By Brian Woodman
With special contributions by Terry Sutton
(Mashantucket, CT -- June 17)
After World Series of Fighting heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanovo (14-1) successfully defended his title against Josh Copeland (13-4) during the main event at WSOF 31, there as definitely blood on his gloves. And his face.
Both fighters were drenched with the red stuff following a bout that some reporters in the press seats guessed would not last for five rounds. But it did and Ivanov earned a victory by unanimous decision, providing a memorable ending to an evening at Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Grand Theater that included several exciting fights that included a lightweight bout between Jason High (20-5) and Mike Ricci (11-5) as the co-main event.
High won the fight by TKO due to strikes at 4:08 in the second round. Earlier in the fight, High dominated the first round and successfully struggled out of a ground-and-pound attempt by Ricci in the second. He later felled Ricci, who was trying to keep the fight standing, with a shot to the face and dropped a series of bombs that prompted the referee to wave the fight off.
The fight immediately before it, a middleweight bout John “Doomsday” Howard (24-12) and Mike Arrant (15-11), earned its fair share of attention from the crowd and the press.
“I got my ass whupped in the first round,” Howard admitted afterwards. But this did not stop him from winning an unanimous decision. Howard, who trains at Boston’s Sityodtong, attempted an impressive kick in the first round that Arrant caught, sending “Doomsday” flying across the cage. The remainder of the first round went back and forth, alternating between a measured pace and furious striking exchanges. By the third round, Howard had picked up Arrant and slammed him to the mat, attempting a rear naked choke and dropping bombs.
But the sight of Ivanov bleeding from his forehead by the end of the first round (one reporter speculated that it could have been caused by an accidental head butt) drew everyone’s attention. Many wondered aloud whether the fight would be waved off due to impaired vision.
Copeland, already becoming covered in Ivanov’s blood, received a gash on his cheek during the second round. By the end of the fight he appeared to have a matching set.
During the second round, the referee stopped the fight to examine Ivanov. Ivanov continued to pick the pace up during the round, at one point clinching with Copeland and unleashing a flurry of punches with a knee.
Ivanov essentially dominated the third round while Copeland continued to stick at move. At one point in the fight Copeland literally ran away from Ivanov, but the two fighters still exchanged lots of powerful strikes.
Both fighters were visibly exhausted by the fourth round, drenched in blood and attempting to clinch. Ivanov eventually threw Copeland to the ground during the fifth round and dropped some bombs.
The main card opened with a middleweight bout between Phil Hawes (4-0) and Josh Key (6-12-2). Hawes won the fight by TKO due to strikes at 2:52.
The next fight was a featherweight bout between Sheymon Moraes (9-2) and Luis Palomino (24-13). Moraes won the bout by unanimous decision following a back-and-forth fight that was marked primarily by striking exchanges.
The preliminary card opened with Marcus Surin (4-0) defeating Christian Torres (0-1) by TKO at 2:51 in the second. The other preliminary results included Bruce Boyington (12-8) defeating Saul Almeida (18-7) by split decision in a lightweight bout; Tyler King (11-4) submitting Lorenzo Hood (9-4) by guillotine choke at 4:20 in round two of a heavyweight bout; Justin Willis (5-1) knocking out Juliano Coutinho (7-3) at 2:30 in round two of a heavyweight bout; and Devin Powell (7-1) defeating Tom Marceline (7-5) by split decision in a spirited lightweight fight.