The World Series of Fighting hosted its 30th numbered event Saturday, April 2nd live from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. WSOF 30: Branch vs. Starks featured one of MMA’s rarities, a two-division champion defending one of his titles when light heavyweight and middleweight champion David Branch put his middleweight crown on the line against former UFC scrapper Clifford Starks. Branch, one of the most fearsome names outside of the UFC at the moment, had promised “more violence” heading into this title defense — would he hold up his end of the deal?

Also on the card, longtime MMA vet Jon Fitch looked to finally claim a title in a major promotion when he took on Joao Zeferino. This was a fight that was originally set to be something of a dream grappling match-up against Jake Shields, but contract issues saw Shields out of the fight, and Zeferino in. That may have given the edge to Fitch — but it also created a dangerous situation where a loss might drop him out of the title picture for good.

Other notable names on the WSOF 30 card included Vinny Magalhaes and Abubukar Nurmagomedov, brother of top-ranked UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov.

How did the event play out? Check below for a main card summary and full results come fight time!

MAIN CARD SUMMARY

David Branch vs. Clifford Starks – for the WSOF middleweight championship

Round 1 — Branch and Starks waste no time getting going with a couple of kicks then a clinch against the fence. Branch was the aggressor early, and dropped some heavy foot stomps against the cage. Starks managed to land after catching a leg, but Branch was unfazed. Branch threw knees in the clinch, Starks unable to score anything there, but back in the middle he was able to catch a kick again and attack off of it. Branch will need to be careful with those kicks. He pressed Starks back up against the cage then sunk in underhooks and spun around, throwing Starks down to score the takedown. Starks traps one leg in half guard as Branch tries to step over into full mount. The round ends with Branch in control.

Round 2 — Starks pressed the action in the second round. Branch answered with a jumping knee.  He pressed Starks up against the cage again, and worked for the takedown. Starks stuff that, and off the break, came out unloading a few bombs. Branch again shoved him up against the fence, essentially stalling and simply leaning on Starks, causing ref Big John to take a close look at the action. Again, off the break, Starks threw some heavy punches, while Branch threw a kick in response and took the action right back to the side of the cage. That time, Starks reversed. A little back and forth for control followed, then Branch scored a takedown with about ninety seconds left in the round.  However, as they were coming back to the feet Branch threw an illegal knee to the head, which landed on the side of the head, albeit not cleanly. After a quick examination by the doctor, Big John took a point from Branch, and the action resumed. Starks looked fired up once they got back to it, but Branch quickly scored the takedown  — only to be caught in a guillotine. The bell saved him, however, though it wasn’t clear if he was in any real danger.

Round 3 — Was the second a 10-8 round with the point deduction? That had to be weighing on the mind of David Branch coming into the third. Branch changed levels and looked for the takedown after the initial exchange to start the round, but couldn’t finish. Against the fence, Starks used a wizard to stave off another takedown attempt. Back to the middle they went; Branch continued to shoot and look to take the fight to the mat. Starks reversed Branch along the fence and threw a decent knee to the mid-section, then attempted another. They broke, and back in the middle, Starks seemed to find his range, only to have Branch land a combo and draw blood. Branch then continued to let the fists fly until they tied up against the fence. Off the break, Starks landed a number of blows, which led to Branch moving the fight back to the cage where the fighters traded knees. They continued to trade knees from the clinch, then Branch landed a solid combo with about a minute left in the round. While Starks flipped the script and tried a takedown of his own, Branch tried to secure a kimura. Shaking that on, they began trading on the feet again, but it would go to a fourth round.

Round 4 — Branch came out with some crisp boxing to start the fourth, then shot for the takedown and landed it in explosive fashion. However, he was unable to land much from the top, and Starks worked his way to the fence wall, sitting up. Branch would latch on to a leg to drag him back down, but again, was unable to get off much offense. While Starks would try to power up, Branch succeeded in dragging him back down, and finally connected with a vicious elbow at just under the two minute mark. Moving the fight away from the fence, still in top control, Branch managed to put Starks in a very precarious position, and looked to move to side control. Branch passed guard, and began landing elbows to the side of Stark’s head. Branch then added some big shots to the body while looking for a kimura; Starks was saved by the bell.

Round 5 — Starks pushed the pace early, while Branch looked to counter. Starks looked for a shot but was stuffed. Against the fence, Branch controlled the action. Fatigue looked to be an issue for Starks, however Branch wasn’t active enough, and Big John restarted the action. Branch then shot for takedown and landed it, away from the fence. Starks valiantly scrambled back to the cage wall, earning a chance to get back to his feet, however Branch passed guard, moving to full mount if only for a moment before Starks got him back in half guard. However Branch passed into full mount again, and while he wasn’t able to land much, he was eating previous seconds from the clock. With thirty seconds left he was still in control, and landing more while Starks scrambled under him. The bell sounded, and it went to the judges.

David Branch def. Clifford Starks by unanimous decision (49-44, 49-44, 49-44) – Branch retained the WSOF middleweight championship

Jon Fitch vs. Joao Zeferino – for the vacant WSOF welterweight championship

Round 1 — Fitch looked very focused prior to the action getting underway. The pair threw combos early, but Fitch soon sought out the takedown, taking things to the fence. They moved back to the center of the cage, with Fitch changing levels and obviously looking to shoot. He’d have to be careful not to telegraph a shot and walk into a punch. Another shot was stuffed by Zeferino, who was having none of those takedown attempts. Fitch meanwhile looked to find his range with the jab, while Zeferino looked to counter and circle out of harm’s way. Finally Fitch scored a quick takedown with just under two minutes to go, but Zeferino was back up in an instant, and reversed Fitch along the fence. Zeferino looked to sweep for a takedown but Fitch escaped. Fitch landed a right then moved for a takedown, another good scramble by Zeferino, then another moments later. Fitch managed to take his back as the round ended.

Round 2 — Fitch opened the second round with a leg kick, still leading with stiff jabs and changing levels looking for a chance to shoot. Zeferino continued to counter back. A combo from Zeferino landed, while Fitch answered with a leg kick. Fitch looked for a single up against the cage about halfway through the round; Zeferino continued to prove he has solid takedown defense, having none of it. Zeferino with a sloppy high kick that missed, which allowed Fitch to rush in and drag him down at least partway, mixing in a few strikes and no doubt scoring a few points with the judges in what was to that point a relatively close round.  With just over a minute remaining, Fitch big Zeferino up and dropped him to the mat up against the cage, his best takedown of the night to date, and a position Zeferino would be hard pressed to lock in a sub from. Fitch used elbows to the ribs to make his presence felt as the round came to a close.

Round 3 — Fitch again opened with a leg kick. Zeferino actually attempted to shoot for a takedown but there was nothing behind it. Fitch took Zeferino down along the fence and wound up in half guard, giving Zeferino a chance for a leg lock, then a kimura attempt. Fitch survived but went right back into the danger zone, before posturing up and throwing some body shots. Fitch landed more punches until Zeferino finally powered back up at the halfway point. Fitch landed some jabs with his left once they engaged again. A spinning back elbow from Jon Fitch took everyone by surprise; the then scored an easy takedown against the fence. Zeferino looked for a kimura, but Fitch was able to posture up and land more hard body shots.

Round 4 — Zeferino pressed early on in the fourth round, moving forward, with Fitch sitting back and throwing counters. Fitch and Zeferino reversed a few times along the cage, with Fitch mixing in some knees to the leg and mid-section. Zeferino managed to control for a bit, but couldn’t land anything. Zeferino came with heavier hands and more combos in the fourth round; halfway in he seemed to be winning the round, landing more punches. Fitch, however, again scored a takedown, with two minutes left in the round. Shots to the body of Zeferino continued to soften him up. Solid upkicks by Zeferino as Fitch postured up; he followed that by a knee bar attempt that didn’t come close. Zeferino looked to transition to Fitch’s back with seconds ticking down, but Fitch was prepared and continued to land punches and elbows throughout he sequence. The round came to an end, and would go to a fifth and final frame.

Round 5 — Decent body kick by Zeferino to open the round, but he will likely need a stoppage to claim a victory in this contest. Nice upper cut by Fitch followed a brief clinch. However the went to the ground shortly after, and Zeferino, the leg lock expert, managed to lock in a decent knee bar attempt, only to have Fitch break free. A toe hold was thwarted shortly after. After regrouping, Fitch again took things to the mat, and landed more ground n’ pound to the head and body of Zeferino. Zeferino continued to scramble and be active from the bottom, but Fitch pressing him against the cage gave him little room to work. With a minute to go, Fitch was on top in half guard, controlling the wrists of Zeferino continuing to be the aggressor. The seconds ticked down, and that was it: Fitch likely just secured a major championship at long last.

Jon Fitch def. Joao Zeferino by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) – Fitch won the vacant WSOF welterweight title

Vinny Magalhaes vs. Jake Heun

Round 1 — A big leg kick by Magalhaes opened the round. Early on it seemed like kicks would be the game plan for Magalhaes, but Heun did manage to catch one after three or four hit home. That didn’t deter Magalhaes from throwing more, however, no doubt confident that Heun did not want to go to the ground with him. This allowed Magalhaes to just chop away at Heun, before the fighters wound up tied up against the cage halfway through the round. Magalhaes mixed in foot stomps and a knee before the pair broke and moved back to the center of the cage. Magalhaes continued to launch some big kicks, while Heun would attempt to answer back with some of his own. Bruising could already be seen on Heun’s back, side, and leg — Magalhaes’ kicks had to be taking their toll.

Round 2 — In the second round, Heun opened the action with a kick of his own, and attempted to get off a couple of combos on Magalhaes. Heun managed to land a good head kick at a minute in that was just beautifully set up. That was made more impressive given the amount of damage Heun took in round one. A quick clich followed and both fighters landed before breaking, but Magalhaes managed to land more crushing kicks to the legs of Heun off the break. Heun seemed unable to check the kicks, and damage was really starting to show, with Heun’s left leg looking very tender.  A swing and a miss by Heun with just over a minute left in the round allowed Magalhaes to score a takedown and go to work looking for a sub; after a quick scramble he found himself in Heun’s guard and postured up, landing some punches and short elbows before returning to the feet. The brakes then came off as both men landed some looping hooks before Magalhaes scored on last takedown and maintained position to end the round.

Round 3 — Heun again came out with a kick to start the third round. At this point, he was looking for a finish, likely down two rounds to none. A big Magalhaes kick thundered in the venue, but Heun continued to press forward. Magalhaes appeared to be tiring with over three minutes left in the round. A big overhand right had Magalhaes covering up; he continued to back away from Heun’s offense, looking a little sloppy from fatigue. Heun had plenty of time to work, but Magalhaes managed to shoot and complete a takedown, quickly moving into half guard. Magalhaes looked to sink in a kimura, and had it tight, but with thirty seconds left Heun broke free and began landing some of the biggest punches and elbows to the ribs seen in ages. The bell then sounded — what a finish!

Vinny Magalhaes def. Jake Heun by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Abu Azaitar vs. Danny Davis Jr.

Round 1 — The action quickly moved to the fence as Abu Azaitar looked to gain control over the taller Davis Jr. early on. A great leg sweep by Davis Jr., however, took things to the ground, but they didn’t stay down for long. A number of frantic exchanges on the feet followed, then Davis Jr. pressed Azaitar up against the fence once more. Once they moved away, Azaitar connected with a huge knee that seemed to stun his opponent, but he was unable to capitalize, and Danny Davis Jr. managed to score a takedown in the final minute of the round and score some ground and pound with seconds ticking down. That final minute may have secured the round for Davis Jr.

Round 2 — A superman punch attempt by Davis Jr. put him in danger briefly at the start of the round, but he managed to escape danger. An overhand right by Azaitar failed to land clean, but he did knock Davis Jr. to the mat. Davis Jr. recovered and took Azaitar down against the fence. Davis would next pass into half guard and then transition to the back, looking to sink in a rear-naked choke. Azaitar scrambled and bought himself some time, he managed to transition and secure the back of his opponent, looking for his own rear-naked choke. Davis Jr. then scrambled and broke free, moving back to his feet and pressing Azaitar up against the cage wall.  Davis Jr. looked to secure a single leg takedown while Azaitar defended with a wizard. The two began swinging coming off the break with just seconds left in the round, only to have the buzzer sound after an exchange of kicks. And so it went to a third frame.

Round 3 — Swelling above the left eye of Davis Jr. had the doctor’s taking a look, but the round is allowed to start. He appeared to be the fresher fighter coming out for the third. Both fighters seemed a little reluctant to commit early in the round, before finally settling in with an exchange of punches. Azaitar leaned if with a body shot, while Davis Jr. worked his jab and seemed to have found his range. A short left by Azaitar connected with just over two minutes left, and Azaitar seemed to sense the tide shifting, following up with several more blows. Azaitar attempted to mix in several kicks both low and high, while Davis Jr. seemed to sit back until a takedown attempt in the final minute. That shot failed, but Davis Jr. found himself pressing Azaitar up against the fence, where he was able to complete the takedown. He then secured the back of his opponent and began reigning down blows with both hooks in. The bell would sound as Davis Jr. continued to dominate.

Abu Azaitar def. Danny Davis Jr. by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

FULL RESULTS

MAIN CARD

David Branch def. Clifford Starks by unanimous decision (49-44, 49-44, 49-44) – Branch retained the WSOF middleweight championship
Jon Fitch def. Joao Zeferino by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45) – Fitch won the vacant WSOF welterweight championship
Vinny Magalhaes def. Jake Heun by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Abu Azaitar def. Danny Davis Jr. by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

PRELIMINARY CARD

Abubakar Nurmagomedov def. Matthew Frincu by TKO, Round 2, 3:05
Rex Harris def. Clinton Williams by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Steve Kozola def. Matt Church by TKO, Round 1, 1:57
Carlos Garcia vs. Jason Pacheco
Adam Acquaviva def. Andres Ponce by submission (rear naked choke), Round 1, 2:10
Zach Bunnell def. Jeff Roman by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.