Prior to this weekend’s World Series Of Fighting main event, the general opinion was that Jon Fitch was going to steamroll through Josh Burkman. Fitch had been recently released by the UFC in a move that generated a large amount controversy and negative feedback in the UFC’s direction. Fitch was widely considered to be a top ten welterweight in the world, and had previously submitted Josh Burkman when the two met back in 2006.
Then, 41 seconds into the first round, Josh Burkman was standing over Jon Fitch’s unconscious body with his hand in the air. 20 seconds into the fight, Burkman tagged Fitch with a left hook and follow up right hand, sending Fitch stumbling to the mat on all fours. Burkman locked up a standing guillotine, absorbed a take down from Fitch, and finished the choke from his own half-guard. Fitch had not lost via submission since his professional debut back in 2002 against Mike Pyle.
To say the outcome was shocking is an understatement. Even Burkman was surprised. “Who thinks they are going to choke out Jon Fitch?,” Burkman said in a post-fight interview. The win increases Burkman’s winning streak to five, and Burkman went on to state that this win is much needed validation. “My career kind of went up and down after I lost to Fitch. To get this one back is big for me, and big for my career.”
After the fight, Fitch calked up his loss to a laps in judgement. “I got a little overconfident with my choke defense,” Fitch said. “I was going to slam him but he locked it in too tight, a mistake on my part.” That “mistake” could also have something to do with the fact that he got hit in the head about six times and was visibly wobbled. In fact, I think Fitch has every right to be confident in his submission defense, especially his choke defense, given how stellar his previous record is.
So where does this leave Jon Fitch? Is it safe to say that his best years are behind? At 35 years old, does he have any chance of making back to the UFC? Does he even want to re-sign with them? All of these questions now arise in the face of career decline for the former welterweight top contender.
While I don’t like making assessments about a fighters next move after a fight that was that short, Fitch’s chin does seem to be more suspect as of late. He is already talking about a rubber match with Burkman, but my guess is he’ll have at least one more fight before that. I think he still has the name recognition and resume to draw other well known welterweights, and he still has three fights left on his contract with WSOF. I don’t see Fitch calling it quits, he’s not that type of guy at all. If he thinks he can still compete at the highest levels he’s going to continue to try to do so.
As far as getting back into the UFC, it’s now going to take some pretty impressive wins to make a good case for himself, and time is not on his side. He’s going to need the type of performances he had against Erick Silva from now on to stay relevant, especially in a organization like WSOF, which does not have the same kind of traction and name recognition as the UFC or Bellator does.
One thing is for sure, I expect Fitch to take a little time off after this loss, reassess and make sure he’s making the right career choice. The problem with that is, there is a clear gap in his salary with the WSOF and the UFC. Fitch was making 66,000 base per fight with the UFC, and only 30,000 to show for the WSOF. If money is an issue (and I don’t know if it is) the need might be there for Fitch to continue fighting at the same level and frequency as he as been doing, and I don’t know if that’s the best thing for him anymore.
**I’ve always respected Jon Fitch. People knock him for his wrestling based, smothering style, but I’m of the mind that that is a reality in fighting. you don’t like getting taken down? Stop Jon Fitch from taking you down,