Underdog Steve Carl is World Series of Fighting's first-ever champion, claiming the promotion's inaugural welterweight belt with a fourth-round technical submission of Josh Burkman.
The fight served as the headlining contest of Saturday's World Series of Fighting 6 event, which took place at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla. The evening's main card aired on NBC Sports Network following prelims that streamed on MMAjunkie.com.
After a few exchanges on the feet, the two moved into the clinch, where Burkman eventually elevated Carl and threw him to the floor. However, Carl refused to sty on the floor, working back to his feet and pushing away. He then moved back inside, looking for the trip, but Burkman scored with a slick reversal and scored top position.
The second round played out on the feet in the early going, with Burkman defending a few early takedown attempts and countering with strikes. However, Carl finally brought his opponent down just past the halfway mark of the frame and then pounding away with punches from the top.
Both fighters seemed to tire a bit heading into the third frame, but Carl dug deep and brought the action again to the canvas, quickly pushing himself into mount. As Burkman turned, Carl locked in a rear-naked choke that reddened his opponent's face. Still, Burkman worked hard to pull the arm free and eventually worked into a guillotine choke of his own. He rolled to the top to torque the hold, but it was Carl's turn to break the lock and survive a tight choke.
As the fighters moved into the championship rounds, a scrappy Carl settled on to his back and locked in a triangle choke. As Carl squeezed the hold, Burkman offered a small tap, but referee Troy Waugh waited to step in until "The People's Warrior" was unconscious 62 seconds into the fourth round.
Despite proving victorious, Carl admitted after the fight that he was disappointed and blamed a lingering issue for slowing him in the contest.
"I felt like I could have performed a lot better, but there's something not a lot of people know," Carl said after the win. "Two weeks ago I was in the emergency room with torn muscles and a bulging disc in my back, unable to walk. My last two weeks have been nothing but rest and rehab to get here. I was bound and determined to take this fight, and I'm not really happy with my performance.
"I was so tired I wanted to quit there a couple times. Josh is a really game opponent, and he kept bringing it. Honestly, I didn't think I could do it for a while. My cornermen just kept pushing me through it, and here we are. We did it."