When Zuffa cuts veteran fighters from its promotions, a savvy promoter from a smaller organization has the ability to make some pretty great match-ups. In the case of the upstart World Series of Fighting, the promotion made a great one for its co-main event at WSOF 4 this Saturday night.

Live from Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., longtime UFC vet Tyson Griffin will face off against former two-time K-1 Hero’s champ Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante. Both men began their pro careers in 2004 and have been in and out of the cage ever since, combining for 49 total fights. However, nine years of experience or not, both men have followed very different paths in the sport.

Griffin made his UFC debut in 2006, had 14 fights in the Octagon, and earned six “of the Night” bonuses. Cavalcante never made it into the big show, but did run the gamut in Hero’s and Dream before making it into Strikeforce. Unfortunately, after a lackluster 1-2-1 record in Zuffa’s smaller promotion, he wasn’t invited into the UFC after the merger.

Both Griffin and Cavalcante need to win this fight to maintain any shred of relevance in the sport. Saturday night, fans will get to see two veterans face off in what could be an action-packed 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: Griffin – 10, Cavalcante – 9

When two equally well-rounded fighters go toe-to-toe, it’s usually the taller fighter that has the reach advantage. However, Cavalcante will need to bring his A-game into the cage as he faces off with Griffin. Griffin has always been on the shorter end of the lightweight division, but he is powerful with good lateral movement. Even more important than that, Griffin is overall just a better striker.

Griffin uses lots of punishing leg kicks, solid combinations and forward pressure. Cavalcante, on the other hand, is a so-so striker who relies on single straight jabs to ward off the standing attack of his opponents. The Brazilian also has a very bad habit of trying to close the distance with his head down to secure takedowns, but that leaves him open to overhand attacks, especially from the right.

Cavalcante may have five knockouts to Griffin’s six, but that hardly tells the story. The American has knocked out a couple of UFC guys, including Duane “Bang” Ludwig, who has a kickboxing background, and he has gone the distance with the like of Frankie Edgar, Clay Guida, and Manny Gamburyan, who are all talented strikers. Cavalcante has barely even been close to the level that Griffin lived in for most of his career.

If this one stays standing, Cavalcante is in big trouble.

Submission Grappling: Griffin – 9, Cavalcante – 10

In the striking department, Griffin has a big advantage, and while Cavalcante can make up for that difference on the mat, it’s not nearly as lopsided an advantage. Regardless, it would be wise for the American to keep this one from hitting the mat, unless he lands on top.

Eight of Cavalcante’s wins are by submission, with his most recent coming last November at WSOF 1 when he tweaked T.J. O’Brien’s ankle with a nasty Achilles lock about a minute into the fight. Although Griffin does have a handful of submissions on his record, he hasn’t made somebody tap since his UFC debut seven years ago.

Cavalcante is a brown belt in BJJ and has showcased a variety of chokes, joint locks and armbars throughout his career. Griffin, a purple belt, has only shown fans the rear-naked choke on three occasions, which is no surprise since that’s a typical wrestler’s go-to submission, usually set up by superior positioning on the ground.

Griffin is no slouch when it comes to positioning, but Cavalcante has a big advantage in the submission department

Wrestling: Griffin – 10, Cavalcante – 9

Cavalcante may be a strong grappler from a submission standpoint, but Griffin’s ability to control the fight from the clinch and to maintain top control when on the ground is going to be a headache for the Brazilian.

Griffin is a former top wrestler in high school and junior college. He has easily transitioned his formal wrestling skills into the MMA ring. He has superior takedown defense, which will pose problems for Cavalcante, since he will be getting pounded on his feet. The Brazilian needs to get this one to the mat, but Griffin just doesn’t go to the mat, especially against a guy with no wrestling background. To make matters worse for Cavalcante, if he does get to the mat, there’s no guarantee that he will be able to achieve a superior position with Griffin utilizing his wrestling to maintain an edge.

Wrestling could prove to be the game changer in this fight, since Griffin is so much better with positional control.


The big variable in this fight is the level of experience these two men possess. Griffin may have five less fights than Cavalcante, but the comparison of opponents is not even close. Griffin spent five years in the UFC. He has fought Edgar, Guida and Ludwig, as stated above, but even more recently, he has faced Efrain Escudero, former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, and was last in the Octagon less than two years ago. Cavalcante was in Strikeforce for four fights, and that’s about it. In his last fight, Cavalcante was beat up so badly in two minutes by Justin Gaethje, who’s only been a pro for a year, that the doctor stopped the fight.

Both men are seasoned vets, but Griffin’s seasoning has been a much richer blend. Cavalcante won’t have much to offer a guy who’s pretty much seen everything.

Total: Griffin – 29, Cavalcante – 28

Verdict: Cavalcante will only pose big problems for Griffin if it hits that mat and he can snag a stray leg or arm. However, the chances of that happening are very slim. Griffin has had a career full of ups and downs, but only because he brings it consistently for every fight in the cage. Griffin does not back down and his skills at striking and wrestling easily mute out the Brazilian’s submission repertoire. Look for Griffin to take this one the distance for an easy unanimous decision victory.

Photo: Tyson Griffin (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator