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…

Extreme Fighting Championship Worldwide 61
Sun City Resort in Pilanesberg, South Africa
Event Date: July 8
Website: efcworldwide.com
Watch Event: Live main card on television networks SuperSport World of Champions (Africa), Fight Now! TV (U.S., Canada and Caribbean), Abu Dhabi TV (Middle East and North Africa), Fight Sports (Europe and Asia) and ESPN Player (Europe).
Twitter: @EFCworldwide

Spotlight Fight:
Andrew van Zyl (14-3) vs. Wessel Mostert (4-0)

The South African EFC Worldwide organization is back for its 61st effort. The bill features two title showdowns. The marquee names here are those of the heavyweight champion, Andrew van Zyl, and the challenger to his belt, Wessel Mostert.

Van Zyl, a three-time EFC heavyweight champ, has had an up-and-down run as an EFC mainstay since 2010. He quickly landed in a title fight in 2011 against Ruan Potts, but he was submitted in the first round. He won two fights to climb back into title contention and then dethroned Potts as the champ. Van Zyl posted one successful defense before relinquishing the title to Potts, again via a first-round submission loss. After two more wins, van Zyl made his third run at the belt. He defeated Brendon Groenewald for the strap, but he turned around and lost the belt in his first defense against Cyril Asker. The outcome of that fight was also a first-round submission defeat for van Zyl. He rebounded with a pair of first-round technical knockout victories to earn yet another title bid. Van Zyl took to the cage against Elvis Moyo in October and scored a fourth-round TKO to claim his third title reign with the EFC brand.

Van Zyl’s background is in the grappling arts, but his record reveals the South African’s penchant to look for a knockout. He’s found nine such finishes, compared to just three submission victories. The 6-foot-3 heavyweight has a solid chin and has trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under South African BJJ pioneer Rodney King. However, the biggest hole in van Zyl’s game is his submission defense. He has never been knocked out, nor has he lost on the scorecards, but he has been submitted in each of his losses — and those submissions came early in the fight, too.

Van Zyl probably won’t have to worry about a submission in this fight. It’s not Mostert’s typical style. The “Wess Express” went undefeated through seven amateur fights with five victories by some form of knockout and two choke submissions. As a pro, Mostert has continued his perfect run with another three knockouts and one submission. All of his pro wins came in the first round. The Tribe South product has only been training in MMA since 2013. He also plays rugby.

Van Zyl is willing to pull guard if necessary, and he’s great at pulling off a reversal to land in mount or take his opponent’s back. However, Van Zyl’s tendency to stand with his opponent might give Mostert an opening to rattle the South African, but the former EFC champ is not going to fall easily. Mostert’s run thus far has included quick wins over two fighters with losing records, a rookie and Tony Mustard, a fighter whom van Zyl recently defeated to earn his fight with Moyo.

Can you say slugfest? Unless van Zyl opts to test Mostert’s ground game, this one is probably going to devolve into a battle of who can land the biggest blow. The champ has seven victories by first-round stoppage, but he’s also suffered all three of his defeats in the first frame. Mostert may have less pro experience, but his amateur run brings the tally closer to even. While Mostert could unseat van Zyl as champ, the titleholder has a clear edge in his training and overall experience.

Who wins? It’s almost a toss-up. While Mostert’s perfect record is nice, van Zyl has faced and demolished tougher competition. He’ll rattle Mostert, but the finish will come by submission in the one area where van Zyl has the biggest advantage.

Other key bouts: Dalcha Lungiambula (6-1) vs. Alan Baudot (6-0) for the light heavyweight title, Stuart Austin (11-3) vs. Elvis Moyo (7-4)

Aspera Fighting Championship 54
Ginásio de Campinas in Goiania, Goias, Brazil
Event Date: July 8
Website: Facebook/asperafc
Watch Event: Fight Network Italia, WSOF Global
Twitter: @AsperaFC

Spotlight Fight:
Sarah Frota (5-0) vs. Layze Cerqueira (2-0)

The women’s bantamweight division is a deep one, but now there’s another name to add to the prospect watchlist. Aspera FC’s 54th venture features the undefeated Sarah Frota. Frota jumped between the flyweight and bantamweight divisions for her first four fights, but her most recent outing took place at the bantamweight level and she’ll stay at 135 pounds for her upcoming encounter with Layze Cerqueira.

The 30-year-old Frota has only been a professional fighter for a little over a year. In April 2016, she debuted at 130 pounds and scored a second-round submission finish of fellow rookie Bruna Felício. She moved up to bantamweight for her sophomore appearance and added another submission finish, this time in the first round. Her next two bouts took place in the flyweight division, where she submitted Felício once again to capture the NP Fight flyweight strap and then knocked out the formerly undefeated Viviane Araujo to defend the belt. Her most recent outing came at bantamweight, where she clashed with Mayra Cantuária for the Samurais do Cerrado belt. “A Treta” edged Cantuária by split decision to claim the title. Frota fights out of the New Level Academy.

Cerqueira has only two pro fights under her belt, but she has yet to taste defeat. The Team Velame and Corpo e Mente export debuted in November with a unanimous decision nod over .500 fighter Alessandra Tainara. Her second outing came in March, when she scored a TKO finish of another .500 fighter, Tamires Souza.

Frota is a strong fighter with a vicious attack. She displays a solid arsenal of kicks, and she can surge forward and power her opponent to the mat. Cerqueira is an up-and-comer, but she’s likely to be overwhelmed by Frota’s offensive blitzes. Frota should be able to return to her finishing ways with a submission victory.

Other key bouts: Victor Hugo Silva (17-4) vs. Derinaldo Guerra (19-3), Giovanni da Silva (17-2) vs. Jayme Cardoso (7-3), Ronaldo Araujo (4-0) vs. Leonardo Ivo (7-2), Lincoln Henrique (8-2) vs. Adercino de Jesus (7-2), Elismar Lima (14-5) vs. Carlos Alexandre (12-4), Erivan Pereira (8-1) vs. Rafael Koncreto (4-3), Edson Pânico (4-0) vs. Guilherme Soares (12-4), Luigi Vendramini (6-0) vs. Helio Fernandes de Paula (4-1), Lucas Almeida (2-0) vs. Carlos Abreu (4-2)

RCC Boxing Promotions: Russia vs. Japan
Team Sport Palace in Ekaterinburg, Russia
Event Date: July 9
Website: Facebook/rccboxing

Spotlight Fight:
Ivan Shtyrkov (11-0) vs. Satoshi Ishii (15-7-1)

It’s not an MMA event, but it will feature one MMA bout. The latest from RCC Boxing Promotions pits heavyweight upstart Ivan Shtyrkov against veteran heavyweight Satoshi Ishii.

RCC Boxing is the promoter, and, as the name would suggest, the organization’s primary focus is on the sweet science. Shtyrkov frequents these types of events. His career has been spent competing under the German Titov Boxing Promotions banner in Russia. However, this doesn’t mean he’s been demolishing scrubs. Instead, he’s faced several notable names along the way. After stopping his first five low-level foes since turning pro in mid-2015, “Ural Hulk” encountered UFC veteran Jeff Monson in May 2016. The Russian fighter landed a blow that sent Monson to the mat, where Shtyrkov finished the experienced grappler with an armbar in 31 seconds of the very first round. However, Monson has gone on record stating that he expected an exhibition fight and entered the contest with an injured arm that Shtyrkov eventually targeted for the finish. Shtyrkov topped his next two opponents, including former UFC champ Ricco Rodriguez, via first-round TKO. This led to a November meeting with UFC and Strikeforce vet Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The 28-year-old couldn’t stop Bigfoot, but he did earn the victory on the scorecards. In February, Shtyrkov added another UFC veteran, Rodney Wallace, to his list of victims. In his most recent fight, which took place in May, the Russian stopped UFC veteran Phil De Fries via strikes in the first round.

Ishii is an Olympic gold medalist judoka. The Japanese fighter transitioned to MMA in 2009 and lost his pro debut to Hidehiko Yoshida. However, Ishii bounced back with four straight victories. Then, he fought to a draw with the much smaller Paulo Filho and lost to Fedor Emelianenko. Ishii recovered, though, with eight straight wins. During this streak, he decisioned UFC veterans Tim Sylvia, Pedro Rizzo, Jeff Monson and the aforementioned De Fries, as well as Pride vet Kazuyuki Fujita. He also stopped UFC veterans Sean McCorkle and Kerry Schall. The decorated judoka lost five of his next seven, but the losses came to more relevant fighters like Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (twice), Jiří Procházka, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. Ishii won his most recent outing at a RIZIN card in April when he decisioned returning UFC vet Heath Herring.

Shtyrkov’s association with smaller boxing promotions has caused the smallish heavyweight to go overlooked by the MMA world, but the 29-year-old is a legitimate prospect. He’s outworked the likes of Bigfoot and Wallace, and he even stopped Rodriguez and De Fries. However, there’s a dark cloud of controversy surrounding Shtyrkov that stems from his questionable win over Monson.

The 30-year-old Ishii fits the profile of fighters that the Russian and his handlers choose for these outings. The Japanese judoka can win fights against low-level opponents, but struggles mightily against even the Cro Cops and Rampages of the current MMA landscape. Ishii is likely to get caught in the same trap that has ensnared guys like Bigfoot, Wallace and De Fries. Ishii has often fallen victim to the knockout, and Shtyrkov has the firepower to leave Ishii staring up at the lights.

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Jenny Huang vs. Mei Yamaguchi at ONE Championship: Light of a Nation Yamaguchi by decision Yamaguchi by submission
Ali Bagautinov vs. Pedro Nobre at FNG 69 Bagautinov by TKO Bagautinov by submission
Richard Odoms vs. Jared Vanderaa at LFA 15 Odoms by knockout Odoms by submission

About The Author

Bryan Henderson
Editor-in-Chief

Bryan Henderson became a fan of MMA in the late '90s when he happened upon the early UFC events on VHS at a local video rental store. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2007 before becoming an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog. He went on to become a staff writer and the Features Manager for MMA DieHards before moving on to The MMA Corner, where he assumed the role of Editor-in-Chief. Bryan left The MMA Corner in 2014 and founded Combat Press along with two of his colleagues. In addition to covering mixed martial arts, Bryan also operated the Modified Mind body modification e-zine website for more than a decade.

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