David Branch (14-3) is World Series of Fighting’s inaugural middleweight champion after submitting Jesse Taylor (27-10) in the first round of their championship fight.
The bout served as the main event of Saturday’s “World Series of Fighting 10: Branch vs. Taylor” event, which took place at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and aired live on NBCSN.
Branch was overcome with emotion after the fight as the Brooklyn, N.Y., resident and former iron worker openly wept as his hand was raised as WSOF’s newest champion. “I came from nothing,” Branch said afterward. “I know that when I was a kid my mom always struggled. There were three of us and sometimes we only had one meal a day.”
Taylor was the first to go on the attack, clinching up and falling to his back to lock in a guillotine choke. But Branch kept himself safe in the hold, forcing Taylor to let go. When Taylor subsequently scrambled up for a better position, Branch instantly locked in the D’Arce choke and cinched it tight. Taylor tried to resist but was forced to tap at the 1:41 mark of the opening round.
In the night’s co-feature, Rick Glenn (14-3) survived a certain finish by armbar to bounce back and score a TKO win at the end of the second frame and unseat former champion Georgi Karakhanyan (23-4).
A heavy favorite in the matchup, Karakhanyan looked strong in the early going, bringing the fight to the floor and moving to his opponent’s back before locking in an armbar that left Glenn’s limb vulnerable. But the Roufusport fighter battled through the hold and somehow survived until the bell.
“When he took my back I could feel him breathing heavy and I was able to land a couple of punches,” Glenn said. “I just stayed on him. I knew coming in he was the big favorite. It’s nice now that I have this belt that I won’t have to worry about calling anyone out.”
He added: “I want to finish fights and I want to put on exciting fights for the fans. I don’t want to leave it in the judges hands and get screwed.”
Things changed dramatically in the second, as Glenn took his opponent to the floor and unleashed a furious ground-and-pound barrage. Karakhanyan was wounded and tried hard to escape but endured a non-stop wave of strikes. He survived until the bell, but when he went to the stool, he revealed he was suffering from broken ribs, and the bout was called off, earning Glenn the title.
World Series of Fighting women’s strawweight champion Jessica Aguilar (18-4) kept firm hold of her belt with a dominant decision win over a tough Emi Fujino (13-8). Aguilar’s crisp boxing scored points from the start, bloodying Fujino’s nose and setting the tone for the remainder of the five-round affair. To Fujino’s credit, she never showed signs of retreat, even when she was locked deep into an arm-triangle choke
“It didn’t go exactly the way I planned, but we still got the hand raised at the end and that’s the most important thing,” Aguilar said. “She was tough. I knew she would be. But I was prepared to go five rounds; I was prepared to go 10 rounds.”
In a lightweight matchup, Luiz Firmino (18-6) earned a hard-fought decision win over highly respected veteran Tyson Griffin (16-8) in a high-paced slugfest. Both fighters fired haymakers on the feet throughout the 15-minute matchup, but Firmino mixed in sharp grappling, as well, working frequently to dominant positions and forcing Griffin to defend potential submissions. The dynamic attack was enough to score him a decision win, 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
“I’ve been training so hard for this fight and I was ready. He’s big, as big as me and the same height so I thought it was a good matchup for both of us.”
In the night’s first main-card matchup, Lance Palmer (8-1) rebounded from his failed bid at the World Series of Fighting featherweight title with an impressive first-round win over the previously undefeated Nick LoBosco (7-1). After some early exchanges on the feet, Palmer turned to his wrestling base to bring the fight to the floor. Once there, he offered up non-stop ground-and-pound strikes until he could sink in a rear-naked choke with 45 seconds left in the first round.
“This was a fight I needed coming off the loss to Georgi (Karakhanyan) in my last fight,” Palmer said after the win. “There was a sense of urgency. I wanted to prove I was the dominant fighter in the first round, and I was able to do that and dominate him early.”
In the night’s final preliminary matchup, a heavyweight rivalry fight turned out to be fairly one-sided in nature, as Derrick Mehmen (18-5) cruised to a decision win over Dave Huckaba (21-6). A gritty Huckaba fought hard from start to finish, pumping out a stiff jab throughout the fight. But Mehmen’s speed, coupled with his ability to get the fight to the floor, seemingly at will, allowed him to control the pace and positioning of the contest. Mehmen used short punches and elbows on the floor to batter Huckaba, and at the end of the fight, he was awarded a clearcut decision win with scores of 30-26, 30-25 and 30-27.
Dagestani import Timur Valiev (7-1) made an immediate impact in World Series of Fighting’s bantamweight division, earning a thrilling third-round TKO win over a tough Adam Acquaviva (1-1).
In an early “Fight of the Night” candidate, the two fighters went back and forth in a high-paced affair. But as it wore on, Valiev seemed to settle into a rhythm and unleash a dynamic arsenal of attacks, including punches, kicks and takedowns from all angles. A pinpoint high kick nearly ended the fight in the second before a flying knee did the trick 95 seconds into the third.
Bulgarian middleweight Krasimir Mladenov (11-0) kept his perfect career mark intact, outwrestling Angel DeAnda (11-4) for a decision win. DeAnda showed heart and capable takedown defense throughout the three-round contest, but Mladenov’s second and third efforts routinely brought the fight to the floor, earning him points en route to a decision win, 30-27 on all three cards.
Women’s bantamweight Ashlee Evans-Smith (3-0) earned another win, scoring a third-round finish of a taller Marciea Allen (3-2). Evans-Smith started slow, struggling to navigate the range in the early going. But as the fight wore on, her confidence grew, and Evans-Smith took the fight to the floor. Once there, Allen proved unable to escape, and a non-stop barrage of short punches and elbows forced referee Mark Smith to halt the fight at the 3:01 mark of the final round.
In a lightweight matchup featuring crosstown Las Vegas rivals, Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu’s Jimmy Spicuzza (4-0) earned a unanimous-decision win over Xtreme Couture’ Justin Jaynes (4-2).
In the night’s first fight, Las Vegas’ A.J. Williams (1-0) scored a victory in his professional debut, rocking Utah’s Tanner Cowan (0-1) with an early high kick before finishing him off with punches just 44 seconds into the first round.