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: Sept. 25
Watch Event: GoFightLive pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Tanner Boser (7-1) vs. Victor Valimaki (18-9)
If there’s one division where legitimate prospects are hard to come by, it’s at heavyweight. Unified MMA’s Tanner Boser appears to be one of the best prospects out there — certainly the best one coming out of Canada — but he faced a setback in a title defense earlier this year against UFC veteran Tim Hague. Now, Boser is trying to right the ship and put together another solid winning streak. The next stop on that quest is Unified MMA 24, where Boser will meet veteran Canadian journeyman Victor Valimaki in the evening’s headlining contest.
Boser is a small heavyweight who has also competed as a light heavyweight. “The Bulldozer” made his pro debut in 2012 and quickly established himself as a finisher with two TKO victories and a submission win through his first three bouts. After going the distance in his fourth fight, Boser tacked on two more stoppages with a submission in his fifth fight and a TKO in his sixth outing. That sixth fight also provided Boser with a piece of championship gold. The Hayabusa Training Centre product finished Jordan Tracey in the third round to claim the vacant title. He stumbled in his first defense, where he suffered a six-second knockout loss — one that was predicted in the Out of Obscurity preview of the fight — at the hands of the aforementioned Hague. The 24-year-old rebounded with a first-round TKO stoppage of Jared Henderson under the King of the Cage banner. The victory was his fourth via strikes. He also has two submission finishes. Boser has a background in karate and achieved the rank of black belt in the discipline by the age of 18.
Valimaki is a familiar name to fight fans who follow the Canadian regional MMA scene and even to longtime UFC fans. The 33-year-old started fighting in 2001 and amassed an 8-2 mark with wins over Dan Severn, Jason Day and Vernon White before entering the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 7, where he lost to David Heath. After a bounce-back win under the Maximum Fighting Championship banner, Valimaki returned at UFC 70 and fell to Alessio Sakara. He was sent packing once again and returned to the regional circuit, where he put together a seven-fight winning streak before going on a three-fight skid. Valimaki took more than a year off, returned to notch another win and then went inactive for another two-plus years with a variety of health problems that included liver and kidney failure related to his weight cuts and surgery to remove a benign tumor from his throat. He finally returned in 2014 and posted one win and one loss during the calendar year. His fight with Boser will be the first of his 2015 campaign after a previous World Series of Fighting bout was scrapped. Valimaki has six wins via strikes and seven by way of submission. His losses tend to come via some form of knockout.
Boser’s loss to Hague raises some red flags about his overall potential, but Hague has a long history of quick wins and losses in the first round. Valimaki, on the other hand, has demonstrated a weak chin on six occasions — seven, if we count his submission loss, which was due to punches. Boser is a strong striker who has put away opponents with his fists, but he has done so against some very middling (and usually inexperienced) competition. His fight with Hague was a massive step up in terms of the experience of his foe, and Valimaki is another extremely seasoned veteran to stand in front of Boser. Valimaki has spent much of his career at light heavyweight, making him potentially the smaller fighter in this affair.
Valimaki’s experience gives him a very real chance of winning this fight. He could test Boser’s chin, just like Hague did, or he could work for a choke. Boser will be likely to push forward and wing punches. Valimaki was taken out via strikes in just 64 seconds by light heavyweight prospect Jeremy Osheim. Boser is a bigger opponent who should find just as much effectiveness with his striking attack. The prospect lost the last time he faced a UFC veteran, but he’ll find success this time with an early stoppage for the win.
Event Date: Sept. 25
Watch Event: Live stream on made4thecage.co.uk
Jack Marshman (16-5) vs. Kyle Redfearn (8-7)
The British regional circuit tends to center around powerhouses like Cage Warriors and BAMMA. So what better way for a smaller, long-running promotion to make headway than to nab a veteran of both of those aforementioned companies and insert that fighter into a showdown for the vacant European middleweight crown in his promotional debut? That’s exactly what Made4theCage has done with Jack Marshman, a former BAMMA Lonsdale middleweight titleholder. The promotional newcomer was to meet undefeated prospect Ryan Scope for the belt, but Scope was forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury less than two weeks before the event. M4tC tabbed veteran fighter Kyle Redfearn to step into the title tilt with Marshman.
Marshman, who hails from Wales, tends to win fights with his fists. He has 11 victories by way of strikes and just three wins via submission. The British paratrooper fights out of Tillery Combat MMA Academy and has trained in jiu-jitsu since the age of 15. He is known more for his striking, however, and has competed as a boxer in between MMA fights. Marshman’s overall record is strong, but he is just 6-5 over his last 11 fights. Those losses include a TKO defeat handed to him by Tom “Kong” Watson, a knockout courtesy of Ion Pascu and a 34-second finish at the hands of Abu Azaitar. The 25-year-old is on a two-fight winning streak against quality competition in the form of Bola Omoyele and Che Mills, who have a current combined record of 24-12.
Redfearn seems like a huge step down from Marshman’s original opponent, Scope, who was undefeated through nine contests. Redfearn, on the other hand, is floating just one win above the .500 mark. He was slated to fight Marcin Prostko, a 4-0 prospect, on the card before dropping out of the fight with an injured hand. His hand healed quickly and he was able to step up and take Scope’s spot in the title fight. Redfearn debuted in 2010 with a loss. He went 5-1 over his next six fights before going on a three-fight skid. He turned things around and won three straight, but then fell into another rough patch with two more losses, including a submission defeat against UFC veteran Nick Osipczak. Redfearn competed as a welterweight in the past, but he has bulked up to make the move to the middleweight division. He has an amateur boxing record of 3-0 and checks in with six victories by way of strikes and two wins by submission.
Marshman likely caught a break with this change of opponents. Redfearn’s power cannot be ignored, but he’s coming off a hand injury and was only doing light training before stepping up on short notice for this fight. He could stun Marshman with a knockout or TKO finish, but he’s also vulnerable in all areas of the game. He has dropped three fights via strikes and three by way of submission, giving Marshman plenty of wiggle room in his route to victory. Marshman’s iffy chin makes this a competitive fight, but the former BAMMA titleholder is the superior fighter in this contest. Marshman will make Redfearn’s night hell before finishing him with a submission.
Other key bouts: Curt Warburton (13-6) vs. Warren Kee (7-4-1), Chris Fishgold (10-1) vs. Ryan Roddy (7-1)
Event Date: Sept. 25
Watch Event: GoFightLive pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Julio Arce (8-0) vs. Brian Kelleher (13-7)
The last time Ring of Combat bantamweight champion Julio Arce stepped into the cage, he met Michael Imperato. The result of that fight was a predictable one. Now, Arce returns again to put his belt on the line while attempting to keep his spotless record intact. His title defense at Ring of Combat’s 52nd show was to come against Mike Pope, but Pope was forced out of the bout and has been replaced by veteran Brian Kelleher.
Arce made his professional debut in 2012. The Tiger Schulmann product has claimed two wins by submission and two victories via strikes. Arce, who also compiled a stellar record as an amateur, defeated his first four opponents before fighting for the bantamweight crown against Strikeforce veteran Jason McLean. Arce topped McLean on the scorecards to snag the belt. He has defended the crown three times, scoring a submission victory over Jake Grigson, a TKO finish of Thomas Vasquez and a decision win over the aforementioned Imperato. The 25-year-old southpaw is a New York Golden Gloves champion boxer and a WKA kickboxing champion.
Kelleher entered his mixed martial arts career without a real combat-sports background. The Long Island native trained at a nearby gym before eventually joining Team Bombsquad. He went pro in 2011, lost his debut, won four straight, dropped two in a row, bounced back with four more wins and then lost four of his next five. He recovered from those setbacks and posted wins in his three most recent outings. “Boom” is a Bellator veteran, but his run with the promotion left a lot to be desired. He dropped both of his fights in the Bellator cage, first to Claudio Ledesma via unanimous decision in October 2011 and then to Jimmie Rivera in April 2013. The 5-foot-6 Ithaca resident has finished five opponents via strikes and six by way of submission. He has been submitted four times.
Kelleher may be a 20-fight veteran, but he’s no bigger of a challenge for Arce than Imperato was or Pope would have been. He came into MMA without a real martial arts background, and his seven losses prove that he has plenty of holes in his game, especially if the fight hits the canvas. Luckily for Kelleher, Arce should be willing to oblige him in a stand-up affair. That doesn’t improve Kelleher’s chances greatly against a very accomplished striker. This should be another day at the office for Arce, who could finish the fight via some form of knockout or a submission opportunity that opens up as a result of his strong striking base. If all else fails, Arce should have no problem outpointing Kelleher on the scorecards. Regardless of the method, Arce will emerge with his hand raised.
Other key bouts: Pete Sell (10-6) vs. Elijah Harshbarger (7-5), Max Bohanan (4-0) vs. Dan Cion (4-2), Shokhin Safarov (4-1) vs. Eddie Lenoci (3-0), Randy Brown (4-0) vs. Ben Brewer (11-3)