Justin Gaethje (R) connects with a leg kick (World Series of Fighting)World Series of Fighting 8 Preview and Predictions Riley Kontek January 15, 2014 Events, Previews, Spotlight World Series of Fighting is set to return on Jan. 18 with WSOF 8. Live from Florida, the card boasts a deep lineup that includes lightweight and women’s strawweight championship bouts, as well as the return of WSOF poster boy Anthony Johnson. Justin Gaethje headlines opposite Rich Patishnock for the WSOF lightweight championship. Gaethje is an undefeated prospect running roughshod through the promotion. Patishnock is a late replacement who has done well with the company himself. The other title fight will see the promotional debuts of Jessica Aguilar and Alida Gray. The winner will get the WSOF gold and become the first women’s champion in company history. Without further ado, let’s preview the WSOF 8 card and make some predictions. [divider]LW Championship: Justin Gaethje (10-0) vs. Rich Patishnock (6-1)[/divider] The main event will feature the vacant lightweight gold up for grabs, with the undefeated Justin Gaethje taking on the unheralded Rich Patishnock. Gaethje was originally supposed to fight Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante and then Lewis Gonzalez before he eventually drew Patishnock. Gaethje is considered the top prospect at lightweight. With nasty leg kicks and powerful hands, he is a buzzsaw on the feet. He does have a good ground game as well, it’s just rarely seen because of his skilled striking attack. His WSOF career has been destructive as well. After beating Cavalcante into a doctor’s stoppage in his WSOF debut, he battered Brian Cobb’s legs until he couldn’t continue and violently blasted through Dan Lauzon in his last outing. Patishnock is a dark horse in the WSOF’s lightweight division. He has made a name for himself in his two-fight WSOF career by beating two Gracies, Igor and Gregor. He had superior striking and takedown defense when taking on those two Gracies, but he will be at a striking disadvantage here against Gaethje. That means he will need to get this fight to the ground. Don’t expect that to happen, though. Gaethje has a great sprawl and good balance that should keep him upright. From there, he will batter the legs and body of Patishnock, all the while throwing heat to his dome. Patishnock is durable, but he will not survive to make it to the judges. [divider]LHW: Anthony Johnson (15-4) vs. Mike Kyle (20-10-1)[/divider] In a match that has been in the makings seemingly forever, Anthony Johnson finally takes on Mike Kyle. The bout has been rescheduled multiple times due to injury. Johnson is a power striker with some good wrestling chops to back it up. He has been the star of the promotion, as the company has put a lot of its eggs in the former welterweight and middleweight’s basket. Since leaving the UFC, Johnson has gone 5-0, including knockouts of Esteves Johnson, D.J. Linderman and Jake Rosholt. Though he has incredibly wicked punches, Johnson’s head kicks are something to watch out for—he has finished multiple opponents with his shins and feet. Kyle is also a striker, but not nearly as technical as Johnson. He is a brawler with similarly scary power, as seen in drubbings of Travis Wiuff and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (in their first meeting). His weakness is on the ground, and that is something that could eventually be exploited if Johnson comes in with the right scouting report. Kyle is durable, but Johnson is a killer on the feet. Johnson also has good wrestling and can ground Kyle. All things considered, it looks like a pretty sure thing that Johnson continues his winning ways and finishes Kyle or claims a one-sided decision. [divider]Women’s BW Championship: Jessica Aguilar (16-4) vs. Alida Gray (4-0)[/divider] Gold and history are on the line when top-ranked Jessica Aguilar fights in the first-ever WSOF women’s bout against newcomer and finisher Alida Gray. Both are top 20 115-pounders who should combine to bring an exciting fight to viewers. Aguilar has been the top-ranked strawweight since her 2012 win over then-No.1 fighter Megumi Fujii. Since that fight, she has beat Fujii again, as well as the scrappy Patricia Vidonic. Aguilar is a ground fighter that looks to grind away on opponents. She has not lost since 2010, when she dropped a contentious decision to Zoila Frausto Gurgel. She is a great submission fighter and should use a ground attack when squaring off with Gray. Gray has been pro for just seven months, but has secured four wins in that short time. She is well-rounded, but makes her living off head-hunting. After submitting Vidonic in her pro debut, Gray has savagely ground-and-pounded Jessica Kennett, scored a “Knockout of the Year” candidate over Soannia Tiem and smashed Katie Kilmansky with her powerful fists. Both women can handle themselves wherever the fight goes, but at this point Aguilar is too experienced and skilled to fall to Gray. Gray has a great future in this sport, but she should fall via decision or late stoppage here in a bout that really puts her on the map. [divider]BW: Cody Bollinger (14-2) vs. Tyson Nam (12-5)[/divider] TUF 18 castoff Cody Bollinger and former top prospect Tyson Nam are set to do battle. The winner of this fight is likely on a short list of men to compete for the bantamweight title in the near future. Bollinger is most famous for his stint on TUF 18, where he beat Rafael de Freitas to get into the house, but famously missed weight for his quarterfinal bout and was kicked out. The Bellator vet is a wrestler with good submission skills on the ground and a durable, rugged stand-up game. He has a very good chin, something that will be tested by Nam. Nam, too, is a wrestler. He is famous for his brutal knockout of Bellator champ Eduardo Dantas in Brazil. That win earned him a contract with the WSOF, but he failed to win in his debut against Marlon Moraes. Now, he must climb back up the ladder that he so swiftly jumped up before. He takes on a man in Bollinger who is somewhat of a mirror image of himself. Bollinger is going to be the much bigger fighter here, which will play well for him. The wrestling will likely cancel out, leading to a war of attrition on the feet. There, Bollinger is the one to be trusted more. The TUF vet should be able to score a decision. [divider]LW: Jorge Patino (35-14-2) vs. Luis Palomino (21-9)[/divider] Longtime lightweight contender Jorge Patino moves up his WSOF debut on short notice and takes on Peruvian boxer Luis Palomino. Palomino was originally scheduled to fight Rich Patishnock, but Patishnock was moved up to the main event when injuries barred the original headlining bout from happening. Patino is 40 years old, but does not show that age in his fights. “Macaco” is extremely well-rounded and well-traveled, having been in the sport since 1995. In that time, the solid grappler and striker has defeated the likes of Efrain Escudero, Pete Spratt, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Mike Bronzoulis. Though he has good stand-up, he is facing a pure boxer, so he should rely on his vastly superior ground game to take out the “Baboon.” Palomino, meanwhile, needs to employ a sprawl-and-brawl game plan to keep Patino standing and in his wheelhouse. He has incredible power for a man his size, having knocked out the likes of Robert Washington, JZ Cavalcante and Charles Bennett in his day. He is extremely quick and athletic, but is usually defeated when he is planted on the mat. This is a very good match-up for the fact that Patino may look to strike early. Once he feels the power of Palomino, though, he will likely revert to his specialty, which is wearing guys out on the ground. That will likely lead him to a late submission or decision win that sets him up with a prominent spot on the WSOF Brazil card later this year. Preliminary Card [divider]WW: Tyler Stinson (25-9) vs. Valdir Araujo (14-4)[/divider] Newly signed welterweight Tyler Stinson is ready to show the world his knockout power, but he has some stiff competition in his way in the form of Valdir Araujo. Araujo is a ground fighter that has greatly improved his striking, but he wants to avoid a brawl with Stinson. Stinson is long and lanky, but he packs a serious punch. Araujo will get suckered into a bang-‘em-up fight with Stinson, which will eventually see “BB Monster” fall via TKO. [divider]HW: Derrick Mehmen (16-5) vs. Scott Barrett (14-3)[/divider] “Knockout of the Year” candidate Derrick Mehmen makes his return to WSOF with a tough task on his hands as he takes on highly regarded newcomer Scott Barrett. Mehmen is a striker, as demonstrated in his blistering knockout of Rolles Gracie in his last fight. He will need to avoid the takedowns of Barrett, who will be looking to plant him and nail him with ground-and-pound from the onset. This is a tough contest to call, but if Mehmen can weather the storm, he can put away Barrett. Otherwise, he will be smothered by “The Bear.” [divider]BW: Alexis Vila (13-4) vs. Sidemar Honorio (8-4)[/divider] Cuban Olympian Alexis Vila returns to the WSOF cage with home-field advantage, but will get no pushover when he takes on ultra-tough Brazilian Sidemar Honorio. Honorio has really only lost to top guys like Jimmie Rivera, Sean Santella and Aljamain Sterling, and none of those losses are real reason for disappointment. His knockout power will match up nicely with the power of Vila, who not only has top-level wrestling, but sickening power in his fists. Vila is 42 years old, but he is still athletic and dangerous. In a coin flip, Vila gets the edge here for the victory. [divider]FW: Freddy Assuncao (7-1) vs. Brenson Hansen (5-1)[/divider] Freddy Assuncao, the youngest of the Assuncao brothers, takes to the WSOF cage against Hawaiian banger Brenson Hansen. Hansen will definitely be the better stand-up fighter, whereas Assuncao’s clear advantage is on the ground. The Brazilian has faced more stiff competition in his career, and with more success. Even though he is making his promotional debut against a two-time WSOF vet, Assuncao should be able to make this an ugly fight on the ground and take a decision. [divider]WW: Jose Caceres (5-4) vs. Anderson Melo (10-7)[/divider] A pair of Florida-based welterweights looking to improve their records collide in the opening bout when Brazilian finisher Anderson Melo takes on Jose Caceres. Caceres is a ground fighter, owning all five of his wins by submission. That will be tough against a well-rounded fighter like Melo, who is educated on the ground and also happens to be a ferocious striker. Midway through the fight, Melo should consistently be stuffing shots and countering, which will open things up for a finishing blow that gives Melo the win.