Rousimar Palhares Goes From UFC Pariah To WSOF Title Challenger

By Rick LaFitte
Rousimar Palhares
Jason Silva USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake, Rousimar Palhares is a very talented fighter who is one of the best submission specialists in the sport, but the World Series of Fighting is sending the wrong message by rewarding the controversial fighter with a title shot against Steve Carl in his very first fight with the fledgling promotion. Palhares will face Carl in a welterweight title fight at WSOF 9 on March 29.

“Toquinho” was shown the door by the UFC after his fight against Mike Pierce at Fight Night 29. Instead of all the talk focusing on Palhares’ impressive performance against a tough opponent, the discussion revolved around another incident of unsportsmanlike conduct. Palhares submitted Pierce in just 31 seconds with a devastating heel hook to improve to 15-5 in his career, but came under fire for not immediately releasing the hold when Pierce had tapped.

Pierce sustained a sprained MCL and a torn ankle ligament as a result, while Palhares was denied his Submission of the Night bonus for his actions and was cut by UFC President Dana White.

It was the second example of the rules being breached by the dangerous Brazilian, who has 11 submission victories to his credit. Back at UFC 111, he inflicted serious damage on Tomasz Drwal when he refused to release a heel hook after his opponent had tapped out. As a result, Palhares received a 90-day suspension. If you toss in a failed drug test after his knockout loss to Hector Lombard, it was truly “three strikes and you’re out” when it comes to Palhares’ days in the Octagon.

While there’s nothing wrong with Palhares being given an opportunity to make a living with a fresh start in the WSOF, the decision to grant him an immediate title shot is puzzling. There’s no denying he’s a major player in a relatively thin division, but you would think he would have to at least earn one victory with the promotion before receiving such a coveted opportunity.

WSOF President Ray Sefo has made it clear that any repeat incidents will not be tolerated and Palhares has promised to be on his best behaviour. He will get a chance to show that against Carl, who has reeled off an impressive seven-fight win streak since a loss in Bellator against Douglas Lima. He’s won all seven of those contests by submission, including a triangle choke finish of Josh Burkman at WSOF 6 to capture the belt.

The WSOF welterweight roster may not be the deepest but in the wake of the controversy, Palhares should have had one non-title fight to showcase his skills and to show that he has finally learned his lesson when it comes to respecting his opposition. Catapulting him to the front of the line while the rest of the 170-pound roster has to earn their opportunity just doesn’t seem right.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports

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