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: April 28
Watch Event: YouTube
Ali Bagautinov (15-6) vs. Tyson Nam (14-8-1)
Russian promotions continue to roll on a weekly basis. The Fight Nights Global brand is offering up its second card in as many weeks, and it is another solid effort that offers up intriguing prospects and above-average veteran performers. The spotlight of 64th event in the Fight Nights series lands firmly upon flyweights Ali Bagautinov and Tyson Nam.
Bagautinov is certain to ring a bell with UFC fans. The Russian veteran streaked out to the tune of three wins, including decisions over current top flyweight Tim Elliott and a then-flyweight John Lineker. It was enough to put Bagautinov in a 2014 title showdown with Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, but Bagautinov, just like so many others before and after him, suffered defeat against the top pound-for-pound fighter. The Russian tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the aftermath of his loss to Mighty Mouse. After serving a one-year suspension, Bagautinov returned and lost a decision to top flyweight Joseph Benavidez. He returned to the win column with a decision nod over Geane Herrera, but then suffered a decision loss to yet another top flyweight, Kyoji Horiguchi. With the black mark of a suspension and just one win in his last four fights, the 31-year-old was shown the door by the UFC. This contest marks the first post-UFC fight for the combat sambo practitioner.
The 33-year-old Nam has had his own glimpses of the spotlight, but they have not come inside the UFC’s Octagon. Instead, Nam first popped into the national spotlight in late 2007 as part of an EliteXC preliminary card. After continuing to bounce around the Pacific regional scene for several more years, Nam gained plenty of notoriety for a first-round finish of future Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas. The victory was Nam’s ticket to a stint with the World Series of Fighting, where he suffered back-to-back losses to Marlon Moraes and Cody Bollinger before continuing his skid with an additional two losses on the regional circuit. Nam has won two of his last three fights, but two of the fights ended in very close verdicts, including one majority draw. The Hawaiian, who trains out of the Sports Lab camp, tends to live or die by the knockout. He’s dropped eight foes with his fists, but he’s been on the receiving end of three knockouts as well. Nam has been out of action for just over a year.
Nam’s move to flyweight is a recent one, following a long stay in the bantamweight division. However, his 125-pound resume now includes just one win — a split verdict over a fighter who entered the contest just two wins over the .500 mark — and a majority draw against an inexperienced up-and-comer. His losses at bantamweight — Nam has fallen against the likes of Mark Oshiro, Russell Doane, Jesse Brock, the aforementioned Bollinger, Jeremiah Labiano and Fernando Vieira — place him firmly in the lower mid-tier of that division.
While a shift in weight classes can often resurrect a fighter’s career, Nam has turned in underwhelming results thus far. Now, he’s tasked with the steep challenge of meeting Bagautinov, a fighter who suffered a few questionable losses early in his career before turning into a borderline top-10 flyweight whose only recent losses came against the trio of Mighty Mouse, Benavidez and Horiguchi. In other words, he’s only losing to the best of all time and two of that man’s top challengers nowadays.
Bagautinov has a strong wrestling and combat sambo base. Nam’s basically looking at a fighter who will take the aforementioned Brock’s game and turn it into a more dynamic attack. Where Brock succeeded in outworking Nam for three rounds, Bagautinov can be expected to dominate even more. The UFC castoff can probably hold his own on the feet with Nam as well. Either way, the Russian should have his hand raised at the end of this affair.
Other key bouts: Derrick Mehmen (19-8) vs. Alexei Kudin (21-10-1), Peter Queally (9-3) vs. Igor Egorov (12-6), Ayub Gimbatov (7-1) vs. Dauren Ermekov (5-2), Maksim Butorin (11-1) vs. Dmitry Bikrev (6-3), Zamzagul Fayzallanova (2-0) vs. Svetlana Khautova (1-0), Vladimir Filipović (9-2) vs. Aleksey Sidorenko (4-2)
Event Date: April 28
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Virna Jandiroba (10-0) vs. Ericka Almeida (7-2)
Whereas promotions like Absolute Championship Berkut, Fight Nights Global and the Legacy Fighting Alliance are running at a breakneck speed of event after event, the Brazilian Fight2Night promotion is taking the opposite approach. After running its first event in November, the promotion is back with the first of what it anticipates to be four total events for 2017. The second Fight2Night show features the recognizable names of UFC castoffs Luiz “Banha” Cané, Matt Hamill, Paulo Thiago and Akihiro Gono. It also delivers prospects such as Killys Mota, Marina Rodriguez and Samara Santos. The best head-to-head match-up features another undefeated up-and-comer, female strawweight Virna Jandiroba. Jandiroba is slated to meet Ericka Almeida this weekend.
Jandiroba is a rising prospect with a solid background and a resume that already includes a couple of highlights. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt debuted in 2013 and finished her first five opponents, including veteran fighter Camila Lima, with choke submissions. Her sixth appearance resulted in a decision win over veteran Aline Sattelmayer. She notched another submission win, this time by armbar, against Anne Karoline, before scoring another finish by choke submission against Cristiane Lima. She added her biggest victory at Fight2Night 1 when she scored a first-round submission of Bellator, Invicta FC and UFC veteran Lisa Ellis. The 28-year-old “Carcará” needed just 46 seconds to submit her most recent opponent, the inexperienced Suiane Teixeira.
Almeida, despite a less eye-catching record, is probably the more well-known fighter among mainstream fans. The Brazilian stopped her first seven opponents on the march toward the Jungle Fight strawweight crown, which she earned with a second-round submission of fellow title hopeful Maiara Alves and defended successfully with a first-round submission of Jennifer Gonzalez Araneda. Her perfect run caught the attention of the UFC, which brought her in for a 2015 showdown with Juliana Lima. Almeida dropped a unanimous decision to Lima at UFC Fight Night 67. Her sophomore showing was equally disappointing, as Almeida fell on the scorecards against Aisling Daly. The Herman Gutierrez disciple has remained on the sidelines since the October 2015 defeat at the hands of Daly.
Jandiroba’s strength of competition can be called into question — her last victory came against an 0-1 fighter — but the Brazilian has faced and defeated solid competition in her battles with Sattelmayer and Ellis, most notably. “Carcará” is a lethal grappler who should not be toyed with on the mat. Unfortunately, Almeida’s biggest strength lies in her own ground game.
Almeida appears to be the type of fighter who can overcome low-level competition, but one who cannot defeat the cream of the strawweight crop. Jandiroba is still a long way from proving herself a member of the elite, but she’s off to a strong start that Almeida is unlikely to derail. It will be no shock to see Jandiroba coax a tapout from her latest rival.
Other key bouts: Luiz Cané (17-6) vs. Matt Hamill (11-8), Paulo Thiago (17-9) vs. Faycal Hucin (11-3), Killys Mota (9-0) vs. Akihiro Gono (35-20-8), Victor Carvalho (3-0) vs. Jhonata Silva (4-1), Marina Rodriguez (6-0) vs. Samara Santos (10-2-1)
Event Date: April 30
Allan Zuñiga (11-0) vs. Ilianovich Chalo (5-1)
It’s not often that we peek into the Costa Rican fight scene, but it’s not often that the nation serves up a fighter with a spotless resume through 11 pro fights. However, Center Real Fights has found a native Costa Rican with a perfect record, and he’s a co-headliner for the promotion’s 22nd show. His name is Allan Zuñiga. He’s a lightweight fighter who will be tested by up-and-comer Ilianovich Chalo.
Zuñiga has been competing professionally since 2010. He stuck primarily to the Costa Rican fight scene, with one jump to nearby Colombia, through his first seven fights. He scored five stoppages along the way. “Tigre” then started jumping between his homeland and more distant locales such as Mexico, France and Brazil. The Mandarina MMA product proved himself legit in late 2016 with a decision nod over fellow undefeated fighter Levy Saúl Marroquín Salazar and then continued his impressive run with a decision victory over UFC veteran Marcin Bandel. His CRF battle with Chalo comes less than a month before a stiff test against Johnny Iwasaki, a veteran of more than 30 fights. Zuñiga has four submission victories and two stoppages via strikes.
Chalo doesn’t have the lengthy resume of Bandel or Iwasaki, but he should provide Zuñiga with another game opponent. The Venezuelan fighter debuted in 2010 and won his debut before facing a setback in his second outing. Chalo has since rebounded with four straight wins, including two via strikes. However, his other two recent victories came by way of split decision. The Jasaji Fighting League lightweight kingpin has topped veteran competitor Gilberto Aguilar and the formerly undefeated Angel Origel. However, it’s been nearly a year and a half since Chalo has competed.
Ring rust and a spotty record — not great things to bring into a fight against someone like Zuñiga. While Zuñiga still has plenty to prove, he is clearly capable of defeating better competition than what Chalo offers in this affair. He’s had to work until the final bell to secure victories over notable names, but Chalo might not provide quite the same level of resistance. Chalo has not been finished thus far in his young career, but that could change when he locks horns with Zuñiga.
Other key bouts: Jose Jordan Zarauz Castillo (14-3-1) vs. Ludwing Salazar (20-18), Rafael Murillo Morera (1-0) vs. Henry Jimenez (0-0)