After a very busy July, the MMA world essentially came to a halt in the beginning of August with UFC 176 being forced into cancellation. While some smaller, regional events took place during the first weekend of the month, the World Series of Fighting is the saving grace this Saturday night as WSOF 12 kicks off live from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Although there is not much buzz surrounding the headlining match-up, the promotion did put together a main event with title implications.

At 33 years of age, Luis Palomino is a longtime veteran of the sport. The Peruvian has 31 fights under his belt, has fought in Bellator six times, and held featherweight titles in both Championship Fighting Alliance and Xtreme Fighting Championships. He has 12 knockout victories and notable wins over Jorge Masvidal, Daron Cruickshank and Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante. Palomino is coming off a second-round knockout of Jorge Patino in January. He brings a ton of experience and heavy hands as he faces off against 26-year-old Lewis Gonzalez for the No. 1 lightweight contender spot.

Three years ago, Gonzalez entered the world of pro MMA. He hasn’t looked back since. In his first two years, he racked up a 9-0 record, including seven stoppages, while fighting in the welterweight and lightweight divisions. The Californian has been on the sidelines for a year, following an injury that bounced him from a lightweight title shot against Justin Gaethje at WSOF 8 in January. Now, back in the saddle, he looks to make a big statement against his most experienced opponent yet so he can get back in line for the belt.

Palomino and Gonzalez may not exactly be household names in the sport, but these two fighters pose an interesting match-up. On one hand, Palomino is the more experienced fighter, but most of his career has been spent bouncing around between 145-pound and 155-pound opponents. Gonzalez may be the newcomer, but he has been very successful against both lightweights and welterweights, stopping all of his larger opponents. All of the questions will be answered this Saturday night when the two fighters face off live on the NBC Sports Network.

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: Palomino – 10, Gonzalez – 9

In a recent interview, Gonzalez stated that he is the more technical striker. This is simply not the case. Palomino has fast, deadly hands, and the results have been obvious in his 12 knockouts. The Peruvian fighter stalks his opponents in the ring, and when he finds range, he throws great combos. He has a black belt in capoeira, which fans can see inklings of in his kicking techniques and especially in his post-fight celebrations. Gonzalez is nowhere near the same level of striker as Palomino.

Gonzalez’s striking is fairly rudimentary. On the feet, he doesn’t throw much in the way of combos, utilizing a very predictable overhand right and some occasional jabs more often than not. Three of his submissions were by punches on the ground, and his two TKOs came in similar fashion. The best striking that Gonzalez has to offer is in his ground-and-pound attack.

Gonzalez may be able to utilize effective striking on the mat, but as far as stand-up striking skills, Palomino is by far the superior striker.

Wrestling: Palomino – 9, Gonzalez – 10

Palomino may have a big advantage on the feet, but the wrestling game is quite lopsided to the advantage of Gonzalez. He is a two-time California state wrestling champion who has finished most of his fights by out-wrestling his opponents for superior position. Any time he is faced with a barrage of striking and can get in range, Gonzalez will take his opponents to the mat. He is very much a younger version of Jesse Taylor in that respect, and his game is just as effective.

Palomino is not a bad grappler, especially considering he has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but his wrestling game is not as formally proficient as Gonzalez’s. The younger fighter has a big advantage in this fighting modality.

Submission Grappling: Palomino – 10, Gonzalez – 10

It may be easy for someone to look at their respective records and come to the conclusion that Gonzalez is the superior grappler, but three of his five submissions were by punches. On the other hand, one of Palomino’s two subs were in this same fashion. In reality, between the two men, they share about three total submissions in 31 wins.

Gonzalez is a very tough ground fighter from a wrestling perspective, but he has yet to show any type of high-level proficiency in submission finishes. Palomino may be a black belt in BJJ, but he, too, prefers to finish fights with his hands.

The ground game really is a toss-up. There is no doubt that Gonzalez is going to out-wrestle the smaller Palomino, but who knows what the Peruvian has up his sleeve with his high level of BJJ training.

X-factor

The x-factor in this match-up is clearly Palomino’s experience. Gonzalez has a growing confidence in his game with every consecutive win, but the “old man” has been doing this a lot longer against a lot tougher competition. In fact, the tougher his opponents have gotten, the less likely Gonzalez has been to earn a finish (His last two fights went to decision). Palomino might get taken down, and, if so, he will get out-wrestled. However, he is tough as nails, has been there before, and won’t be tapping out to any punches, no matter how much heat Gonzalez thinks he brings to the table.

Total: Palomino – 29, Gonzalez – 29

Verdict: It seemed on the surface that the Donald Cerrone-Jim Miller fight was going to be a lot closer than it was, but the veteran striker had his way with the very seasoned grappler. While it probably won’t be exactly as lopsided as that fight, the veteran striker Palomino is not going to let the fairly new Gonzalez just toss him around like he did with his previous opponents. On top of that, there is the possibility of ring rust, because, being a youngster or not, Gonzalez is coming off a year-long break, something he has never done before.

There is no doubt that Gonzalez is going to come out looking for an immediate takedown, and Palomino knows this. The veteran will most likely try to maintain range, and, if he does get taken down, he is not going to give in like Gonzalez’s previous opponents have. Gonzalez does have the ability to take this to the ground and ride out a very boring decision victory, and with a title shot on the line, this could be his strategy. He’s gone to decision in his last two fights, and they both went his way. Meanwhile, Palomino will definitely be looking to finish the youngster.

A betting man will probably put his money on Gonzalez dragging this one out, but Palomino has heavy hands and, as he’s shown time and time again, once he touches his opponent’s chin, he barrages his way to victory. So, for argument’s sake, look for the veteran to hand Gonzalez a few on the chin, setting up a hail-storm finish.

Palomino by TKO.