WSOF champ underdog vs. former UFC fighter Palhares

World Series of Fighting welterweight champion Steve Carl will try to defend his belt against a promotional newcomer in the main event of WSOF 9 at Hard Rock Hotel tonight.

The new guy is favored to win.

Carl will be putting the belt on the line vs. Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Rousimar Palhares, one of the top leg-lock submission specialists in the world.

Palhares was available for WSOF to sign because he was released by the UFC after a win in October for failing to release a heel hook after Mike Pierce had tapped out. Palhares had a similar incident in 2010 and failed a drug test in 2012.

While he comes with a great deal of baggage, he is a very dangerous fighter. His skill set earned him an immediate shot at the belt with Las Vegas-based WSOF.

“I don’t think (him fighting for the belt) is hard to digest at all.” WSOF president Ray Sefo said. “His record and the people he has fought speaks for itself. He’s fought some of the best in the world. He didn’t get cut from UFC because he lost.

“Rousimar Palhares is one of the best fighters in the world.”

The oddsmakers seem to believe that. He was installed as a minus-200 favorite over the champion. WSOF executive vice president Ali Abdelaziz thinks that number is too high.

“Steve Carl is the champion, and I think the oddsmakers have it wrong,” he said. “I believe he’s the favorite in this fight. Rousimar Palhares has to come into his house and he has to prove he can beat the champ. Steve Carl is not the fighter he was three or four years ago. I’m excited as a fan to have the best seat in the house, and I’m excited for this fight.”

Carl, who won the belt with a submission of UFC vet Josh Burkman in October, said he made no special preparations for Palhares’ feared ground game.

“I kind of prepare for everyone in the same way,” Carl said. “Obviously, I worked my ground game to prepare for Rousimar, but I’m not going to beat him at his game, I’m going to beat him at mine. So I was just in the gym working on me like I always do.”

The card, which airs live on NBC Sports Network (Cable 38) at 7 p.m., also includes a bout between Marlon Moraes and Josh Rettinghouse to determine the organization’s first bantamweight champion. Another former UFC fighter, Yushin Okami, will make his WSOF debut against middleweight Svetlozar Savov.

■ ’CYBORG’ DEFEATED — Cris “Cyborg” Justino lost a muay Thai fight to Jorina Baars on the Lion Fight 14 card at Hard Rock Hotel on Friday night.

Baars knocked Justino down twice on her way to a unanimous decision to become the Lion Fight women’s welterweight champion.

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