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…

Global Proving Ground 17: Fighters Against Dog Fighting
GPG Event Center in Pennsauken, N.J.
Event Date: Jan. 17
Website: globalprovingground.com
Watch Event: GoFightLive
Twitter: @GPG_MMA

Spotlight Fight:
Sam Oropeza (12-2) vs. Timothy Woods (7-4)

With a name like Global Proving Ground, the New Jersey-based promotion has a lot to live up to as it seeks to become another platform on which up-and-coming fighters can make a name. One of those fighters has already seen the brighter lights of bigger promotions such as Strikeforce and Bellator, but that fighter, former welterweight Sam Oropeza, is now climbing his way back up as a middleweight. “Sammy O” is on a mission to make the UFC take notice, and he’ll seek to strengthen his claim to a UFC berth when he fights Timothy Woods in the main event of Global Proving Ground’s 17th show.

Oropeza, a Philadelphia Fight Factory product, made his pro debut in 2009 and posted four wins before encountering fellow prospect and current UFC fighter Myles Jury. Oropeza suffered a first-round submission defeat against Jury, but he rebounded with a win under the Strikeforce banner. He faced another setback in his Bellator debut when he was submitted in the third round by Giedrius Karavackas. Oropeza was able to right the ship again, picking up seven straight wins, including four in the Bellator cage. However, during that stretch, he struggled to make weight as he competed in Bellator’s season-10 welterweight tournament. After making weight and topping Cristiano Souza in the quarterfinals, Oropeza came in heavy and had his semifinal match-up against Andrey Koreshkov scrapped. That’s when Oropeza decided to make the move up to middleweight. His middleweight debut with Bellator resulted in a first-round stoppage victory over Gary Tapusoa. The win gave Oropeza four straight first-round finishes, five straight TKO finishes and seven straight stoppage victories.

Woods was a promising basketball player in high school until he was sent off on a four-year prison stint for his part in an armed robbery. When Woods was released from prison, he took up Muay Thai and boxing, eventually turning it into an MMA career. He hasn’t found quite the same levels of success as his 29-year-old counterpart, though. “The Good Soldier” entered the pro ranks in 2007 and stumbled to a first-round submission loss in his debut. He bounced back with the best stretch of his career, punching and slamming his way to four first-round stoppage wins. Woods fell into a trend of inconsistency beginning in 2009 when he lost to War Machine. He has alternated wins and losses ever since. Most recently, the 38-year-old stepped into the Bellator cage and emerged with a judges’ nod over Eugene Fadiora.

With a combined 12 wins by strikes, these two could really put on a fireworks display in their headlining affair. What separates the pair, beyond nearly a decade difference in age and more than three inches of reach in favor of Woods, is Oropeza’s attributes in areas beyond his striking game. The Strikeforce veteran wrestled in high school and went on to earn a brown belt on the jiu-jitsu mats. Both men are more than capable of delivering a highlight-reel knockout finish in the opening moments of the bout, but Oropeza is much more likely to fall back on his wrestling and grappling fundamentals if Woods starts edging him in exchanges.

Woods is just the type of dangerous test that Oropeza needs as he campaigns for a spot on the UFC roster. As tempting as it might be for him to get in a slugfest with Woods, Oropeza would be smart to take this fight to the ground. Woods has suffered two submission losses and has only delivered two submission finishes of his own (and one of those came via punches). Oropeza has youth, experience and a well-rounded game on his side. He might tempt fate in the early moments of this affair and could even score the knockout finish. However, if he gets a taste of Woods’s power, look for “Sammy O” to quickly turn this into a grounded affair. He can be just as quick with his submissions, so don’t blink or you might miss the tapout from Woods.

Other key bouts: Anton Berzin (3-1) vs. Chad Herrick (11-8), Sidney Outlaw (3-1) vs. Jonathan Meunier (3-0), Remy Bussieres (3-1) vs. Abdula Dadaev (3-2)

Driller Fights: Live MMA at Seven Clans Casino II
Seven Clans Casino in Red Lake, Minn.
Event Date: Jan. 17
Website: drillerfights.com
Twitter: @drillerfights

Spotlight Fight:
Reese Hernandez (12-3-1) vs. Jaquis Williams (4-1)

Driller Promotions is set to return to the Seven Clans Casino in Red Lake with a lineup that features three title affairs. The middleweight title fight, between Reese Hernandez and Jaquis Williams, certainly stands out as the one championship tilt that could produce a future fighter for the big shows.

Stomp Factory’s Hernandez started out as a heavyweight when he began competing professionally in 2006. He eventually slid down to light heavyweight and then middleweight, where he currently resides. The former big man has only lost three times in 16 career outings. Two of those defeats came in split decisions over the course of back-to-back fights with Kevin Asplund in 2010 and 2011. His other loss came earlier in his career, in his sophomore outing, via a doctor’s stoppage TKO. Hernandez has not lost in his last eight outings, compiling a 6-0-1 record with one no-contest. He’s a finisher, with six victories by some form of knockout and five wins by way of submission. His most recent fight, a July outing against Ronnie Britt under the Driller Fights banner, ended in a TKO victory for Hernandez, giving the fighter four straight stoppage wins. Hernandez has tested the waters in the boxing ring as well, where he fought to a draw in his pro debut in December.

Williams enters this middleweight fight on the strength of a 4-1 record. The 23-year-old made his pro debut in 2013 after compiling an 8-3 amateur mark over the previous three-plus years. As an amateur, Williams was an effective finisher who posted five TKO wins, a submission victory due to punches and a submission win due to exhaustion. His defeats tended to come by decision, though he was submitted on one occasion. As a pro, the young prospect lost his debut by way of submission and scored two submission wins. He also boasts one TKO victory as a pro, plus a unanimous nod.

This fight could go one of two ways. It could provide a big finish, or it could turn into an ugly battle against the cage. Both men are comfortable in the clinch against the fence, and it’s possible they might stall out in that position. However, if they do maintain separation, the precision and length of Williams could cause headaches for the more wildly swinging Hernandez. Hernandez has a bad habit of throwing punches from his hips while lunging forward and leaving his chin exposed. Williams could land a counter as Hernandez surges forward, or those knees could come into play. Hernandez is a scrappy fighter, though, and he has a significant experience edge over Williams at the pro level. This fight will determine whether Williams can convert his athleticism and frame into a winning recipe against tough pro opponents.

Williams has the power to end this fight, and his best chances will come as Hernandez swings for the fences. However, despite Hernandez’s wild style, he has only suffered one TKO defeat, and that came in 2007 at the urging of a doctor, not because Hernandez had succumbed to strikes. Williams is going to have a hard time putting Hernandez away, and Hernandez’s forward pressure is going to prevent Williams from finding his range and scoring points. Hernandez will outwork Williams before submitting him in the championship rounds.

Other key bouts: Jesse Wannemacher (1-0) vs. Chad Brito (0-1) for the bantamweight title

Hero Fighting Championship: Best of the Best IV
Jacob Brown Auditorium in Brownsville, Texas
Event Date: Jan. 17
Website: herofc.net
Watch Event: online pay-per-view stream via jcfightpromotions.com
Twitter: @FightJC

Spotlight Fight:
Jamall Emmers (7-1) vs. Rey Trujillo (17-14)

Hero FC has its own trio of title fights lined up for the fourth edition of its Best of the Best series. Among the three title contests, its the battle for the featherweight crown that deserves the most attention. The title tilt pairs 31-fight veteran Rey Trujillo against up-and-coming champion Jamall Emmers.

The astounding thing about Trujillo’s resume is the short time in which he has compiled his 31-fight mark. The 33-year-old has only been fighting professionally since 2009, but he has fought at least four times a year and twice took part in seven fights within a calendar year. “The Warrior” has racked up the experience, but he has also suffered 14 losses along the way. Daniel Pineda, Kevin Aguilar, Flavio Alvaro, Chas Skelly, Leonard Garcia and Cosmo Alexandre are among the notable names who have handed the Strikeforce veteran his losses. In the win column, Trujillo can’t boast any names of similar significance, but he has competed several times under the Texas-based Legacy banner. Trujillo has been stopped six times via strikes, but he has handed out 13 knockouts and TKOs. The Bloodline MMA product has also suffered four submission defeats, but he has never submitted an opponent.

Emmers fights out of the Brazilian Top Team Texas camp, but he has also worked with former UFC champion Benson Henderson and the team at MMA Lab in Arizona. The Hero FC featherweight champion made his pro debut in 2012 and won one of his first two fights, losing the other via split decision. The 25-year-old rebounded from his lone career loss to post six straight wins. He captured the vacant featherweight crown at the inaugural Best of the Best event, where he defeated Brett Ewing by way of a unanimous decision. Emmers has made two successful title defenses, thwarting the challenges of Chris Pecero and Michael Rodriguez. He wrestled in high school and college and then transitioned into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before beginning his MMA career. Emmers has three finishes via strikes and one by way of submission.

Trujillo might be best known for his knockout loss to Alexandre at Legacy FC 28, where he had to endure the knockout loss and the referee stepping on his head before he turned around and proposed to his girlfriend while still sitting on the stool. Trujillo’s history of knockout wins, meanwhile, often goes overlooked. He’s a threat to end the fight at any moment with his fists. However, he has an iffy chin and plenty of holes in his submission defense. Emmers will need to avoid standing toe-to-toe with his more experienced foe, and his wrestling and jiu-jitsu chops give him the necessary tools to accomplish that goal. He’ll look to change levels and bring the fight to the mat, where Trujillo can be neutralized.

Trujillo has been far too inconsistent throughout his career, making it difficult to put any confidence in his ability to win a fight. Sure, he’s had far more cage time than Emmers, but will it translate to a victory over the wrestler? It’s tough to say. Trujillo has struggled to beat competition with records similar or better to the one sported by Emmers. However, he has played spoiler before and could do so again. Yet, it’s Emmers who will come into the fight as the favorite. He’ll rely on his wrestling to ground Trujillo, and he’ll work a combination of ground-and-pound and submission attacks to bring an end to the night.

Other key bouts: Brandon Farran (12-8) vs. Hayward Charles (11-6) for the middleweight title

About The Author

Bryan Henderson
Editor-in-Chief

Bryan Henderson became a fan of MMA in the late ’90s when he happened upon the early UFC events on VHS at a local video rental store. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2007 before becoming an official staff writer for Sporting News’ “The Rumble” MMA/boxing blog. He went on to become a staff writer and the Features Manager for MMA DieHards before moving on to The MMA Corner, where he assumed the role of Editor-in-Chief. Bryan left The MMA Corner in 2014 and founded Combat Press along with two of his colleagues. In addition to covering mixed martial arts, Bryan also operated the Modified Mind body modification e-zine website for more than a decade.

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  • IrelandsOwnMMA

    Nice great research into the regional mma culture