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 10
Watch Event: AXS TV
Mackenzie Dern (2-0) vs. Katherine Roy (1-0)
Legacy Fighting Alliance will continue with its barrage of events this coming weekend when the promotion hosts its sixth show. Remember, the LFA has only been around since the start of the year, but this will mark its sixth effort in just 10 weeks. The event features one of the hottest prospects in women’s MMA, jiu-jitsu ace Mackenzie Dern. Dern, who already has two wins under her belt in MMA competition, will seek to add a third victory when she steps into the LFA cage with fellow undefeated strawweight Katherine Roy.
Dern is a jiu-jitsu world champion who currently sits atop the rankings of female grapplers in the sport of jiu-jitsu. She holds an ADCC title, and she defeated Gabi Garcia during her quest for the open weight championship. Dern’s pro MMA career kicked off with a dominant decision victory over the young Kenia Rosas at Legacy FC 58 in July. Dern’s sophomore outing came against eight-fight veteran Montana Stewart. Dern claimed the victory with a first-round submission. The 23-year-old is based out of MMA Lab in her native Arizona.
Roy isn’t as famous as her counterpart, but she, too, sports a spotless record. However, the 31-year-old has only had one pro fight. Roy won her pro debut, which came under the World Series of Fighting Global Championship banner, by unanimous decision. Her amateur career featured three wins, but it also contains her only loss in MMA competition. Roy went 1-1 during her 2012 campaign in the amateur ranks. She returned in 2014 to capture two additional ammy wins. She didn’t debut as a pro until 2016. Roy has trained out of the Warrior’s Edge camp in New Braunfels, as well as RPBJJ and Pete Spratt American Muay Thai.
Roy’s amateur loss is troubling, but it did come against Sabrina Garcia, a fighter who went on to accumulate a 2-0 mark as a pro before leaving the active MMA scene in 2013. The Texan is a tough competitor who tends to force opponents to the scorecards, and she usually emerges with the victory.
However, Roy has a tall task in front of her. Dern is a true world-class jiu-jitsu practitioner who has asserted her dominance in the world of mixed martial arts. She can dominate versatile fighters (see: Rosas) and submit veterans (see: Stewart). Roy won’t want to tangle with Dern on the mat. Even if she survives submission attempts the way Rosas did, she’s still likely to lose every scramble and get smothered by Dern’s top control. This leaves Roy with little choice but to try to keep the fight in an upright position. Don’t count on that, though. Dern has a strong judo game to accompany her jiu-jitsu skills. The ADCC champ should make easy work of Roy and potentially draw the interest of the UFC in the process.
Other key bouts: Rivaldo Junior (15-6-2) vs. Ray Rodriguez (11-4), Eryk Anders (6-0) vs. Jon Kirk (19-13), William Hoffmann (8-2) vs. Richard Odoms (11-3), Sam Guardiola (7-1) vs. Carlos Vergara (4-1-1)
Event Date: March 11
Watch Event: YouTube
Mamed Khalidov (32-4-2) vs. Luke Barnatt (12-3)
Though Absolute Championship Berkut has suffered through some controversy this year, one thing cannot be argued: the Russian-based promotion continues to gobble up solid free agents and put together impressive lineups. Its 54th effort takes ACB to Manchester, England, for one of its most stacked cards ever. Assuming the ACB brass can keep its collective nose out of the business of changing fight outcomes, fans should enjoy seeing the next step in the careers of such prospects as Aslambek Saidov, Dean Garnett, Michael Tobin, Saul Rogers, Brendan Loughnane, Max Nunes and Bubba Jenkins, as well as veterans Vinny Magalhães, Pat Healy and Robert Whiteford. The crown jewel of the card, however, is a middleweight showdown between reigning KSW champ Mamed Khalidov and former UFC fighter Luke Barnatt.
Khalidov got off to a slow 3-3 start after making his pro debut in 2004. It all started to click for the “Cannibal” in 2005. Over the next four years, he went 17-0-1 while defeating the likes of Tor Troéng, Igor Pokrajac and Jorge Santiago. The win over Santiago in Khalidov’s Sengoku debut led to an immediate rematch, with Santiago’s belt on the line, but Khalidov lost the fight via decision. He has rebounded with another strong stretch to compile a 12-0-1 mark over his last 13 fights while capturing the KSW crown in a fight against Michał Materla and defending it with a majority decision over Aziz Karaoglu. Before Khalidov fought Materla, the Sengoku veteran had been out of action for nearly a year after undergoing surgery for a spinal injury. The 36-year-old’s martial arts background began with Kyokushin karate in his youth, but he has added a diverse range of disciplines to his arsenal. The former KSW light heavyweight champion is a finisher who has stopped 17 opponents via submission and 12 foes by way of strikes. In addition to this slated contest against Barnatt, Khalidov also has an upcoming catchweight fight for KSW against Borys Mankowski.
Barnatt was a member of The Ultimate Fighter 17 cast and advanced as far as the competition’s quarterfinal round before he was eliminated by Dylan Andrews. He recovered with a win over Collin Hart at the TUF 17 Finale and tacked on stoppage victories over Andrew Craig and Mats Nilsson in his next two fights. Barnatt went on a three-fight skid when he stepped up to meet Sean Strickland, Roger Narvaez and Mark Muñoz in his final three UFC bouts. He’s found a bit of new life on the European regional circuit following his UFC release. First, he submitted Italian up-and-comer Mattia Schiavolin for the Venator FC middleweight strap. He returned to Britain next and scored a third-round knockout of Charles Andrade. Barnatt returned to Venator and defended his middleweight championship with a second-round technical knockout of Stefan Croitoru and then scored a first-round TKO finish of Cristian Mitrea while competing at light heavyweight in the Romanian Xtreme Fighting organization. The 28-year-old fights out of the Tsunami Gym and has six wins by strikes and four victories via submission. At 6-foot-6, Barnatt towers over many of his middleweight opponents.
Barnatt’s lanky frame will give him a six-inch height edge over Khalidov, and his reach is likely to be equally lengthy. Barnatt’s recent streak looks great at first glance, but his opponents don’t come close to the caliber of fighter he’ll see when he faces Khalidov. Meanwhile, Khalidov has been tearing through the likes of Melvin Manhoef, Maiquel Falcão, Brett Cooper and the aforementioned Materla.
Khalidov’s main challenge will be in overcoming Barnatt’s size. The British fighter has continued to finish opponents outside of the UFC, but even the likes of Strickland and Narvaez were able to neutralize Barnatt’s range effectively enough to hand him a pair of losses. Khalidov’s strong arsenal on both the feet and the ground make him a significant threat to Barnatt. The KSW champ should add another win over a UFC castoff and continue to add to fans’ desire to see him inside the Octagon.
Other key bouts: Aslambek Saidov (19-5) vs. Ion Pascu (15-6), Adam Zając (9-2-1) vs. Abdul-Rakhman Dzhanaev (6-1), Vinny Magalhães (14-8) vs. Przemysław Mysiala (20-9-1), Dean Garnett (8-0-1) vs. Michael Tobin (12-0), Saul Rogers (12-1) vs. Pat Healy (30-23), Amirkhan Adaev (11-3) vs. Joshua Aveles (24-11-2), Brendan Loughnane (13-2) vs. Mike Wilkinson (9-3), David Mitchell (22-6) vs. Ibragim Chuzhigaev (6-4), Max Nunes (17-3) vs. Batraz Agnaev (3-0), Tanner Boser (12-2) vs. Mukhomad Vakhaev (4-4-1), Brian Kelleher (16-7) vs. Murad Kalamov (7-1), Bubba Jenkins (11-3) vs. Ali Bagov (22-10), Iain Feenan (7-0) vs. Chris Bungard (8-3), Robert Whiteford (13-4) vs. Nam Phan (21-16), Danny Mitchell (19-8-1) vs. Andy DeVent (14-10), Kane Mousah (8-1) vs. Lewis Monarch (7-1), Ashley Reece (4-0) vs. James Lewis (5-3)
Event Date: March 11
Watch Event: Pay-per-view stream on Fight Channel TV
Darko Stošić (10-1) vs. Emil Zahariev (22-7-1)
It’s perhaps the most unique event of the week. “Greece vs. the Rest of the World,” as it’s been dubbed, is the 28th event from Final Fight Championship, and it features a mix of kickboxing and MMA combat. While the event is perhaps most notable for its inclusion of Robin van Roosmalen’s second pro MMA bout, the heavyweight clash between Darko Stošić and Emil Zahariev deserves some attention too.
Stošić holds the promotion’s heavyweight title. The Serbian fighter claimed the belt with a majority decision over Dion Staring in September and successfully defended the crown in a rematch with Staring in December. The 25-year-old has been in the pro ranks since 2012, when he debuted with a decision win and tacked on three more victories before suffering his first and only pro loss to future Rizin tournament finalist Jiří Procházka. The judoka rebounded from the loss by reeling off four straight stoppages and six straight victories. Before his pair of battles with Staring, Stošić had a questionable resume outside of his loss to the veteran Procházka. His next best opponent was the 6-4 Manny Murillo. When he doesn’t go the distance, Stošić tends to finish fights with his fists, though he does have one submission.
Zahariev continues the recent upgrade in quality opposition for Stošić. The 30-fight veteran has 22 victories, including 11 submissions (one via strikes), three straight knockouts and four technical knockouts. The big man has tipped the scales as a super heavyweight in the past, and he made his biggest appearance under the Inoki Genome Federation banner, where he fought Chris Barnett. Zahariev lost to Barnett, marking the beginning of his current two-fight skid. Since turning pro in 2007, Zahariev has been defeated by the likes of Lloyd Marshbanks, future Bellator fighter Marcus Vänttinen, future UFC and Bellator fighter Francis Carmont and future Strikeforce and UFC fighter Nandor Guelmino. He’s been stopped on five occasions.
The 28-year-old Zahariev was slated to meet Stošić once before, but it’s difficult to compete when you’re detained by the police. Now, the pair will meet following a long layoff from Zahariev. The CBS Respect fighter will enjoy a noticeable size advantage over the champion, but this is the same man who once suffered a submission loss to Francis Carmont, a fighter who has spent his career at middleweight and light heavyweight.
Stošić has remained very active while Zahariev sat on the sidelines. He not only stepped up to fight Staring twice, but he has been training with the likes of MMA legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and world-class judoka Satoshi Ishii. Stošić could follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned Barnett and Igor Sliusarchuk by handing Zahariev his third straight knockout loss, but it’s more likely that the judo specialist focuses on clinch work, takedowns and submissions. Stošić will score the finish and walk away with the belt. With such a shallow heavyweight division globally, Stošić could soon be fielding offers from the world’s top promotions.
Other key bouts: Robin van Roosmalen (1-0) vs. Risto Dimitrov (2-2), Filip Pejić (12-2-1) vs. Alexis Savvidis (14-6), Joey Angelo (6-1) vs. Andreas Michailidis (7-2), Stamatis Moroulis (9-2) vs. Edgar Santos (10-5)
Event Date: March 12
Taila Santos (14-0) vs. Rosy Duarte (10-4)
Mackenzie Dern isn’t the only undefeated female star competing this weekend. Brazilian flyweight Taila Santos, who has gone undefeated through 14 pro bouts, is hunting for another title. She’ll vie for the vacant women’s flyweight crown at the second edition of Noxii Combat. Her opponent is no slouch. Santos locks horns with 14-fight veteran Rosy Duarte.
Santos is just 23 years old, but she has been fighting since late 2013 and has already accumulated 14 pro victories. The Muay Thai specialist has earned 10 wins via strikes and two by way of submission. She went the distance in her pro debut, but has only seen the three-minute mark of the first round four times in her subsequent 13 outings. Six of her stoppages came in less than 90 seconds, and three of those checked in at less than a minute. While the Astra Fight Team product has registered dominant wins, she has not faced a very high level of competition. Prior to her victory over Gisele Moreira, who was 3-1 coming into the contest, Santos could count Rachael Cummins, with a 2-1 record at the time of their meeting, as her previous best opponent. Marta Souza, at 1-3-1 at the time of their meeting, remains the most seasoned competitor for Santos.
The 35-year-old Duarte made her pro debut in 2008 and suffered a loss. She didn’t return to action until 2012, but the hiatus proved beneficial to her career. When she returned, she won three straight via TKO and posted just one additional loss through nine fights. Along the way, she topped veteran Elaine Albuquerque by unanimous decision. Up to that point, Duarte had feasted mostly on debuting pros and fighters with losing records. Her only loss since her 2012 return came against Viviane Pereira, the best opponent she has encountered in her first nine fights. After the victory over Albuquerque, Duarte suffered back-to-back losses to Julia Berezikova and Juliana Velasquez. She returned to the win column in her two most recent outings, where she scored wins over Juliana Moura and Lizianne Silveira. Duarte is a finisher. The Essencial Team product has five wins via strikes and one by way of submission. Three of her losses have come by way of knockout.
Duarte’s fight history suggests a weak chin, and that’s a serious weakness against a Muay Thai specialist like Santos who tends to put away opponents in a hurry. The biggest knock on Santos is that she’s being protected. A fighter of her caliber should be scrapping with top stars in Invicta and the UFC, but Santos was scrapped from an intriguing bout with fellow prospect Mariana Morais in early 2016 and then could not compete at Invicta FC 18 due to visa issues. Santos would have met borderline top-15 bantamweight Irene Aldana at the Invicta show.
Until Santos steps into the spotlight and meets a bona fide stud like Aldana, her true standing will remain in doubt. However, the fight with Duarte is a solid start. Duarte is a scrappy veteran, so she should add some legitimacy to Santos. Yet, she’s also a fighter with a weak list of prior opponents and a tendency to be put out by strikes. This is a fight tailor made to give Santos a credible win. She should destroy Duarte on the feet and claim a knockout victory.
Other key bouts: Walter Pereira, Jr. (11-3) vs. Rafael Dias (12-4) for the bantamweight title, Felipe Cruz (18-3-1) vs. Diego Barbosa (7-2) for the featherweight title, Anderson Gonçalves (8-1) vs. Edmilson Souza (8-2), Edilceu Alves (7-1) vs. Janailson Kevin (37-15), Fábio Henrique (5-1) vs. Eglaudio Tavares (4-0), Denis Silva (4-1) vs. Ruan Machado (3-0), Igor Waiantt (1-0) vs. Yuri de França (0-0)