The underdog story has always been one of the most interesting narratives in professional sports. When the world is confident in the dominance of the favorite, the power house, it’s always captivating to watch the individual or team that is supposed to lose come out on top. Steve Carl played that role to a tee when he defeated Josh Burkman on Saturday at World Series of Fighting 6.
Heading into the main event bout, Carl was the clear underdog in this fight. Burkman was a former UFC competitor who had a modest campaign in the Octagon, but in building up his resume, was 8-1 outside of Zuffa employ. Furthermore, he had just stopped perennial Top 10 welterweight Jon Fitch in highlight reel fashion in his previous fight. Fans, experts, and potentially matchmakers alike were expecting Burkman to come out on top because the plan was to book the rubber match between him and Fitch if both individuals were able to win that night. Carl would have other plans.
The victory didn’t come easy, as Burkman and Carl went back and forth throughout the fight. They traded dominant positions, submission attempts, and multiple takedowns in nearly every round, until Carl was able to choke Burkman out at 1:02 of the fourth round. This allowed Carl to become the inaugural champion of the fledgling yet prominent promotion, its top fighter at 170 pounds.
And looking over Carl’s resume, it’s certain that this is the biggest victory of his career. To that point, he had never defeated a “quality” opponent in the three attempts he’s had. Early in his career, he suffered a TKO loss to UFC veteran Brian Foster, then in 2010 he lost via kimura to Dan Hornbuckle, and a a year later, he faced Bellator MMA standout Douglas Lima, and lost via unanimous decision.
Outside of his time in Bellator, Carl has been somewhat of a journeyman within his career. Although he’s riding a seven-fight win streak, other than Burkman, one would be hard pressed to identify any of the names included on his list of victims. Still, Carl has placed himself into a position to gain the kind of recognition that any underdog fighter would love to have. Since Jon Fitch was victorious over Marcelo Alfaya, he is expected to be named the number one contender to the title. Fitch will most likely be the favorite going into their fight, so Carl may yet again find himself in the position of underdog, facing another uphill battle to win over fans and experts.
Steve Carl earned a career-defining win on Saturday at World Series of Fighting 6. While he may not be in the biggest promotion or the highest-profile spot, he’s now a champion, and in a position to grow with the company. And that’s a pretty good underdog story.