. 20-8 Cobb is 5-3 post-UFC with his latest fight being his TKO loss to Gaethje in June 2013. Cobb managed to last into the third round against Gaethje but like Patishnock was basically defeated by Gaethje’s leg kicks. Despite being a UFC vet Cobb is arguably the dark horse of the tournament based on his time outside the cage and his age of 35 being on the high end for a career comeback after such a lapse.
10-4 UFC vet Mike Ricci will be the one standing across from Cobb in the quarterfinals. Since leaving the UFC in September 2013 Ricci has gone 2-0 with a TKO of Jorge Gurgel and a unanimous decision over George Sotiropoulos, both in Titan FC. Ricci has a great mix of standup and ground, arguably the most well-rounded fighter of the quarterfinals and if there is someone to effectively test Gaethje on the ground it will like be Ricci.
Brian Foster is mainly known for going 3-2 in the UFC from 2009-10. Since then 23-7 Foster has gone 7-2 culminating with a loss to Jake Shields and a KO of LaRue Burley in WSOF as his last two fights. With the loss to Shields being Foster’s only loss in six fights or two years he has earned a berth in this tournament but due to the level of competition the odds are against him.
The least-known competitor is 18-6 Joao who is mainly known for going 0-2 in the UFC. Zeferino enters his quarterfinal match against Foster on a five-fight win streak with his most recent being a rear-naked choke of Juliano Luis dos Santos in June.
There are a couple rules differences at varying points in the tournament. Due to the risk of cuts there will be no elbows standing or on the ground in the quarterfinal and semifinal bouts, the finals will be regular unified rules. Throughout the tournament there will be a fourth judge in case of a draw among the standard three, especially significant as the opening round will be two five-minute rounds, the semifinals and finals being three five-minute rounds.