ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. >> Anthony Johnson and top bantamweight Marlon Moraes had big victories Saturday night in the World Series of Fighting at Revel’s Ovation Hall.
Johnson (16-3), the Boca Raton, Fla., fighter who normally competes at light-heavyweight, moved up a weight class and upset former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (19-10) of Belarus with a unanimous three-round decision before approximately 2,000 fans.
Moraes (10-4), from Jupiter, Fla., stopped Tyson Nam (12-5) of Honolulu in the first round in the co-main event.
The 28-year-old Johnson earned his fifth consecutive victory with a solid performance that left Arlovski with a bloody mouth.
“I’m not staying at heayweight because these guys are too big,” Johnson said. “But I have a ton of respect for Arlovski. He was one of my idols. I’m just thankful that I had a chance to fight a legend.”
Arlovski was seeking his fifth straight victory in an attempt to regain his status as one of the world’s elite heavyweights. The 34-year-old fighter, the UFC champ in 2004-05, had suffered four losses in a row that had critics wondering if his prime was over.
It might be after Saturday.
Johnson nearly ended the fight in the first round. He caught Arlovski with a knee and a punch to put him on the canvas and appeared on the verge of a knockout when the bell sounded to end the round.
Arlovski answered with punches and elbows during clinches, but Johnson was the aggressor for most of the fight.
“My main goal was to try not to get hit so hard,” Johnson said. “He hits like a ton of bricks.”
Moraes didn’t waste much time in proving he’s one of the best bantamweights in the world.
Moraes, who trained with former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar for the bout, caught Nam with a right roundhouse kick that sent Nam to the canvas. Moraes pounced on him and landed a sharp overhand right to the back of Nam’s head, prompting referee Keith Peterson to stop the bout at 2:55.
“My game plan was to do everything,” Moraes said. “I tried to mix it up with boxing, kicks and everything. This is MMA. I was ready for a war. I trained so hard for this. Maybe that’s the reason I knocked him out, because I was ready to fight hard for 15 minutes.”
Nam was seeking to build off an impressive victory in his last outing, when he scored a first-round knockout over current Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas. Similarly, Moraes was considered a top prospect after shaking up the MMA world with a split decision victory over former WEC champ Miguel Torres at WSOF’s inaugural card last Nov. 3 in Las Vegas.
The brainchild of former kickboxing champion Ray Sefo, the WSOF was staging its second card after making its debut in Las Vegas.
“I was tired of seeing fighters getting locked out and overlooked by other organizations,” Sefo said. “I’m not looking to compete with other organizations, at least not right away. A lot of other leagues made the mistake of starting out too big too soon. I’m focused on signing a mix of fighters who are good fits for us.”
The entire show appeared in jeopardy a day earlier when the New Jersey Athletic Control Board official Nicholas Lembo informed the WSOF that the canvas it had ordered for the show was a foot too short. In addition, there was insufficient padding on the ring posts.
The WSOF borrowed post pads from Vineland, N.J.-based Cage Fury Fighting Championships, but was forced to have a canvas flown in from its Las Vegas offices.