David Branch defended his home turf at World Series of Fighting’s New York debut Saturday, retaining the middleweight championship with a fifth-round submission win at WSOF 34 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Brooklyn’s Branch locked in a rear-naked choke early in the final round, forcing challenger Louis Taylor to tap at the 2:00 mark.
Branch, who also holds the WSOF light heavyweight title, moves to 20-3 with the victory.
Early in the first round, Branch made his first attempt to bring the fight to the ground and was briefly successful, but Taylor was able to force the fight back up and to the cage. After a few minutes of both fighters trying to find range, Taylor attempted a flying knee, only to be caught by Branch and taken to the ground. Branch swarmed Taylor and stifled any attempts to return to the feet, eventually taking Taylor’s back and attempting a rear-naked choke. Taylor was able to escape the submission, finishing the round on top.
Taylor attempted to slow the fight down in the second and was effective working Branch against the cage, but he was unable to secure a takedown of his own. Late in the round it was Branch trying to tie up Taylor, but the challenger was able to reverse the position on multiple occasions.
Branch kept the fight at distance early in the third, but found himself in trouble after a minute. When Branch shot for a takedown, Louis was able to secure a guillotine choke, but Branch eventually was able to work his way out of the hold and gain top position. He soon worked his way into mount against the cage, then taking Taylor’s back and getting a choke of his own, only for Louis to get out of trouble himself.
The action slowed early in the fourth before a groin stopped briefly stopped the fight. When the fight resumed, Branch quickly brought the fight to the ground and looked to pass to mount. Branch stayed atop his opponent for the remainder of the round, landing some heavy shots in the closing seconds.
With the fight possibly even entering the final frame, Branch found his way back into top position. He quickly had Taylor’s back and sunk in the rear-naked choke he couldn’t finish earlier, this time forcing the tap and keeping the fight from the judge’s scorecards
Branch was one of four champions defending titles at the event.
In the main event, Justin Gaethje survived an onslaught from Luiz Firmino to win via doctor stoppage and retain the lightweight belt.
The unbeaten Gaethje was tested unlike ever before by Firmino, who had Gaethje hurt in the first two rounds. While he was hurt at various points, Gaethje was able to walk through a constant barrage of strikes from Firmino and return with his own, badly injuring Firmino’s eye. After the third round, the swelling became too much for the fight to continue, giving Gaethje a TKO victory.
Also defending his title, New Jersey’s Marlon Moraes retained the bantamweight championship with a TKO at 2:30 of the first round against Josinaldo Silva.
In the first round, Moraes overwhelmed Silva with ground and pound after an early knockdown. The fight was stopped when Silva injured his knee throwing a kick.
In the welterweight championship, Jon Fitch defended his title against Jake Shields in a grueling grappling bout that went the distance. Fitch, who won the decision 49-46 on each scorecard, said after the match that he was considering retirement..