Wakabayashi: WSOF 2 main card breakdown

Anthony Johnson moves up to heavyweight to face Andrei Arlovski in the main event.

By Dwight Wakabayashi

Las Vegas-based promotion World Series of Fighting will hold its second event this Saturday from the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The main card will feature five fights, headlined by a heavyweight clash between two former UFC heavy hitters, Andre Arlovski and Anthony Johnson. Both men gained first-round knockouts in the inaugural WSOF event held in November in Las Vegas to set up a very intriguing match-up.

The main card will have four additional fights that will feature some well known, veteran names in the world of mixed martial arts. Former UFC and Strikeforce competitors Paulo Filho, Aaron Simpson, Dave Branch, Josh Burkman and Gesias Calvacante are all scheduled for action on the main card.

Here is a preview of the main card of Saturday’s WSOF 2.

Gesius Calvacante (17-6-1) vs. Justin Gaethje (7-0) – lightweight

Cavalcante is an experienced veteran of the sport who got a nice submission win over TJ O’Brien in WSOF 1 in November. He has been in many tough fights in his time fighting in Japan and under the Strikeforce banner. Cavalcante is very well rounded, but his most dominant strength is on the ground, so look for him to take it there as soon as he can on Saturday night.

Gaethje is undefeated in the U.S. regional circuit, and he gets a big step-up in this fight. He has five knockouts in his seven wins so his power is not to be ignored. His takedown defence and all-around game will be put to the test in this one, and it should be a good indication of how good he is at this point in his career.

Look for Cavalcante to get a quick submission in this one to remain undefeated in the WSOF.

Josh Burkman (24-9) vs. Aaron Simpson (12-4) – welterweight

This is a battle between two former UFC fighters who are both hitting the back end of their respective careers in the sport. Simpson is a dominant wrestler and this will be his first fight since being released from the UFC in October. He got seven wins in 11 fights in his time in the UFC and has solid wins over the likes of Ed Herman, Tom Lawlor and Brad Tavares.

Burkman has been battling outside the UFC since being released in 2008 and is currently on a three-fight winning streak, including a win over Gerald Harris at WSOF 1. Burkman’s game is based upon strength and wrestling as well, and he is a very strong man to handle at welterweight.

Simpson should be a step above Burkman in every aspect of the game, and look for this fight to be a test of strength against strength. The fighter who can secure the initial leverage will be the better man all night.

David Branch (11-3) vs. Paulo Filho (23-4-2) – middleweight

Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt and veteran fighter Branch has only been defeated three times in his career and is coming off a nice win over Dustin Jacoby in WSOF 1. He lost a decision to headliner Anthony Johnson in his fight before that, and is looking to make a final run in his career.

He will face career enigma and submission specialist Filho, who is making his debut in the WSOF. Filho is coming off a nice first-round TKO over Murilo Rua in September of last year in a small promotion in Brazil. Filho’s physical skill in the sport is right up there with some of the best in the world but his mental toughness and his unstable behaviour in the past make him a question mark every time he signs up for a fight.

The longer this fight goes, the better it will be for Branch.

Marlon Moraes (9-4-1) vs. Tyson Nam (12-4) – bantamweight

Moraes secured this fight by scoring a mildly surprising upset, split-decision win over Miguel Torres at WSOF 1. Many thought that Torres would take Moraes out in that fight, but the hungry youngster out of Jupiter, Fla., had other ideas. His game is very strong all over the cage and he has split his nine wins equally with three submissions, knockouts and decisions each.

Nam is a highly touted prospect with three first-round knockouts in his last four wins in a row in competition inside the cage. His most recent knockout came over Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas last August and opened the door to the World Series of Fighting. The 29-year-old Nam is a very experienced fighter, but his weakness may be exposed if the fight hits the ground. Look for Moraes to try to take it there early, to stay out of danger and take some of the pop off of Nam’s strikes for the rest of the fight.

Andre Arlovski (19-9) vs. Anthony Johnson (14-4) – heavyweight

This fight could be a very exciting and entertaining slugfest, or a lopsided, size mismatch based on the history of these two competitors. Johnson has a long history of problems making weight for fights but that won’t be a concern in this fight. These two men have traditionally competed at least a weight class apart with Arlovski a light heavy to heavyweight (205 and up) and Johnson much lower at welterweight or middleweight (170 to 185 pounds).

Johnson will be competing at heavyweight for the first time in his career and is coming into this fight at close to 235 pounds, which will make him almost as heavy as the 245-pound Arlovski. Arlovski is two inches taller than Johnson but their reach is virtually the same so the size difference should be minimized come fight night. The question is how much quickness, speed and power Johnson may lose by competing in this new weight, and if his chin will hold up against a big boy like Arlovski.

Both men will be looking for the fast knockout in this one, and it’s a complete toss up on who will actually get it.

Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.

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