Jon Fitch was cut by the UFC in mid-February of this year and then signed by the WSOF (World Series of Fighting) a few weeks later and tonight makes his debut performance for the promotion. Facing off against Fitch and for the second time in their careers, is another former UFC 170 lb. alumnus Josh Burkman. Burkman himself was cut by the UFC in 2008, post a 3 fight losing streak.
In the ensuing years "The People's Warrior" has garnered a 7 & 1 fight record and is on a 4 fight winning streak. Comparatively and since August of 2008, Fitch has amassed a 6-3 & 1 record and is coming off of a loss to Demian Maia.
On the face of it Burkman has the better record and appears to be the hotter fighter. That said though, Josh hasn’t been dealing with the best 170 pounders in the world, where Fitch has. Jon’s three losses came at the hands of GSP, Johnny Hendricks and Demian Maia. The draw was against BJ Penn. Losses to fighters of those calibers can be and should be, expected.
Burkman on the other hand took his one loss from Jordan Mein (who’s a recent addition to the UFC rostrum) and although not on the same level as St. Pierre, Big Rig, Maia and Penn, he is none-the-less, a quality fighter. Having a loss to “Young Gun” on a fighter’s record is (also) nothing to be ashamed of.
Looking at their wins Fitch took home 6 decision in 5 years and with no stoppages, while Burkman culled 3 stoppages (KO / TKO / Submission) and 4 decisions. Again, while Burkman looks to be the better and more successful fighter in the A / B comparison, Fitch was dealing with a tougher crew.
Stepping back and assessing the bout on their elapsed records, the fight looks like it might well be a push and that either man could take the fight. However let’s consider 3 intangibles: dynamism, power and chin.
Right across the board I have to give the nod to Burkman. Josh is easily the more dynamic of the two fighters. He’s also exhibited power where Jon has not. On the subject of chin, well we all remember the Fitch / Hendricks fight and the 12 second commercial that it was for advertising the power in Big Rig’s left-hand. In contrast, Burkman has never been KO’d in his entire career. Fitch has been done so, twice (Wilson Gouveia 2002 / Johnny Hendricks 2011).
Yet, there is one last factor which needs to be considered and that’s Fitch / Burkman 1 from April of 2006 and the submission victory (rear-naked choke) that Jon put on Josh.
Fitch is just a better wrestler and BJJ practitioner and he’s already proven it over Burkman once. Also, Jon's survival of Demian Mia is further evidence of how good his ground skills are and although Burkman is a good wrestler in his own right and has a solid ground game to go with it, I’ve got to give the nod to Fitch in this category and it’s the wrestling & BBJ categories (I think) that will end up carrying the day. If Jon does get it to the ground, it’s going to be lights out for Burkman. If he can’t, then he could well get KO’d by “The People's Warrior”.
I’m going to pick Fitch to take this fight and by submission and subsequently, to maintain his status as my #8 ranked 170 pound fighter in the world.