In a mixed martial arts card stacked with Las Vegas fighters, Jon Fitch had the best night among the locals competing Saturday in the World Series of Fighting 30 at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Fitch, who’s from Indiana but resides in Las Vegas, achieved his dream of becoming a world champion after cruising to a unanimous decision victory against Joao Zeferino for the vacant welterweight title in the co-main event.
“I really love being in Las Vegas,” Fitch said. “It was a good feeling to win this fight in front of these people. This is like my hometown.”
Fitch (28-7-1) dominated the fight against Zeferino (20-8) by utilizing his specialty of wrestling. In what was arguably the best move of the main card, Fitch landed a spinning elbow toward Zeferino’s face in the third round.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, Fitch said he wanted to win the belt for his father who recently suffered a heart attack.
“I can’t even express how happy I am to achieve an achievement like this,” Fitch said. “A lot of people sacrificed a lot for me to be here and I kind of wanted to win the belt for them, especially my father, I almost lost him a few months ago … It just weighed heavy on me that he may die before I was world champion.”
Fitch ranked capturing the WSOF welterweight title as one of the top highlights of his career, along with taking Georges St-Pierre to five rounds in a UFC championship bout in 2008.
Seven competitors with Las Vegas ties participated during WSOF 30.
New York native David Branch (18-3) defeated Clifford Starks (13-3) by unanimous decision in the main event to defend the middleweight championship.
Branch, who’s also the light heavyweight champion, had an easy night, but found himself in some controversy after striking Starks’ head with an illegal knee in Round 2.
Brazilian Vinny Magalhaes, who lives and trains in Las Vegas, had a thrilling bout against Jake Heun.
Magalhaes won by unanimous decision, but received boos from the crowd after the verdict.
Heun made a strong case for the victory after coming out aggressive in Round 2. A fatigued Magalhaes (14-7) was forced to take the fight to the ground.
The Florida native, Heun (9-5) finished strong with a flurry of punches to Magalhaes’ ribs to end Round 3.
Danny Davis Jr. (11-11-1), also from Las Vegas, opened the main card against Abu Azaitar from Morocco. Azaitar (12-1-1) won by unanimous decision.