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: March 6
Watch Event: AXS TV
Benjamin Smith (13-2) vs. Indalecio Tat Romero (24-5)
The upcoming weekend may be void of UFC action, but it’s full of title fights across the developmental, regional and international circuits. The most high profile of those affairs is the welterweight title tilt topping the bill for Resurrection Fighting Alliance 24. Veterans Benjamin Smith and Indalecio Tat Romero will vie for the vacant belt.
This could be the big break Romero needs to take his career to the next level. Incredibly, the 34-year-old has spent more than 10 years in the professional ranks without a single taste of the big show, and this despite a 29-fight resume that contains just five losses. The “Mean Bean” has somehow avoided all of the major promotions that have come and gone in those years. He started off his career with an 11-1 stretch that included a 10-fight winning streak, and he has had subsequent streaks of two, five and six wins. The Minnesota Fight Factory product hit a rough patch in 2011-12 when he dropped back-to-back fights to Tommy Speer and Leo Kuntz, sidetracking what might have been his best previous opportunity to crack the UFC roster. The full-time parole officer has a wrestling base and has posted 21 stoppage victories, including 12 via some form of knockout and nine by way of submission. Romero has only gone the distance four times in 29 outings.
Smith is the same age as his opponent, but he checks in with only half as many fights and just three years of experience as a professional. The Xtreme Couture fighter has also spent time at The Academy in Minnesota. He is already an RFA veteran, with two appearances under the promotion’s banner. Smith was knocked out by Mike Rhodes at RFA 8 and he topped Josh Cavan on the judges’ scorecards at RFA 20. He has victimized some of The Ultimate Fighter’s least successful cast members, Brandon Melendez and Kyacey Uscola. Unlike Romero, Smith is a decision machine. He has gone the distance in eight of his fights, all wins, and has just three finishes via strikes and two submission wins.
Romero has a long list of victories, but he lacks significant names on his resume. In his most recent streak of victories, he only faced one competitor who currently sits above the .500 mark and fought four opponents who now sport losing records. He looked great against Jessi Evans, but Evans is now 8-13. The win that launched his current streak came against Bruce Johnson, a fighter who now holds a 9-52 mark. In fact, a deeper look at Romero’s entire record reveals just one victory over a legitimate prospect — a split verdict over Dane Sayers in a five-round affair — and a number of foes who give the aforementioned Johnson a run for his money in terms of the worst imaginable record. Romero’s losses, meanwhile? Well, his opponents in those fights now hold a combined record of 81-46-2. Four of his opponents possess winning records and three have significant winning percentages, but the fifth loss came via first-round submission to Lucas St. Claire, a fighter who was 1-2-1 when he met the then 13-2 Romero. St. Claire won the back-and-forth affair, but then went winless through his next eight outings before going inactive in 2014 with a 3-10-1 mark.
Smith isn’t exactly conquering the best prospects out there either. Until his most recent streak, the 34-year-old had a similar tale of victories against fighters hovering at or below the .500 mark and losses to the best fighters he had encountered. He has shown progress with his last five wins, which have all come against opponents with winning marks.
Romero has a couple of bad habits. He leaves his hands low when exchanging on the feet and he gives up position on the mat. He looked strong against Evans in a recent bout, so perhaps he has corrected his grappling style to avoid taking the high risks that cost him against the likes of St. Claire and Jeremy Anderson. However, Smith appears to be a much more devastating takedown artist and grappler than those previous Romero opponents. Smith slammed Jason Louck into oblivion for a big knockout, and his top control prior to the finish suggests that he could give Romero some real frustration on the ground.
Romero’s finishing rate and his sizable experience edge would make him seem like a good pick in this contest, but there’s plenty of reason to doubt his chances. Romero probably won’t be able to stuff Smith’s takedown attempts consistently throughout their five-round affair, and the North Dakota native is at his worst when he has an opponent on top of him. He gives up his back in these situations, and Smith won’t hesitate to seize the opportunity. Smith hasn’t won a fight by rear-naked choke, but that could change when he meets Romero. However, Smith isn’t a finisher, so don’t be surprised if this contest lasts until the final bell and Smith is forced to settle for the judges’ nod.
Other key bouts: Melvin Blumer (11-2) vs. Jeff Curran (36-16-1), Marvin Blumer (11-4) vs. Darrick Minner (11-4), Dan Moret (7-1) vs. Bobby Moffett (6-1), Andre Tiava (8-0) vs. Matt Brown (9-4), Bojan Velickovic (9-3) vs. Chris Hugh (16-9), Ricky Steele (2-0) vs. Jay Pressley (3-0), Isaiah Pitts (4-0) vs. Ben Neumann (8-3)
Event Date: March 6
Tymoteusz Swiatek (15-2) vs. Victor Marinho (8-1)
Poland’s Fight Exclusive Night offers up the most intriguing title affair on the international circuit. The promotion’s sixth event features a bantamweight championship showdown between Tymoteusz Swiatek and Victor Marinho.
Swiatek will enjoy the home-field advantage in his native Poland. “Omen” made his professional debut in early 2012 and amassed a 10-0 record, with one no-contest, within his first year of competition. He suffered his first loss against fellow prospect Marcin Lasota and then bounced back with another three victories. His second defeat came at the hands of Finnish up-and-comer Timo-Juhani Hirvikangas, and once again he rebounded with wins in consecutive fights. The Fightman Bochnia product has seven wins by some form of knockout and six victories via submission. Many of the 21-year-old’s early opponents were sub-.500 fighters, but he has progressed to fighting adversaries who possess more respectable records..
Marinho fights out of Portugal Gold Team and typically competes as a flyweight. He turned pro in late 2012 and won one of his first two fights. After he was handed a TKO loss by Artur Lemos, the Portuguese fighter responded with seven straight wins. “Kiko” is barely six weeks removed from his last fight. The 26-year-old has four wins via TKO and three by way of submission. Marinho eked out a split verdict over Isaac Pimentel, an 11-4 fighter, but his other opponents have combined for a weak 7-18 current record.
These are two young fighters worth keeping an eye on. Both have well-rounded games that allow them to take the upper hand wherever the fight may go. The size advantage would seem to sway in favor of Swiatek, but the Polish fighter’s wild striking style could open him up to damage on the feet or to takedowns. Both fighters are fast and dangerous wherever the fight goes, so fans could be in store for a fast-paced contest full of scrambles.
Marinho tends to overwhelm opponents with excellent ground-and-pound work from the top position, whereas Swiatek relies more on power. The determining factor could be the location of the fight. Swiatek will enjoy the support of the crowd and a fight in familiar surroundings. Marinho, meanwhile, will be making just his second trip outside of Portugal for a fight. It should be an entertaining affair, but Swiatek will clip Marinho with one of his wild haymakers and either follow up with a knockout or work over the Portuguese fighter on the mat to soften him up for the finish.
Event Date: March 7
Watch Event: GoFightLive pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Jonavin Webb (7-0) vs. Elijah Harshbarger (7-4)
The final fight of the three title contests previewed this week brings us back to U.S. shores and a promotion that just put on its most recent event last weekend. Cage Fury Fighting Championships has opted for a quick turnaround between last week’s 46th offering and this week’s 47th venture. The lineup features slightly more depth this time around, and another title affair headlines the evening’s festivities. This time, it’s welterweight title action featuring champion Jonavin Webb and challenger Elijah Harshbarger. As an added bonus, fans can enjoy this event right here on the Combat Press website, courtesy of the GoFightLive pay-per-view stream.
Webb is still looking to make his first defense of a title he claimed at CFFC 38, where he defeated Dan Stittgen. Webb is actually fortunate to still have possession of his title after seemingly being on his way to relinquishing the belt to Lyman Good in November 2014. Good had the upper hand in their clash, but the bout was ruled a no-contest after Good unintentionally poked Webb in the eye during the third round and Webb was unable to continue. Good has since claimed the promotion’s interim welterweight title, and if Webb gets past Harshbarger, he could be looking at a rematch with the former Bellator champion. The three-year veteran is a Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter. He wrestled in high school and college, and he also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “Spyder” Webb has been a Cage Fury mainstay since his pro debut, and he has tallied two TKO victories and three submission wins.
Webb is the prospect in this fight, but Harshbarger might be the more widely recognized name. The 11-fight veteran has made appearances with the World Extreme Fighting, Ring of Combat and XFC promotions, and he has competed against the likes of Ben Saunders, George Sullivan, Pete Sell and Chris Cope. The 32-year-old’s pro debut took place in 1999, but his second fight didn’t come until a decade later. He won both of those affairs and proceeded to put up a 6-4 mark by the end of 2011. Harshbarger went inactive in 2012 and didn’t return until January 2014, when he defeated the aforementioned Cope. Harshbarger has been out of action for the last year. The Gold Medal Grappling fighter has notched six submission victories, but he has also suffered all but one of his losses via submission. Harshbarger began wrestling at a very young age and even left MMA behind for a while to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team. He has also trained in various other disciplines, including jiu-jitsu under the tutelage of Lloyd Irvin, since he was a teenager.
Webb’s weak showing in what ultimately ended up being a no-contest against Good doesn’t bode well for him as he enters into this title defense against Harshbarger, a true veteran of this sport whose experience is much greater than what an 11-fight resume may suggest. Where Good overwhelmed Webb with strikes, Harshbarger will need to do so with wrestling and grappling. Yet, Harshbarger is dealing with a BJJ black belt who has a strong wrestling background of his own and a habit of relentlessly pursuing the takedown.
Harshbarger isn’t unstoppable on the ground. In fact, he’s suffered several losses there, including two armbar submissions. Webb doesn’t need to worry about striking like he did against Good, and that will swing this contest in his favor. The champ will remain persistent in his takedown attempts and force Harshbarger to fend off submission attempts. The veteran will hang in there for a while, but Webb will eventually find an armbar and coax the tapout. Then, the table will be set for a rematch between Webb and Good.
Other key bouts: Scott Heckman (18-6) vs. Jay Hass (13-14), Chris Sladky (2-0) vs. Thad Frick (1-1)