With a break in UFC action during a very busy summer schedule, the World Series of Fighting has found the perfect opportunity to host its inaugural middleweight title fight at WSOF 10 this Saturday night, live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. After the middleweight tournament was dragged out for a few months longer than originally scheduled, Jesse “JT Money” Taylor and David Branch will face off for the strap to headline a stacked card.

Taylor, a former finalist from The Ultimate Fighter and past middleweight champ of four different promotions, is coming off a December victory over Elvis Mutapcic. That fight was originally slated for the WSOF 5 card last September, but a strange incident involving Mutapcic and his ingestion of an unknown substance caused the fight to be postponed. Branch last fought on the September card, where he took a decision win over Danillo Villefort to earn his spot in the championship match-up. Both men are entering the finals hungry and motivated, with stellar camps in their corner.

Branch is a longtime Renzo Gracie black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who fights out of New York City. Since entering the WSOF on the promotion’s inaugural card in 2012, the UFC and Bellator vet has gone 3-0, picking up all of his wins by decision. A well-rounded fighter and brother of two pro boxers, Branch is durable, skilled and willing to go the distance to grind out a decision if need be. His three career losses were to high-level fighters Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, Rousimar Palhares and Gerald Harris, so he is no stranger to stiff competition. He will need that experience against one of his toughest opponents yet as he seeks the WSOF title.

In the six years since Taylor was bounced from the UFC’s TUF 7 Finale due to an unfavorable series of incidents in Las Vegas, the California native and Team Quest standout has bounced around several promotions, including Strikeforce, Dream, MFC and Cage Warriors, and picked up some titles along the way. Of his 27 wins, five have been via knockout and a whopping 14 have come by way of submission. Now on a seven-fight winning streak, which includes four victories by guillotine or rear-naked choke, the BJJ brown belt is looking to make a big statement with a win over Branch and a fifth title to add to his repertoire.

With a card that includes Tyson Griffin, Jessica Aguilar, Rick Glenn, Lance Palmer and three title fights, there is no shortage of talent in the WSOF lineup. Branch and Taylor cap off the night in the WSOF 10 main event. Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up, and as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Taylor – 10, Branch – 10

Branch is just not much of a striker. He doesn’t throw many combos, nor does he have much creativity in his angles or attacks. He throws one or two punches here and one kick there, but he isn’t really prone to any sort of stand-and-bang mentality. If he feels rushed, he immediately backs up or goes for the takedown, but hardly ever engages on his feet.

Taylor trains with Dan Henderson’s crew in Murrieta, Calif., and these guys are all brawlers. He is much thicker than Branch and has never been knocked out in 36 fights. Although Taylor may be the more durable of the two, he hardly bothers to fight on his feet at all and really just shoots in right away to do his work on the ground. Although Taylor does most of his work on the mat, it’s not all submission attacks, as his ground-and-pound is vicious.

Neither Taylor nor Branch is really known for their striking. Taylor is more durable in the striking game, but Branch will at least throw something, instead of just taking it straight to the mat, leaving this one as a toss-up.

Submission Grappling: Taylor – 10, Branch – 10

Both men are submission savvy, but in very different ways. Branch is the more technical of the two, whereas Taylor settles for the big wrestling setups before attacking with his rear-naked and guillotine chokes. As with striking, Taylor is more of a ground-style bulldog. Branch, on the other hand, is the classic BJJ practitioner.

Should this hit the mat, which it likely will, Taylor is going to be more of the aggressor, but Branch could easily catch him in a precarious position, which has proven to be Taylor’s kryptonite. Eight of his nine losses have come by submission.

In the submission game, it’s a really proficient black belt versus a grinding, aggressive brown belt, and the outcome really go either way.

The submission game is a strong modality for both men, making this category a tie.

Wrestling: Taylor – 10, Branch – 9

As happens all too often in MMA, wrestling is the swing vote. Here, it weighs heavily in favor of Taylor.

Taylor is the typical short, stocky, grinding wrestler, and he starts every single fight by shooting his opponent right to the mat. Branch’s BJJ skills may save him on the ground, but it will be very difficult for him to get Taylor off the top. Not only is the Californian more successful with the takedown attempts, but his ground positioning will frustrate even the best BJJ players in the game.

Even against a guy like Dustin Jacoby, Branch wasn’t very successful with his takedown attempts. His takedown defense will be nothing that Taylor hasn’t seen before. Branch may have a slight advantage in the clinch, due to his effective underhooks, but Taylor will not allow this fight to spend much time on the feet.

In the wrestling department, Taylor has a clear advantage, just as he does against pretty much any of his opponents.

Stamina: Taylor – 9, Branch – 10

It’s unusual to give a wrestler the disadvantage in stamina, but that is the case with Taylor. The Californian comes out hard and fast, and he exerts a ton of energy early in his fights. Against Kendall Grove last year in his only five-round fight, Taylor was toast only halfway through the bout. The big, muscular guy seems to have a lot of trouble going the distance, even though he did come out on top over Grove.

Branch’s last five fights have gone the distance, and he has come out on top in four of them. One thing that highly ranked BJJ practitioners are typically good at is energy management. Branch fights calm and cool and never really looks to exert a ton of muscular strength, which will give him a huge advantage should this one enter the championship rounds.

Speed: Taylor – 10, Branch – 9

Taylor is by far the quicker fighter. Even though everyone knows he’s going for an immediate shot, he completes it so fast that it’s practically indefensible. Branch is a more patient fighter who fights a lot slower. This creates a disadvantage for the East Coaster in the speed department.

X-factor

Branch may have more UFC fights under his belt, but the sheer number of outings Taylor has endured in his eight-year career gives him a big advantage in this fight. Even though his game is relatively one-dimensional, he has had no problem taking on guys from all sorts of different backgrounds. Branch is no stranger to the game, but Taylor is on a seven-fight winning streak that is less than two years old. Branch is 3-1 in that same time frame. The Team Quest veteran’s background is the x-factor in this fight.

Total: Taylor – 49, Branch – 48

Verdict: With the WSOF middleweight strap on the line, both men will be more motivated than ever to finish this fight. Branch, however, has not been much of a finisher as of late. Taylor has been taking guys to the mat, grinding his way into superior positioning and choking out his opponents, and that’s what he will be looking for in this fight. Branch may be a BJJ black belt, but that will not be enough to scramble his way out from underneath Taylor’s large frame.

Branch typically waits for his opponents to throw big bombs before he goes for takedown attempts, but that will not happen with Taylor. Branch will get too comfortable on the ground and Taylor will finish this one by the midway point of the fight.

Taylor by second-round submission.

  • fightfan

    Nice analysis- however, hard to imagine Taylor submitting DB via choke. Branch has only really been put in danger by Rouismar…who of course went for the feet. For Taylor to threaten Branch, he’ll have to pass his guard.