World Series of Fighting returns to NBC Sports Saturday with its ninth professional show. The card will be headlined by a welterweight title fight and supported by a bantamweight title bout.

In the main attraction, WSOF titleholder Steve Carl welcomes UFC vet Rousimar Palhares to the company. The belt will be on the line as Palhares looks to hold gold in just his first bout since being released by the UFC.

In the co-featured bout, Marlon Moraes takes on Josh Rettinghouse for the 135-pound strap. Moraes, seen as the heavy favorite, has been a buzzsaw at bantamweight and looks to crack the world rankings with a successful defense against Rettinghouse.

Here is an in-depth look at the five top-billed bouts on the card, along with quick predictions for the remainder of the lineup.

WW Championship: Steve Carl (21-3) vs. Rousimar Palhares (15-6)

Welterweight champion Steve Carl is fresh off his title win over Josh Burkman, but there is no rest for the champion. He will already defend the championship against jiu-jitsu ace Rousimar Palhares. The winner already has several men waiting in line to challenge for the gold.

Palhares is fresh off his UFC release, which came as a result of a history of bizarre and unsportsmanlike behavior. He is a leg-lock specialist who has won most of his fights via his signature heel hook or kneebar. A list of the legs he has taken home include Mike Pierce, Mike Massenzio, Dave Branch, Tomasz Drwal and Lucio Linhares. On the ground, there aren’t many better than Palhares, who is not only technical, but an absolute brute with his physical strength.

Despite his status as the champion, Carl is the underdog. However, he was also the heavy underdog in his title bout with Burkman and was able to defeat the UFC veteran via triangle choke. Carl has won 16 of his bouts via submission, though one would think a grappling match with Palhares would be foolish. Carl has decent wrestling and counter wrestling, which will need to be on point in this fight, because he needs to make this a striking bout.

It’s hard to pick against Carl, because he is quite skilled and has surprised us in the past. However, Palhares has been competing on another level in his career. He has beat some world-ranked fighters, and he did so in impressive fashion. Look for him to take down Carl and outclass him on the mat, earning the title in the process.

BW Championship: Marlon Moraes (12-4-1) vs. Josh Rettinghouse (10-2)

The vacant bantamweight title is up for grabs when Brazilian striker Marlon Moraes takes on the tough-as-nails Josh Rettinghouse. The winner will have a target on their back for the rest of the WSOF bantamweight roster.

Rettinghouse is a submission specialist. The grappler from Washington has notched over half of his wins via submission, though it’s interesting to note that both of his losses have come via submission as well. He will need to close the distance early and look to put Moraes on his back, as an extensive stay on the feet could lead to a loss of consciousness for Rettinghouse. He earned this fight with Moraes after taking a decision from Alexis Vila, albeit that win was a close, controversial nod.

Moraes has been one of the poster boys of the WSOF, brightening his star with the company. He has been a busy man within the promotion. He already sits at 4-0 in the promotion against the likes of Miguel Torres (split decision), Tyson Nam (knockout), Brendan Hempleman (unanimous decision) and Carson Beebe (knockout). He is a vicious striker with excellent kicks and one-punch knockout capability. For a man that is 135 pounds, he has the power of a guy several weight classes up.

Rettinghouse is likely not ready for a challenge like this. Moraes has been smoking competition way above the level of Rettinghouse, whose claim to fame at this point is outpointing Vila in a bout that should not have probably gone his way. Either way, Moraes will use a healthy dose of kicks and outside striking to soften Rettinghouse up before landing the big shot that ends the bout.

WW: Josh Burkman (26-10) vs. Tyler Stinson (27-9)

Former title challenger Josh Burkman takes on Strikeforce vet and powerful puncher Tyler Stinson in a battle of welterweights seeking a title bid. A win for Stinson could potentially earn him that shot, and a win for Burkman would certainly put him back on the road to the title picture.

Stinson is a striker. The long, powerful Kansas native makes violence look like a work of art. He is not the most physically imposing fighter, but he definitely has the natural power to put a guy down with one strike, as seen in a Strikeforce drubbing of Eduardo Pamplona. His WSOF debut saw him take on Valdir Araujo. Stinson had a dog fight on his hands in that fight. Potentially down on the scorecards, he uncorked a massive punch that sent his opponent into a trance. Stinson then finished Araujo on the ground.

Burkman possesses a skill set that will present a tough challenge for Stinson. Burkman is a wrestler with good control and a solid submission arsenal. He was just beat by Steve Carl for the welterweight title. Carl locked Burkman in a triangle choke and put him to sleep. Previous to that, Burkman was on a serious tear in which he choked out Jon Fitch, knocked out Aaron Simpson, decisioned Gerald Harris and tapped Jamie Yager.

It’s incredibly hard to pick against Burkman. His recent history says that he has beaten guys who are considered more skilled than Stinson. However, upsets can happen, especially for guys with one-strike knockout capabilities. For that reason, Stinson is the massive upset pick here. He will catch Burkman at some point with a huge punch that dazes the UFC vet and sets up the win for Stinson.

MW: Yushin Okami (29-8) vs. Svetlozar Savov (12-4)

Yushin Okami is set to make his anticipated WSOF debut at this event, but standing in the way of a successful premiere is a young, talented Bulgarian named Svetlozar Savov. A win for Okami here could push him into the middleweight title talks.

Savov is just 25 years old and has already competed 16 times professionally in his career. He is a submission specialist, a skill set he developed in his days as a sambo competitor. He has an extremely tight guillotine choke which he has used to finish many of his foes, so he should look to counter Okami takedowns with that signature move. However, most of his steps up in competition have seen him struggle, and Okami is easily the best man he has fought to this point.

Okami is fresh off his UFC release, where the longtime vet of the company was a perennial contender and top-10 fighter. He fought 18 times for the UFC, only losing to elite guys like Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin. He is a grinder who likes the clinch and takedown game, where he can control and break opponents. He does need to watch his neck on takedowns in this fight, though.

Savov really only has a puncher’s chance or a surprise guillotine in his game to beat Okami. Okami is on another level and theoretically should still be with the UFC, given his track record. Okami is going to pressure Savov, put him against the cage, grind him out and earn the win.

FW: Mike Corey (12-3-1) vs. Shane Krutchen (11-2)

Bellator veteran Mike Corey takes on U.S. military vet Shane Krutchen in a featherweight clash to open the main card. This will be the WSOF debut for both men.

Corey comes to the WSOF fresh off a three-fight Bellator stint which saw him go 1-1-1 with the company. Corey scored an upset win over Ronnie Mann, but he lost to Daniel Straus and fought to a draw against Chris Horodecki. Despite the outcomes of those fights, that list of names demonstrates Corey’s willingness to take on tougher competition with the company. He is a grinding wrestler that is extremely large for 145 pounds. He possesses top-notch physical strength and the ability to press guys against their will.

Krutchen has a similar style to Corey, though he has more of a submission attack to his game. He started off his career 0-2, but he hasn’t lost a fight since those two bouts. His finishing ability has been on display—he has only gone to a decision twice in that span. He doesn’t want to end up on the bottom of a heavy grinder like Corey, so he is going to need to beat Corey to the takedown.

That will not happen for Krutchen, though. Corey has a formula to his game that is almost down to a T. Corey will push forward aggressively, looking to clinch and close the distance early. From there, he will score takedowns and points from top position, likely earning a decision in the process.

Quick Picks

Ozzy Dugulubgov over Johnny Nunez
Bryson Hansen over Sean Cantor
Brenson Hansen over Boostayre Nefarios
Phil Dace over Danny Davis Jr.
Jimmy Jones over Rudy Morales
Jimmy Spicuzza over Gil Guardado
AJ Williams over Tanner Cowan

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.