WSOF 34: All Four Champs Retain in NYC
All four World Series of Fighting champions who fought at WSOF 34 retained their titles, as the promotion produced the final MMA event of 2016 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve.
In the main event, Justin Gaethje defended the WSOF lightweight championship against Luiz Firmino, who took this fight on three weeks’ notice after Joao ZeFerino pulled out from the card due to injury. The fight was intense from the start, and the first round both started and finished with Gaethje pulling off cartwheel kicks. Firmino, however, landed more hard shots and took control early on, which was apparent when Gaethje appeared to be gassed a bit entering round two.
Throughout the fight, Gaethje had trouble keeping his mouthpiece in, causing referee Dan Miragliotta to threaten to dock the defending champ a point. Fortunately for Gaethje, he was holding his own by stuffing takedown attempts from his challenger and providing hard shots to answer him.
Firmino was up on all three judges’ scorecards, but the doctor was called in prior to the start of the fourth round after swelling around his right eye became overwhelming. The doctor called a stop to the contest, letting Gaethje get away with the win and his title.
"I guess they stopped it because he couldn’t see, but hats off to him because he came to fight," Gaethje said. "I love the competition and I love entertaining people. I came out here and gave my all."
Firmino said he thought he was winning until the doctor stopped the bout, and he’s sure if given a re-match and proper training time, he can take the title.
"I know he [punches] heavy but nobody knocks me out," Firmino said. "My chin is strong. You can punch and do whatever you want. I train hard, I’m a veteran and I know what I’m doing. I want a rematch. For sure I can beat this guy if I train two months. It’s a big difference. I know I can beat this guy."
Two MMA veterans and former UFC stars, Jon Fitch and Jake Shields, competed in the co-main event with Fitch’s WSOF welterweight title on the line. The two started the bout with striking, but they quickly went to the ground battling for top position. Fitch utilized his wrestling expertise and struck Shields’ body numerous times on the ground. Round two saw Shields try to get the takedown this time around, and while Shields was not successful at first, he eventually did get Fitch to the ground, and the champ was on his back until the end of the second.
The third round saw Fitch prepared for any takedown attempts Shields would throw at him, countering everything his challenger gave him in the round. Shields was desperate to get the champion to the ground, even going to his back on a failed takedown. When the two were on the ground, Shields attempted a heel hook, but Fitch was able to get out of it. The two grappled again throughout the fifth, but Fitch again countered just about everything Shields attempted. Shields once again attempted a leg lock, but Fitch avoided it.
Fitch swept the judges’ scorecards with 49-46 scores. Following the bout, Fitch announced he will need to speak with close ones and doctors if he should continue his MMA career.
"I’ve been dealing with a lot of medical [expletive] over the years and there’s a good chance this is my last fight," Fitch said. "I’m still grappling with retirement. I have to talk to some doctors and some neurologists and see what they can do."
The opening main card contest was also a title bout, as bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes faced off with Josenaldo Silva to start off the NBC broadcast of the main card. Both were on big streaks, as Moraes won 12 consecutive bouts entering this contest, while Silva entered with 17 straight wins. In the middle of the first round, Moraes laid out Silva on the floor with several punches. When Silva leaped forward to get up, however, his right knee gave out, giving Moraes a first-round TKO win via injury.
In the featured undercard bout, David Branch managed to retain his title against Louis Taylor. Branch locked in a rear-naked choke two minutes into the final round of the bout, getting Taylor to submit.
WSOF 34 Main card Results:
WSOF lightweight title: (c.) Justin Gaethje def. Luiz Firmino via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) before round four
WSOF welterweight title: (c.) Jon Fitch def. Jake Shields via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Yushin Okami def. Paul Bradley via split decision (29-28 28-29, 29-28)
WSOF bantamweight title: (c.) Marlon Moraes def. Josenaldo Silva via TKO (knee injury) (Rd. 1, 2:30)
WSOF 34 Undercard Results:
WSOF middleweight title: (c.) David Branch def. Louis Taylor via submission (rear-naked choke) (Rd. 5, 2:00)
Caio Alencar def. Jared Rosholt via KO (Rd. 1, 1:17)
Shane Krutchen def. Jeremy Mahon via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Smealinho Rama def. Jake Heun via TKO (Rd. 2, 3:30)
Bruno Santos def. Vagab Vagabov via split decision (28-29, 29-29, 29-28)
Andre Harrison def. Bruce Boyington via submission (rear-naked choke) (Rd. 1, 1:54)
Tom Marcellino def. Matt Denning via submission (guillotine) (Rd. 1, 3:30)