Every week, Combat Press takes a look at three regional, developmental or international cards from the upcoming weekend, previewing from each a single fight to which people should pay close attention. We will also list other significant bouts from the card, as well as information on how to follow each promotion and watch the events.
Let’s discover those prospects that fight in the obscurity of the regional, developmental and international circuits, waiting for their shot at the bright lights and big stage of the UFC, and those veterans looking for one more chance at stardom. It all begins here, in the small convention centers and high school gymnasiums. It all begins with promotions such as these…
Event Date: Aug. 29
Watch Event: AXS TV
Pedro Souza (13-0) vs. Brian Hall (6-2)
Legacy Fighting Championship has its eyes on promoting kickboxing events next year, but for now its focus remains solely on mixed martial arts. With many of its top stars leaving recently for the UFC, including formerly scheduled Legacy FC 34 headliner Henry Cejudo, the promotion has been forced to reach even further into the depths of the regional prospect pool. What it found was Pedro Souza and Brian Hall, a pair of flyweights who have a chance to break through in the evening’s headliner.
Hall was originally slated to meet Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist wrestler, in the top-billed fight, but Cejudo withdrew and signed with the UFC. The 32-year-old Hall remains, but now he faces another undefeated fighter, albeit a less famous one. “The Law” has just eight fights in his four-year pro career, but he has already made stops in Strikeforce, Bellator and the XFC. His pro debut came in 2010 at Strikeforce Challengers 12, where Hall fell via TKO in the third round against Thomas Vasquez. The Memphis Judo & Jiu-Jitsu product bounced back with five straight wins, all by stoppage and all but one ending in the first frame. He suffered his second loss under the XFC banner in 2013, when he emerged on the wrong end of the judges’ verdict against Kenny Degenhardt. Hall rebounded with a TKO victory over Cortez Phelia at Bellator 120. Hall is also a professional boxer and USA Boxing coach. He’s also a state champion wrestler and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Cejudo may be out of the fight, but his replacement, Souza, is also undefeated. He also carries more experience than Cejudo. The 26-year-old fights out of CM System in Brazil. He made his pro debut in 2011 and has rattled off 13 wins, including 12 stoppages, over his three years in the sport. The Brazilian tends to attack with armbars, but he has other submissions in his arsenal and has four wins by some form of knockout to go with his eight submission finishes. Souza has fought at bantamweight in the past.
Souza may be a downgrade in star power compared to Cejudo, but he may represent an upgrade in danger for Hall. The Brazilian has a track record of stoppage victories while never losing a fight. Hall is also a finisher, but he’s demonstrated weaknesses in his ground game and his stand-up. Souza, whose stand-up style tends to be wild, shouldn’t box with the more technical Hall. Instead, the Brazilian needs to find a way to take this fight to the mat and work for the submission.
Souza has strong takedowns, but he has the misfortune of stepping in for Cejudo. Hall had to be drilling takedown defense in his camp for Cejudo, and that will benefit him greatly against Souza. Neither man has posted anything beyond a win over middling competition thus far. Hall’s only losses came to prospects, and Souza has never faced anything above middling competition. Hall will be a huge step up in competition for Souza, and in Souza’s first fight outside of Brazil, no less.
There are too many factors playing against the Brazilian in this affair. Hall should be able to stuff Souza’s takedowns and get the better of the CM System product on the feet. These guys are finishers, but it’s not a stretch to expect a war that ends in a decision favoring Hall.
Other key bouts: Jonathan Brookins (14-6) vs. Austin Lyons (11-3), Grady Hurley (7-1) vs. Joel Cooper (3-1), Gilbert Smith (8-3) vs. Ben Brewer (7-1), Wade Johnson (7-0) vs. Thomas Gifford (11-5)
Event Date: Aug. 30
Watch Event: Live via pay-per-view stream at efcafrica.tv. Live main card on television networks SuperSport World of Champions (Africa), Fight Now! TV (U.S., Canada and Caribbean), Abu Dhabi TV (Middle East and North Africa) and Fight Sports (Europe and Asia). Full event can also be viewed at Ster-Kinekor cinemas in South Africa.
Garreth McLellan (11-2) vs. Dricus du Plessis (4-0)
EFC Africa tends to evade inclusion in this feature due to its habit of scheduling events for Thursday evenings, local time, in South Africa. Fortunately, its 33rd offering is taking place on a Saturday instead of a Thursday, giving us the opportunity to take a look at the night’s headliner, where middleweight champion Garreth McLellan puts his belt on the line against kickboxer Dricus du Plessis.
McLellan is a two-time EFC Africa middleweight champion. After debuting in 2009 and running his record up to 5-1, McLellan defeated Jacques Joubert to capture the EFC Africa gold, but he dropped the belt to Jeremy Smith in his first defense. He recovered with three wins to earn a rematch with Smith. The Fight Fit Militia product defeated Smith, then successfully defended his championship against J.P. Kruger. “Soldier Boy” has only seen the scorecards once through 13 fights. The 32-year-old has eight submission finishes and two victories by way of some form of knockout.
Du Plessis, a former WAKO world champion kickboxer, is seeking to become the youngest champion in EFC Africa history. The 20-year-old fights out of Team CIT, but he has a history with Fight Fit Militia that has led to some bad blood in this fight. “Stilknocks” has only been fighting as a professional mixed martial artist since 2013. He has two wins by some form of knockout and two victories via submission.
Du Plessis is a dangerous striker and a very young potential future star for EFC Africa, but he hasn’t seen top-tier competition inside the cage. McLellan, who can be dominant from top position on the mat, has faced the likes of Smith and Kruger. McLellan has the experience edge and a ground game that a kickboxer like du Plessis may not be able to overcome. McLellan has the ability to get the fight to the ground, where du Plessis will be in serious trouble. The champion should retain his belt with a submission finish.
Other key bouts: Jeremy Smith (8-2) vs. Martin van Staden (13-7), Brendon Katz (7-3) vs. Wesley Hawkey (10-5)
Event Date: Aug. 30
Watch Event: Epicentre.tv
Seo Hee Ham (13-5) vs. Alyona Rassohyna (10-3)
In just over a week’s time, the ladies take center stage when Invicta FC returns with its eighth show. For those that can’t wait that long to see female MMA action outside of the UFC, there’s this weekend’s Road FC 18 card. Atomweights Seo Hee Ham and Alyona Rassohyna meet in one of the night’s featured contests.
Ham has seen a career resurgence since moving to the 105-pound division. She was not too shabby as a strawweight, with numerous runs at the Jewels title, the 27-year-old never could get over the hump. Within her first six pro fights, she lost to Miku Matsumoto, Yuka Tsuji and Megumi Fujii. In her next eight fights, she only suffered a pair of losses to top strawweight Ayaka Hamasaki. In the span of those first 14 fights, she notched wins over Saori Ishioka (twice), Mika Nagano and Mei Yamaguchi. After her second loss to Hamasaki, Ham defended her CMA/KPW 115-pound championship, then dropped to atomweight and added wins over Naho Sugiyama, Sadae Numata and Shino VanHoose. She claimed the Deep Jewels featherweight (105-pound) championship in the process. The victory over VanHoose marked her first pro MMA bout in her native South Korea. Ham, who has a background in kickboxing, is a grinding fighter who has picked up 12 of her 13 wins by way of decision. She trains alongside Dong Hyun Kim.
Rassohyna is a surging Ukrainian prospect. The 24-year-old made her pro debut in 2010 and went to decisions in her first three fights, with two victories. Every one of her fights since 2012 has ended in an armbar, but not all of those fights have gone in the Oplot Team product’s favor. In that stretch, Rassohyna picked up eight first-round armbar finishes and lost once in the first round via armbar. Her most recent loss, against Invicta FC veteran Katja Kankaanpaa, came by way of a second-round armbar submission.
The combined mark of all of Rassohyna’s victim’s is 7-22, whereas her losses have come to fighters with a combined record of 13-4-1, and two of those losses were to fighters who now stand at 1-1 and 3-2. The Ukrainian has a lot to prove against Ham. The South Korean fighter has gone from a fringe strawweight contender to a top-tier atomweight since making the drop.
As much as Rassohyna’s streak of armbars makes her look like the atomweight version of Ronda Rousey, the reality is that the young fighter isn’t as sharp in her skill set. She tries to utilize judo throws, but often fails to land them. It’ll only get tougher against Ham, who is quite capable of taking even the world’s best the distance, win or lose. The South Korean is too experienced to fall victim to Rassohyna’s submission attack. Ham will grind out another victory in front of a home crowd.
Other key bouts: Luis Ramos (20-8-1) vs. Hoon Kim (9-10-1), Marcos Vinicius Borges Pancini (20-7-1) vs. Jae Hoon Moon (5-6), Nobuhito Irei (9-1-1) vs. Duk Young Jang (6-3)