Justin Gaethje and Luis Palomino will square off for the second time in six months. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Sequels rarely live up to their predecessors, but Justin Gaethje and Luis Palomino hope to buck that trend.
Gaethje will put his unblemished record and World Series of Fighting lightweight championship on the line against Palomino in the WSOF 23 main event on Friday at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix. It will serve as a rematch of their memorable March 28 encounter, which concluded with Gaethje stopping Palomino on third-round leg kicks and punches.
A Grudge Training Center representative, Gaethje has secured 12 of his 14 pro wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission, earning a reputation as one of the most aggressive and violent fighters in the lightweight division. The 26-year-old Safford, Ariz., native wrestled collegiately at the University of Northern Colorado and has compiled a 7-0 record under the WSOF banner. Gaethje struck World Series of Fighting gold in 2014, when he put away Richard Patishnock in just 69 seconds and has successfully defended the title twice since.
Palomino has won 10 of his last 14 fights, losing only to Gaethje, Efrain Esudero, Luiz Firmino and Pat Curran. The 34-year-old Peruvian operates out of the MMA Masters camp and has held titles in the Championship Fighting Alliance and Xtreme Fighting Championships organizations. Wins over American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal, “The Ultimate Fighter 15” graduate Daron Cruickshank and two-division Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder Jorge Patino highlight his resume.
With the Gaethje-Palomino championship rematch as the centerpiece, here are 10 facts surrounding WSOF 23:
FACT 1: Gaethje is a combined 21-0 with 18 finishes as an amateur and professional.
FACT 2: Palomino has not suffered back-to-back defeats since he submitted to a John Mahlow rear-naked choke on Dec. 5, 2008 and then dropped a split decision to Estevan Payan on April 3, 2009.
FACT 3: The three fighters who have beaten WSOF middleweight champion David Branch -- Anthony Johnson, Rousimar Palhares and Gerald Harris -- own a cumulative record of 60-16.
FACT 4: All 10 of the once-beaten Teddy Holder’s fights have concluded inside one round, five of them in 85 seconds or less.
FACT 5: Brian Foster has competed in 18 different promotions during his 29-fight career: World Series of Fighting, Titan Fighting Championship, Reto de Campeones MMA, C3 Fights, Victory Fighting Championship, Combat MMA, Capital City Cage Wars, Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Shine Fights, Pro Battle MMA, TAP Entertainment, Link Fighting Championship, Art of War, Warriors of the Cage, Dana Pitcher Productions, Blackeye Productions and Masters of the Cage.
FACT 6: Jackson-Wink MMA prospect Timur Valiev has rattled off nine consecutive victories since he wound up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Olle Raberg in his September 2010 professional debut.
FACT 7: Arizona Combat Sports rep Clifford Starks is a perfect 11-0 in fights outside the UFC.
FACT 8: Undefeated Dagestani prospect Vagab Vagabov has executed four submissions among his 15 victories, three of them via guillotine choke.
FACT 9: MMA Lab’s Randy Steinke is one of 12 fighters to have held the undisputed King of the Cage flyweight championship. Shawn Ramage, Del Hawkins, Manny Tapia, Ryan Diaz, Abel Cullum, Jimmie Rivera, Jared Papazian, Frank Baca, Russell Doane, Marvin Garcia and Frankie Saenz are the others.
FACT 10: Prior to his current five-fight winning streak, Xtreme Couture’s Danny Davis Jr. had won just two of his previous nine bouts.