<
>

Prospects make for exciting WSOF 4

If you're a fan of mixed martial arts, and, presumably, partial to fun fights, the fourth World Series of MMA card this weekend produced what you were hoping for. For the time being, that should be the bar WSOF sets for itself as fighters are signed, prospects get unveiled and veterans find a showcase.

In several ways WSOF 4 had the look and feel of a pre-Zuffa Strikeforce card, which, through its matchmaking, produced mostly exciting, action-reliant MMA.

Watching from cage-side in Ontario, Calif., I went to see if prospects Marlon Moraes, Nick Newell and Tyrone Spong would be tested by opponents most people didn't expect much from, and each was in the right sorts of ways.

Of the three, Moraes stood out as the best MMA prospect. There's a lot to like about Tyrone Spong, but he has so much on his plate and MMA is a difficult beast to master. Newell, the undisputed fan favorite Saturday, is driven and unafraid -- but he also looked too slow to become an elite lightweight.

Moraes is far from slow, and he has the MMA thing down. The bantamweight has been busy for WSOF, and after this weekend's decision (which left him a bit dinged up), he's expected to sit out until early 2014. The plan is for Moraes to fight the winner of a pending four-man tournament at 135. WSOF matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz said he thinks Moraes has done enough to get slotted in for a title fight. Now it's just a matter of finding a suitable opponent.

For his part, Moraes was pleased with his effort against Brandon Hempleman, even if his main cornerman, Ricardo Almeida, conceded that the 25-year-old training parter of Frankie Edgar and Edson Barboza took it easy in the last five minutes.

WSOF has eclipsed the 100-fighter mark on its roster, and is currently in a growing phase. So far it has produced several fighters who appear full of potential. Having seen him on TV twice and now in person, Moraes could very well have the highest upside of anyone in that group.