A new era will take shape in the welterweight division on Saturday night when former UFC title contenders Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami compete in a title eliminator bout in the headliner of World Series of Fighting 24.
Former WSOF welterweight champion Rousimar Palhares was recently stripped of the title and suspended indefinitely for misconduct inside the cage. Unfortunately, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt had a bad habit of holding onto submissions for too long.
Fitch knows exactly what it feels like to be on the wrong end of a Palhares leg lock. His screams of bloody murder went unheard when the Brazilian twisted his knee into a pretzel back in December 2014. He has been sidelined ever since.
After spending nearly a year away from competition, Fitch is determined to claim the vacant throne. Years of playing prince to former welterweight king Georges St-Pierre has left a chip on his shoulder. The time has come for Fitch to rise up and fortify his own legacy.
When speaking with Today’s Knockout, the former NCAA Division I wrestler denounced any similarities to Okami. He sees himself as a one-of-a-kind fighter with a unique style:
“We have kind of a grinding style that’s similar, but I don’t think anybody really fights like I do. I have a unique style, and I don’t really try to focus on what other people are doing too much. I try to focus on what I need to do and what I need to get done to accomplish my end goals.
I’m not too worried about the way he clinches and works for his trip and ground-and-pounds and that type of stuff. I know how to get back up, and I know how to get done what I want to get done.”
As WSOF Vice President Ali Abdel Aziz told MMAjunkie, legacies will be on the line on Saturday night.
Like Fitch, Okami has also spent his entire professional career contending for a world title. We have watched him dominate some of the best fighters in the world over the years, but he has never been the guy to actually sit on the throne.
Obviously, no one can fault him seeing as he came up in the same era as former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Along with St-Pierre, Silva is widely considered one of the greatest fighters in MMA history. It’s been a tough break for Okami, who was handed a beatdown from Silva a little over four years ago.
But the longtime Japanese fighter once again finds himself in a position to win a world title. The moment of truth for both Okami and Fitch has arrived, according to Abdel Aziz:
“Somebody is going to go home without the opportunity to fight for a belt or win a belt; it’s legacy on the line. Many guys have fought, but when you don’t win a belt people don’t remember you as much. When you win a belt, your name is always going to come into the conversation. Your name in history will be placed. These guys always have a place in history. They have a place, but at what level? Will it be at a world championship level, or just another fighter?”
WSOF 24 also features the return of Matt “The Hammer” Hamill against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Vinny Magalhães. Top lightweight contender Nick Newell will also be in action against Tom Marcellino.
The full results from Friday’s weigh-ins are listed below.
Main card (NBCSN at 8:30 p.m. ET)
Jon Fitch (170) vs. Yushin Okami (170)
Blagoy Ivanov (252) vs. Derrick Mehmen (237)
Vinny Magalhaes (204) vs. Matt Hamill (205)
Nick Newell (156) vs. Tom Marcellino (155)
Magomed Bibulatov (124) vs. Donavon Frelow (124)
Preliminary Card (Online at 5:30 p.m. ET)
Rick Glenn (145) vs. Adam Ward (145)
Alexandre de Almeida (145) vs. Saul Almeida (148)*
Rodrigo Almeida (148) vs. Bruce Boyington (145)
Justin Torrey (185) vs. Rex Harris (184)
Washington Da Silva (173)* vs. Colton Smith (170)
Pat Walsh (228) vs. Tyler King (240)
* Did Not Make Weight on First Attempt