Controversy creates two very important items that serve as necessities in the sporting world. First and foremost, controversies create cash, which always aids in financial success for just about any promotion that knows how to properly capitalize on an event that can create such a buzz. Second, controversies always create conversation among fans, experts and even casual observers, all of whom will express their unique opinions about the matter.

Everyone carries a take on the controversy that former UFC welterweight Rousimar Palhares created when he held on to his patented heel hook for longer than necessary in his most recent bout at UFC Fight Night 29 against Mike Pierce. When UFC President Dana White gave his two cents on the matter, he proceeded to publicly state that Palhares’ time with the UFC had finally ended. Fast-forward to one month later, and World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo declared, after weeks of speculation, that Palhares would sign with the WSOF.

Some would deem this move as a headache that Sefo could live without, but in reality, he made a shrewd move. For a moment, we’ll leave out the obvious fact of Palhares’ submission game and history of making his one trick work, because a look at the guys on the promotion’s current roster will shine a much better light on why Palhares makes such a solid roster addition.

Including WSOF welterweight champion Steve Carl, the promotion’s welterweight division packs a grand total of just 16 men. Only a handful of  guys may lay a claim towards a shot at Carl’s title, but it becomes pretty muddy once that subject arises. Josh Burkman recently lost to Carl, Jon Fitch returned to the win column against Marcelo Alfaya, and although Ryan Ford presents a suitable challenge for Carl, he has yet to fight in the WSOF cage.

Still, the potential contenders (or lack thereof) left for Carl remains an issue with which every promotion will always contend, regardless of their longevity as an active promotion. WSOF’s situation tells of something deeper than just a mere lack of challengers for its welterweight champion. Right now, the promotion needs to load up on as much talent as they can acquire. Palhares may not present as big a name as Fitch, but he serves as one of many welterweights that Sefo and WSOF matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz can book in a number of intriguing welterweight fights before talking up titles in correlation to the man known popularly as “Toquinho.”

Starting off with the three notable names on the radar, Palhares knows he can enjoy a number of challenges. Fitch showed improved striking against Alfaya, but his bread and butter remains his wrestling game, which can neutralize even the most lethal of submission games. Still, Fitch would need to prepare for every attempt Palhares would make to lock up his vaunted submission, because Palhares can find the hold from almost anywhere. The same would apply to both Burkman and Ford, both of whom pack the power that traditionally shuts down Palhares, yet also own submission losses in their own careers against proven grapplers and fighters with submission savvy.

If the WSOF wanted, it could book Palhares against a Tyson Steele, a Gregor Gracie, or any other WSOF welterweight that could use a challenge from a “name” foe. Again, Palhares does not present the same type of resume as Fitch or Burkman possess, but a win over the leg-lock machine still pays dividends towards long-term success in any division, and a loss does not cause any concern, as no shame comes from submitting to the physically stacked welterweight.

Even with the talent on the WSOF roster, though, and especially at the 170-pound weight class, all signs for Palhares still point to undefeated former Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren, a talent who flies very close to the WSOF’s radar these days. In fact, Sefo and Abdel-Aziz hope to book Askren against Palhares. If Askren did sign to face Palhares in the coming months, the bout makes all the sense in the world, even outside of a fitting debut for both.

How could it make sense outside of simply booking a debut fight for both under Sefo? Thinking back to how Askren departed from Bellator MMA, we can recall Bellator announcing the “Funky” one as free and clear of contractual matching rights, thus making him an unrestricted free agent. UFC President Dana White actually shocked a few people by announcing a lack of interest in signing Askren, which left many asking if the WSOF was Askren’s only remaining option.

If the UFC does not want to sign Askren and allow him to get the step up he desires, what other options exist? Would Maximum Fighting head honcho Mark Pavelich express interest in Askren? Would Ed Soares allow Askren to compete in Resurrection Fighting Alliance, sensing he could bring both a big name, a brash presence and a difficult style to the RFA welterweight class?

With Bellator not looking to get Askren back and the UFC’s apparent disinterest, the WSOF provides the best platform for the former Bellator titleholder, who ultimately hopes to give the UFC a reason to reconsider its stance on signing him. Palhares, meanwhile, wants to show the UFC that it cut him prematurely, and even if he cannot get himself reinstated by his former employer, at least he can present a step up in competition for the man many feel should be signed by the world’s most prominent MMA league.

People focus on Askren’s style in a negative light, forgetting that he does exhaust people and does more damage to them than what some see on the surface. Palhares has fought people with a variety of different ground games from both the top and the bottom, but Askren presents a unique top game that could especially threaten Palhares. Like the Brazilian leg-lock machine’s submissions, Askren’s unconventional takedowns come from just about anywhere. Unlike Palhares’ leg locks, however, nobody can figure out Askren’s takedowns, and very few can claim to pack the power needed to rock Askren or at least wear him down significantly.

Stylistically, the bout makes for one of the more intriguing ground battles on paper because both present puzzling ground games. When Askren’s top game meets Palhares’ leg-lock assault, something must give. At the end of the day, though, it all hinges on whether or not the WSOF can get Askren. The former Bellator champion remains adamant in his desire to fight the top five of the division, and while a fight with Palhares seems interesting, Askren must first show an interest in utilizing some time with WSOF as a means to pave an alternate route to the UFC.

As for Palhares, he can change a few minds and perspectives with a win over Askren, but if Askren sings the same song and angles for more UFC-branded welterweights, perhaps it benefits the WSOF to line Palhares up with the likes of Fitch, even if Fitch hesitated to accept the bout, or pair the Brazilian with someone else coming off a win. Either way, Palhares will find satisfaction in knowing that the WSOF will serve as his new home, and that regardless of who welcomes him to the promotion, he will gladly make himself comfortable at the expense of some poor welterweight’s leg.

Photo: Rousimar Palhares (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.