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: Feb. 5
Watch Event: AXS TV
Manny Vazquez (8-1) vs. Ricardo Ramos (8-0)
Legacy has brought in some familiar names for its 51st offering. Brock Larson competes in the co-headliner, and outspoken UFC veteran Jacob Volkmann is also slated for main-card action. The spotlight, however, goes to a pair of bantamweight up-and-comers. Undefeated prospect Ricardo Ramos and once-defeated fighter Manny Vazquez will take to the Legacy cage for the evening’s headlining bout. The pair will vie for the vacant Legacy bantamweight crown.
The Brazilian Ramos debuted in 2012 and tallied six victories on the Brazilian regional scene before stepping up to pick up two victories in the Legacy cage in 2015. His U.S. debut came in April against fellow undefeated fighter Justin Rader, whom Ramos defeated via strikes in just 32 seconds. The 20-year-old’s sophomore appearance with Legacy lasted just a little longer — he needed more than two and a half minutes to dispose of Cody Walker. “Carcacinha” has a background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has literally lived in a gym while training since his mid-teens. His resume does tilt in favor of grappling finishes, but he has a couple of stoppages via strikes. With a knack for quick wins, the youngster might not be far from a UFC contract at this point. There’s certainly precedent for it in Legacy’s bantamweight division, where Ramos is fighting for the title Thomas Almeida vacated when he signed with the UFC. And Ramos was to meet Augusto Mendes for the belt, but Mendes signed with the UFC as well, leading to the current match-up between Ramos and Vazquez.
At age 22, Vazquez is the elder combatant in this title showdown. He turned pro in 2013 and has already become somewhat of a journeyman this early in his pro career, with stops in King of the Cage, XFO and Turf Wars highlighting his nine-fight resume. The Illinois native won his first seven pro outings before running into Chris Dunn in August. Dunn outworked Vazquez to earn the judges’ nod, but Vazquez has since rebounded with a striking finish of Cory Galloway. Vazquez has a background in high school wrestling and has been training in mixed martial arts since his teen years. Vazquez also leans toward submissions to end fights.
Legacy might not yet have the same reputation for delivering UFC prospects as the Resurrection Fighting Alliance carries with it, but the Texan company is quickly closing the gap. A big contribution to the narrowing of the divide has come in the Legacy bantamweight division, and Ramos and Vazquez could be auditioning for the next opening on the UFC roster.
Vazquez wants to stuff Carcacinha’s takedowns and send the Brazilian into a panic, but that might be easier said than done. Ramos is willing to risk bad spots — he left himself exposed to a guillotine choke attempt against the aforementioned Walker — just to get the fight to the mat. Granted, Ramos isn’t a devastating takedown artist, nor does he set up his takedowns with strong striking. He can finish fights with strikes, but it’s been either a ground-and-pound barrage on a fighter attacking a leg or a well-timed knee landing flush on a charging opponent. The actual stand-up arsenal of the Brazilian could use some work, and Vazquez’s best chance will likely come exactly in the way he expects it to come.
Ramos is crafty enough to get fights to the mat. Once on the ground, the Brazilian is an extremely dangerous grappler. He loves to attack the arms or go for a choke. Vazquez is going to find himself in some clinch situations or scrambles on the mat, and that’s where Ramos will gain the upperhand. The Brazilian’s submission game is going to prove too much for the former high school wrestler. Ramos will capture the belt with a submission win, and he may be fielding offers from the UFC or another big promotion before too long.
Other key bouts: Brock Larson (41-10) vs. Travis Coyle (13-7), Jacob Volkmann (18-6) vs. Antonio Trócoli (9-0), Clarence Jordan (7-2-1) vs. Jos Eichelberger (15-9), Cody East (11-1) vs. Kevin Asplund (16-10), Joe Pearson (45-27-1) vs. Tateki Matsuda (11-7), Chase Waldon (8-1) vs. Justin Winkles-Camparetto (5-2), Ron Winslow (3-0) vs. Ryan Debelak (3-0)
Event Date: Feb. 6
Salimgerey Rasulov (14-6) vs. Zelimkhan Umiev (5-0)
The heavyweight division continues to look pretty shallow, but there are plenty of prospects out there who could provide some hope for the future of the weight class. Absolute Championship Berkut will showcase one such up-and-comer atop its 29th offering. Undefeated upstart Zelimkhan Umiev is set to compete for the vacant ACB heavyweight title in a contest against veteran Salimgerey Rasulov.
The towering 6-foot-5 Umiev impressed in his run through the ACB Grand Prix in 2014. He picked up all five of his pro wins, including four in the Grand Prix, within a seven-month span before going inactive for all of 2015. The heavyweight has three first-round finishes, including one via strikes and two by way of submission. His level of opposition increased with each subsequent outing until he faced 14-fight veteran Jacek Czajczyński in his most recent bout. The Russian fighter trains out of Fight Club Berkut and has a background in combat sambo.
Fight Club No. 1’s Rasulov has been fighting professionally since 2007. His early career path was a rocky road of wins and losses that led to a 5-5 record through his first 10 fights. Do the math and he’s 9-1 through his last 10 outings. His only recent loss came via strikes against Peter Graham. Rasulov claimed three victories during the ACB Grand Prix in 2015 to earn his spot opposite Umiev in this title scrap. The Russian has never won or lost a fight by way of submission.
Umiev is still early in his MMA career, but he’s a prospect the UFC or Bellator might want to look at if either promotion wants to inject some excitement into its heavyweight division. The undefeated fighter can be wild out of the gates in an effort to get the quick finish. This might lead him to gas out when he finally runs into serious challenges, but he’s not there yet. He defeated an increasingly difficult set of opponents in his 2014 run, and he did so with an aggressive striking attack and a solid ground game. He’s a complete bull out of the gates, but he’s held up well so far.
Height and reach should be two advantages in Umiev’s favor in this title encounter, but he’ll also have athleticism and the cleaner fighting style, despite his wild flurries. Rasulov is a sloppy striker who doesn’t have the power, speed or technique to hang with Umiev. Rasulov should represent the next step up in competition for Umiev, but this is a very winnable fight for the up-and-coming prospect. Umiev will most likely score the TKO finish, unless he opts to soften up Rasulov with strikes and use a submission for the kill.
Other key bouts: Janusz Staszewski (8-1-1) vs. Musa Khamanaev (15-4), Adam Zając (8-2-1) vs. Shamkhan Barakhanov (4-0), Adrian Zieliński (14-4) vs. Ustarmagomed Gadzhidaudov (8-2), Yusup Raisov (7-0) vs. Sebastian Romanowski (10-5-1), Marcin Lasota (9-2) vs. Askar Askarov (4-0), Alexander Pletenko (10-2) vs. Damian Szmigielski (6-1), David Iberico Celis (13-2) vs. Magomed Khamzaev (6-2)
Event Date: Feb. 7
Watch Event: live stream at wsofgc.com
Teddy Violet (10-1) vs. Michihiro Omigawa (16-14-1)
This isn’t your normal World Series of Fighting card. Instead, it’s a venture from WSOF’s Global Championship promotion, one of a number of brand spinoffs aimed at international markets. The strength of the lineup, however, is on par with the offerings put forth by the promotion’s namesake. The second WSOF Global Championship card has a number of highlights, including a heavyweight title tilt between Evgeny Erokhin and Brandon Cash, a co-headliner featuring star Akihiro Gono and the return of top female atomweight Hisae Watanabe after more than an eight-year absence from action. The most intriguing contest, however, features featherweight prospect Teddy Violet against grizzled veteran Michihiro Omigawa.
The 24-year-old Violet is a French fighter making his first trip outside of Europe since debuting in 2012. The Haute Tension product went undefeated through his first eight outings, all of which took place in France. His excellent start caught the attention of the British-based BAMMA organization, which brought Violet in to fight one of its top fighters, Tom Duquesnoy, for the vacant BAMMA featherweight strap. Duquesnoy handed Violet his first pro loss when he submitted his fellow Frenchman in the second round. Violet, who had previously notched five submissions, two split decisions and a unanimous nod, rebounded with a pair of wins via strikes against varying levels of competition. His knockout of the previously unbeaten Tom McCafferty came just 22 seconds into their fight.
The 40-year-old Omigawa has had an odd career trajectory, to say the least. His 2005 pro debut came in the Pride ring, where he lost to Aaron Riley. In his second fight, he locked horns with Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante and lost again. He continued to fight strong competition and amassed a 4-4 mark before he signed with the UFC. His run in the Octagon was short-lived. He suffered losses to Matt Wiman and Thiago Tavares before being handed his pink slip. The Japanese fighter turned in a loss and a draw over his next two outings and debuted in Sengoku as a forgotten 4-7-1 fighter. However, that’s when he hit his stride. Omigawa, who had previously competed as a lightweight, shifted his focus to the featherweight division and went 8-1 over his next nine fights across Sengoku, Dream and several other major Japanese shows. His list of victims included L.C. Davis, Marlon Sandro and Hatsu Hioki. The decorated judoka was signed once again by the UFC, but the Octagon continued to be less than kind to the veteran fighter. He went 1-4 in a five-fight stint with the promotion and only scored a win against the unheralded Jason Young. Omigawa was shown the door once again and continued to struggle through his return to Dream, where he lost to Tatsuya Kawajiri, and his Road FC debut, which ended in a disappointing loss to Bae Yong Kwon. After a one-year layoff, Omigawa returned in 2014 and returned to the win column under the Deep banner. Now, he has three straight wins, though only one of the victories came against a fighter with a winning record.
Omigawa comes forward with big flurries and, of course, can use his judo chops to bring the fight to the mat. Yet, he only has four stoppages each via strikes and submission. The bulk of his victories have come on the scorecards, as have 12 of his losses. He’s not a boring grinder, but he is a grinder all the same. The question is whether he still has the ability at age 40 that he had in his featherweight prime of 2009-10. He’s not in his mid-30s anymore, and Violet isn’t the cakewalk that Omigawa received in recent opponents Peter Cepeda, who was 1-1 when he locked horns with the veteran, and sub-.500 fighter Kosuke Umeda. Omigawa did pick up a decision nod in September over fellow established veteran Yoshifumi Nakamura, so he could still have enough left in the tank to hand Violet another setback.
Violet is one of the better prospects to emerge from France, but he had the misfortune of fighting an even better French prospect when he met Duquesnoy. Violet was only slightly edged on the feet, but he was thoroughly dismantled on the mat. Duquesnoy dominated from top position in round one and then won the fight off his back in the second stanza when Violet scored a big takedown and ended up in perfect position for Duquesnoy to lock in a triangle choke for the finish.
Violet might struggle if Omigawa opts to rely on his judo to get the younger fighter to the canvas. Omigawa can be a ground-and-pound terror from the top position, and Violet will struggle to escape once his more experienced adversary lands on top or, worse yet, transitions to mount. If Violet can keep the fight standing, he will have to deal with Omigawa’s aggressive striking attack, but he has the length to stay outside of the Japanese fighter’s range and turn this into a points battle. Omigawa has lost more points battles than he has won, so this might be Violet’s best route to victory.
There’s just too much working against Violet here. He’s a young, promising fighter, but he’s leagues out of his depth in terms of experience against Omigawa, who has been in action against some of the world’s better fighters from the very start of his career. Omigawa may be 40, but he’s still proven he can win fights outside of the UFC. Violet will be much farther from home than he has been for any of his previous excursions, and he’ll be fighting on Omigawa’s home turf. There are too many signs pointing toward a struggle for Violet here. Omigawa will grind his way to another decision win.
Other key bouts: Evgeny Erokhin (13-4) vs. Brandon Cash (10-3) for the heavyweight title, Akihiro Gono (34-19-8) vs. Miroslav Štrbák (12-5-1), Yoshihiro Koyama (21-9-2) vs. Kamil Łebkowski (13-4), Richard Odoms (10-2) vs. Yusuke Kawaguchi (18-10), Yusaku Nakamura (11-4-1) vs. Lawrence Diguilio (17-6-1), Hisae Watanabe (19-6) vs. Ye Ji Lee (0-1), Jarred Brooks (7-0) vs. Junji Ito (13-6)