APRIL 2, 2016
LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
The World Series of Fighting is back on NBCSN tonight with two title fights, crowning a new Welterweight Champion in the co-main event before two-division champ Dave Branch defends the Middleweight Title against UFC and Bellator vet Clifford Starks. We’ll have quick thoughts and results on the undercard fights of tonight’s NBCSN broadcast, with full round by round thoughts on the two title fights. Follow along with us as the card kicks off at 11:30PM ET!
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=====NBCSN Main Card=====
-Abu Azaitar def. Danny Davis Jr. via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Note: Azaitar had all of the offense on the feet. Davis, Jr.’s face was swelled and beaten up, but he got a number of takedowns for some ground control in each of the three rounds. Azaitar’s offense was entertaining in spurts, but he got too sloppy as well, allowing Davis to nearly steal the fight with the ground action. He did enough to eke this one out.
-Vinny Magalhaes def. Jake Heun via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Note: Can’t say I agree with the decision. Magalhaes had a solid second round with some significant damage to the lead leg of Heun and a late takedown with ground work, but he got out-struck in the first and third, and the fight ended with Heun laying punch after punch and elbow after elbow into his ribs after a reversal. Not really a great fight, and that decision was surprising.
CO-MAIN EVENT: JON FITCH VS. JOAO ZEFERINO (WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP)
ROUND ONE: Zeferino got the better of the first exchange. Fitch connected on a hard left hand. Zeferino again landed a few strikes in combination. Fitch drove in for the clinch and pressed Zeferino to the cage. Fitch threw some uppercuts to the body before Zeferino circled out. Both missed a few strikes, then traded jabs. Zeferino landed a hard right hand, then a hard jab right behind it. Fitch clinched up again. Zeferino turned him around. They jockeyed for position and Zeferino escaped again. Fitch landed a jab. Zeferino landed a hard jab, then stuffed a shot well with a whizzer. Fitch held a clinch and drove it to the cage, but got turned back around again. More clinch work. Zeferino went for a trip, then gave it up and backed out. Fitch got in a low kick to the lead leg. Fitch landed a hard right hand, probably best strike of the round. Zeferino landed a two punch combo. He grazed Fitch with an overhand right. Fitch shot in, but got stuffed again at the cage. Fitch finally dragged him down, and got Zeferino’s back just before the horn.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-10. Zeferino more effective and more active on the feet, Fitch more aggressive in pursuit before finally getting the late takedown. Coin flip round and I don’t think either edged it convincingly.
ROUND TWO: Zeferino worked his jab well. He landed a two punch combo as Fitch missed. Fitch got in to the body with a left. They traded in the center. Fitch broke with a leg kick. He shot in with the single and drove Zeferino to the cage. More position trading on the cage. Zeferino broke with a knee to the body. Fitch connected on several jabs in a row. They clinched up again, going nowhere. More minimal strikes traded. Fitch drove in again for the takedown attempt, and got Zeferino to a knee at the cage. He couldn’t get him all the way down, though, and Zeferino got up to separate. Fitch shot in again, this time completing the takedown with over a minute left. Zeferino defended well, , and Fitch didn’t do much with the position outside of a few strikes, and Zeferino kicked him off at the horn.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-9 Fitch. Not much more action than the first, but Zeferino was much less active overall.
ROUND THREE: Fitch pressed ahead with some leg kicks. Zeferino connected on a right hand. Zeferino shot in, but got easily stuffed. That brought them to the cage in a clinch. Zeferino pulled guard and tried to attack for a leg. Fitch got in a few strikes and took over position. Zeferino went for a kimura, then an armbar attempt. Fitch defended well and Zeferino gave it up. Fitch postured up a bit and threw some body strikes simply to stay active. Zeferino eventually got up off his back and separated. That didn’t quite work out for him there on the ground. Fitch landed a hard right hand. Fitch got in a leg kick, then shot in. He got stuffed, but landed a nice spinning back elbow before backing off. Fitch came forward and scored another takedown. Fitch spent 30 seconds throwing punches from the top. He briefly stood and Zeferino threw a kick from his back, but Fitch got right back on top to end the round.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-9 Fitch. Outside of the spinning back elbow, this fight has been quite dull with lots of wall and stall and only sporadic action. Grind fest from Fitch likely to last the last ten minutes here.
ROUND FOUR: Zeferino moved forward, but it was Fitch throwin strikes circling around the cage. Zeferino clinched, got easily turned around, and it was more grueling, grinding work on the cage. They traded punches after separating. Zeferino grazed Fitch with a head kick. He landed a solid combination and tried to drive Fitch back. He landed a big right hand, but Fitch clinched up again to slow it down. He got stuffed and had to back off. Fitch missed a few strikes. He shot in again, got stuffed, and landed a knee. Another shot from Fitch, and this time he got Zeferino down. Fitch got in a few strikes. Zeferino kicked him off and tried to snake for a knee bar out of position. He lost it, and Fitch kept grinding in top position. That continued for the entirety of the final minute. Ugh.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-9 Fitch. Zeferino had some his best striking offense early, but there wasn’t enough of it to overcome getting ground out in the final half of the round. This is not a good fight.
ROUND FIVE: Zeferino came out slightly aggressive, but Fitch stayed out from most damage. Fitch landed a big uppercut. He got another takedown a minute in. Zeferino attacked for a leg on the ground. Fitch got his leg free. Zeferino tried to stay heavy on him but Fitch got to his feet. Fitch landed a couple knees to the body. More dull clinch work. Zeferino got out and ate a body kick. Fitch then shot in again and scored a takedown. He’s clearly content to work just effectively enough. Zeferino tried to attack for a leg again to no avail. More bare minimum top work from Fitch. Zeferino got his back on the cage and sat up, but Fitch put him back down. He avoided an upkick and got into half guard. Fitch stood again briefly then got back on top into Zeferino’s half guard. The fight came to an end there. Bad.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-9 Fitch. Ready to forget this fight as soon as the decision’s announced.
WINNER: Fitch via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
STAR RATING: (*) Moving along. Not a fight anyone ever needs to watch a second time.
MAIN EVENT: DAVE BRANCH VS. CLIFFORD STARKS (MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP)
ROUND ONE: Branch ran to the center and tossed out a leg kick. He went high with a kick that was blocked. Branch clinched up and drove Starks to the cage. He backed off with a strike shortly thereafter. Branch again feigned a shot to get to the clinch. He threw out some foot stomps. Starks got in a strike with his back on the cage. Starks finally got free. He nearly caught a kick, then drove in himself for the clinch. Branch got in a knee to the body. Branch landed an elbow to back out, but got hit with a left hand. Starks came back ahead and there was another center of the cage clinch. Starks caught a kick and drove Branch back. Starks landed a body kick as Branch drove forward for the clinch. Branch finally secured a takedown and landed some ground and pound from Starks’ guard. Branch passed to half guard easily. He landed some more elbows and forearms. Branch tried to set up a D’Arce choke but it didn’t go anywhere, and he ended the round on top.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-9 Branch. Not much to the round, neither showed a ton of confidence early, and Branch edged it with the takedown and ground and pound.
ROUND TWO: Starks tried to press forward with strikes. Branch got in a nice knee to the body and clinched. He dropped down for a single leg attempt, but Starks defended well. Branch landed an uppercut and Starks got some separation with a right hand. He landed another right hand. Branch ducked down for a takedown attempt but it got held off at the cage well. Things stalled out briefly, then Starks backed out and separated. Branch shot in hesitantly again and it was clinch time. Lots of flinching and non-committal work from Branch. Another brief separation and back to the clinch. Ugh. Separation, Starks got in a strike, then Branch finally drove through with a takedown with 100 seconds left. Branch passed to half guard. Starks got to the cage. Branch then threw a knee to the head in a clearly illegal blow, bringing the fight to a halt. John McCarthy halted it, then told Starks the knee missed his head. Ummm, no, that hit him in the side of the head, John. Why are you separating them if it wasn’t illegal then? And he then took a point anyway! Don’t get the rationale from McCarthy in that sequence. Anyway, they restarted and Branch pressed back. Starks tossed out a few strikes. He missed some, then got taken down. Starks went for a guillotine choke and held it to the horn, but didn’t have it locked on.
Penick’s Scorecard: 9-9 with the point deduction. Another not good fight here, and that whole sequence with the illegal knee played out strangely.
ROUND THREE: Starks came out firing a bit, Branch got in some strikes in return, but neither was landing all that effectively. Branch got a clinch and went for a takedown, but backed off after a guillotine attempt. Branch clinched up again, but Starks clinched and pressed Branch to the cage. That went nowhere, and Starks missed some strikes on the break. Branch pressed in with a jab. He landed a few more strikes. Starks fired back, but Branch connected on a few more before clinching. He backed out again. Starks got in a right hand, and it was clinch time. Nothing but clinching in these last two fights and it’s not been enjoyable to watch. They traded some hard knees and punches before breaking out of that one. Starks connected on an uppercut. Branch landed a big combination and then it was back to the clinch. There have been a few spurts here and there in this fight, but it’s mostly been not very good. Starks tried for a takedown, failed, and ate a few strikes. Branch got in a hard knee after missing a strike. Branch landed a left.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-9 Branch. Ugly at this point. Branch had a few nice combinations there, and maybe one or two solid exchanges, but that was it for that five minute frame.
ROUND FOUR: Branch came out a bit more comfortable with his strikes, and he was connecting on quite a bit more. He drove through on a big takedown with a lot more time to work. He landed a few strikes early. Starks tried to get to the cage, but Branch looked to drag him back down. He landed a punch and pulled the leg back. Starks kept his back on the cage as he sat up, but Branch tried to sit into mount in order to pull Starks back down. Starks put his hands up as he sat there. Branch postured up and put Starks on his back again. Branch landed some forearms and elbows. Branch passed to half guard as Starks tried to kick him off. Branch landed several big elbows from the half guard. Starks locked him up and Branch then attacked for an arm. He stepped over Starks’ head but ran out of time to lock the hold on.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-9 Branch. Close to 10-8, but he wasn’t all that active on the ground despite four minutes there.
ROUND FIVE: Starks tried to press in with strikes, but got clinched up quick. Branch landed a hard left hand. He avoided a few more strikes. Starks shot in and got stuffed. More clinch time. Branch landed a few punches. Starks asked for a separation and got told to work. They finally were separated. Starks fired out some strikes, but most were blocked. Branch drove him across the cage and took him down into half guard. Branch passed and got to mount. Starks tried to escape but Branch held position. He used a kick off the cage to escape to half guard. Branch locked him down again and passed back to mount. Starks continued trying to get out, only for Branch to hold position. Starks nearly gave up his back, but turned back into the mount. Again Branch nearly got the back but Starks turned back into him. Branch postured up with a few elbows and threw more punches to the body. Starks couldn’t get out of the mount and ate some more strikes from Branch. Starks nearly escaped the mount, but didn’t quite get free. Branch finished the round on top.
Penick’s Scorecard: 10-8 Branch. Dominant position with some significant damage for almost the entirety of teh round. It wasn’t a good fight, and not even a particularly good performance from Branch, but it was more than enough for the win.
WINNER: Branch via unanimous decision (49-44, 49-44, 49-44)
STAR RATING: (*) Well, it happened. Not much more to add on that one.
-This was a largely forgettable event, but if you stuck with us throughout the night thank you! The major April schedule kicks off proper next weekend!
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