With one event in the books late last year, the World Series of Fighting now returns with another solid effort. The WSOF has put together a fun event by combining some of the biggest names outside of the UFC as well as committing to building some of its own prospects.

The main event matches up a former UFC heavyweight champion facing another UFC veteran making his first move up to heavyweight. Andre Arlovski is probably best known for his battles with Tim Sylvia in the UFC for the promotion’s heavyweight belt. The thing he is second best known for is ending up on the wrong end on some brutal knockouts. But those fights were all years ago. Arlovski has strung together a nice winning streak, showing his technical striking and power.

Just 18 months ago, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was a welterweight. Now, he is making his heavyweight debut. While in lighter weight classes, Johnson was a bully. He showed the ability to take opponents down or knock them out while always being the biggest fighter in the cage. Now, he will face someone a little bigger than he is, and that just adds to the intrigue.

The rest of the main card is stocked full of recognizable names. In the co-main event, Tyson Nam faces former Brazilian Muay Thai champion Marlon Moraes. Nam knocked out reigning Bellator champ Eduardo Dantas his last time out, and Moraes earned his spot in the fight by edging former WEC great Miguel Torres in his last fight. Now, the two dynamic strikers will go toe-to-toe in a fight sure to entertain fans.

The rest of the card features known commodities, including former UFC fighters Aaron Simpson facing Josh Burkman and UFC veteran David Branch squaring off with Pride FC star Paulo Filho.

WSOF 2: Arlovski vs. Johnson will take place on Saturday, March 23, at Revel Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The main card will air on the NBC Sports network.

HW: Andrei Arlovski (19-9) vs. Anthony Johnson (14-4)

The main event for WSOF 2 holds the answers to a bunch of interesting questions. How will someone who was a welterweight just 18 months ago perform at heavyweight? Will the added bulk decrease Johnson’s speed and explosiveness? How will Johnson handle strikes from a hard-hitting heavyweight? And can Arlovski continue his recent winning streak and maybe find his way back to the UFC, as he recently stated was his goal?

Arlovski is, of course, best known for his reign as the former UFC heavyweight champion. He is a power puncher with solid technical fundamentals. He also has a background in sambo and BJJ, but prefers to stand and trade rather than utilize his ground skills.

Throughout his career, Arlovski has been a streak fighter. He has never just alternated wins and losses. Following his high-profile four-fight losing skid, Arlovski has quietly put together a five-fight unbeaten streak (four wins and a no-contest).

Johnson is making his heavyweight debut. Since losing to Vitor Belfort and being shown his walking papers by the UFC, Johnson has his own four-fight winning streak going. Rumble has shown an ability to get a fight to the ground, but is also a power puncher, securing 10 victories by TKO in his career.

While questions will continue around Johnson’s move up in weight and its impact on his physical skills, it is hard to not envision him coming out on top. Don’t get me wrong, Arlovski has the skill set to beat Johnson, but it would require a philosophical adjustment from a 34-year-old fighter. Arlovski has a significant advantage in the submission game. However, he has shown little interest in going to the ground in the last seven years, with few exceptions. At the same time, his chin has to be considered questionable at best. Seven of Arlovski’s nine losses have come via knockout, and Johnson will likely add to that total.

BW: Tyson Nam (12-4) vs. Marlon Moraes (9-4-1)

In this fight, both guys will be trying to shake the label of being a fluke.

Tyson Nam exploded into the MMA world’s attention when he knocked out current Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas in a non-title fight. The news only heightened as Bellator scrambled to try to get Nam signed and restrict him from going elsewhere, while Nam fought for his right to move to other promotions. In the end, Nam signed with WSOF.

Nam is currently riding a four-fight winning streak, including that big win against Dantas. The former EliteXC veteran is a striker who has secured six wins via TKO and another five by decision.

Standing across from Nam is another fighter who scored a huge upset—Marlon Moraes. Nam was scheduled to meet the winner of the fight between Mores and Miguel Torres, which took place at WSOF 1. Most people assumed the former WEC champion, Torres, would easily defeat the relatively unknown Moraes. However, Moraes had other ideas and eked out a controversial split decision.

Moraes is a former Brazilian Muay Thai champion. He tends to get off to a quick start and is explosive with his strikes. Moraes also utilizes a wide array of strikes to keep his opponents guessing. Knees, kicks, body shots and spinning kicks are all part of his repertoire. Moraes does have an underrated ground game, but his striking game is what he will prefer to show off.

This is a hard fight to call. Nam probably has the power edge, whereas Moraes is the more technical and varied striker. On the ground, Moraes will hold the advantage, but he will only look there as a last resort. Nam is probably the betting favorite, but I am leaning towards the varied and flashy strikes of Moraes. That arsenal will impress the judges while wearing down Nam’s body. Moreas takes the decision.

WW: Aaron Simpson (12-4) vs. Josh Burkman (24-9)

This is a fight between two former UFC veterans. Aaron Simpson is making his debut with WSOF, and Josh Burkman is returning for a second time. Adding to the excitement of the fight, Burkman has asked for a title shot if he defeats Simpson.

Simpson’s wrestling and strength are two of his biggest attributes. His wrestling background includes four state high school wrestling titles and two-time NCAA All-American honors, before going on to be an assistant collegiate wrestling coach. Simpson has notched six TKO victories and another five decision wins in his MMA career.

Burkman is more of an all-around athlete than just a wrestler. He does have a wrestling background, but not at the same level as Simpson. Burkman finished second in his high school state championship, but actually played two years of college football before moving to MMA full-time. Burkman has demonstrated his all-around game in MMA as well. He has secured five TKOs and nine submissions.

In this fight, Burkman is probably the better athlete and should be the quicker of the two. He will need to use that quickness if he has any hope of winning this fight. He will need to land strikes from the outside and really show off his takedown defense. However, if he gets too close, Simpson will take him down. Burkman’s wrestling isn’t good enough to keep this fight standing, nor is he good enough off his back to really threaten Simpson. Simpson should coast to a one-sided beatdown of Burkman.

MW: David Branch (11-3) vs. Paulo Filho (23-4-2)

This is one of the most intriguing fights on the card, maybe because thinking of Paulo Filho still brings back memories of the guy that was ranked as the No. 1 middleweight in the world—the guy who ran off 16 straight wins at the start of his career. Of course, since then, drug problems and bizarre behavior have been in the spotlight more than his fights.

Filho entered the MMA world with both a BJJ black belt and a judo black belt. And although he was short for the division, he has always been strong and thick with muscle mass. Injuries and drugs have kept Filho from reaching his full potential in the sport.

David Branch is a UFC and Bellator veteran. He is also a BJJ black belt and has won numerous competitions in that sport.

Often when BJJ black belts meet, the fight turns into a sloppy brawl with a wild finish. Don’t expect that here. Neither guy is a great striker and neither possesses much power. Branch might have a slight advantage in the striking department, but Filho has never been knocked out and Branch probably isn’t the guy to be the first to do it. Both will be looking to get the fight to the ground. Filho’s judo background will give him an advantage towards ending up on top. Once on his back, Branch may stay active, but he will not catch Filho in anything. Filho wins either by a late submission or a decision.

LW: Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante (17-6-1) vs. Justin Gaethje (7-0)

Years ago, JZ Cavalcante was arguably the best lightweight in the world. Showcasing an aggressive attitude and the ability to end a fight anywhere, he won two separate K-1 Heroes tournaments. Even though he is just 29, he is now a different fighter due to injuries. He is just 3-5 with two no-contests since 2008.

Cavalcante has solid technical boxing, with some power. He is equally as dangerous when the fight hits the mat. However, his cardio is not what it used to be. He will start fast, but fade throughout the fight.

Justin Gaethje recently moved up in weight to welterweight and captured the Rage in the Cage title. Now, he is returning to his more natural body weight to make a name for himself on a national stage. Gaethje is a striker who got on the MMA radar with a 12-second knockout of Drew Fickett.

Both fighters have some strikes against them. Gaethje doesn’t have anywhere near the experience of Cavalcante. He also has not faced anywhere near the same level of competition or been on nearly as big of shows as his opponent. On the other hand, JZ has been slowed by injuries throughout his career. He also trains with the Blackzilians, and that camp’s short history does not inspire confidence in its fighters. It may be sexy to go with the undefeated prospect, but I think the veteran will be able to find holes in Gaethje’s game. Cavalcante wins with a first-round knockout.

Preliminary Card
MW: Danillo Villefort (13-4) vs. Kris McCray (8-4)

This is a match-up of two former UFC fighters. Danillo Villefort’s stay in the big show was short and controversial. A fight he was winning was stopped by the doctor when Villefort did not appear to be hurt or cut that bad. McCray had a longer run, but it was not more successful.

Villefort is just on another level. He is a BJJ black belt, beat better opponents, has more experience and has improving striking. The only concern is that Villefort also trains with the Blackzilians. The camp as a whole have lost a number of fights that it should have won. Villefort should still win based on ability, but this may be another fight that slips away from a Blackzilian.

WW: Igor Gracie (5-3) vs. Richard Patishnock (4-1)

Igor is a member of the famed Gracie family. Like all Gracies, he will be looking to get this fight to the ground, where he can lock on a submission. The way to beat a Gracie is either by being a dominating wrestler that can smother with top control or a power puncher that can knock him out. Richard Patishnock doesn’t fit the bill. Gracie will finish this fight late with an arm triangle.

FW: Waylon Lowe (13-4) vs. Cameron Dollar (11-4)

Two former UFC fighters meet on the undercard. Waylon Lowe has put together a three-fight winning streak since leaving the promotion, whereas Cameron Dollar has won his last two fights. Dollar’s strength is his ground game, which happens to also be Lowe’s weakness. However, Lowe is a much better striker and will be the stronger fighter in this contest. Lowe will overpower and eventual knock out Dollar.

LW: Chris Wade (5-0) vs. Ozzy Dugulubgov (3-1)

This is a battle for New Jersey bragging rights between the best New Jersey promotions. Chris Wade has only competed in Ring of Combat, and Ozzy Dugulubgov has only fought in Cage Fury FC. Dugulubgov is a finisher, with none of his fights making it out of the second round. Wade generally wins by decision. Despite that, Wade is a more complete package and wins this fight.

FW: Alexandre Pimental (12-0) vs. Rick Glenn (12-2-1)

Alexandre Pimental is an undefeated Brazilian fighter who is making his way to the United States for the first time. Rick Glenn hasn’t lost in his last 10 fights. One of those streaks is coming to an end. Pimental may hold a slight advantage on the ground, but Glenn will hold a significant advantage on the feet. Glenn wins this by a second-round TKO.

Photo: Anthony Johnson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.