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: Aug. 4
Leonardo Silva (9-1) vs. Wagner Luis (4-0-1)
Hardly a week goes by without another Brazilian promotion producing a quality pairing of prospects from the South American region. This time, the promotion is Thunder Fight. The organization’s 11th event features veteran headliners Flavio Alvaro and Mauricio “Facção” dos Santos Jr. and a championship clash between bantamweights Andre Pinheiro and Guido Santos, but the real eye-catcher is further down the bill, where light heavyweight prospects Leonardo Silva and Wagner Luis meet.
Silva has been collecting Brazilian titles in his recent bouts, but this contest is not a championship affair. The 25-year-old won Aspera FC’s light heavyweight belt in his last outing and captured the Copa Brasil de MMA crown in his previous fight. “Cabeção” made his pro debut in 2013 and reeled off seven straight wins, including five knockouts and a submission, before suffering a TKO loss to Klidson Farias at Jungle Fight 90. He rebounded with his two title wins, submitting Flavio Magon for the Copa Brasil championship and decisioning Alan Bispo for the Aspera strap. Silva’s last four opponents held a combined 28-8 mark at the time of their fights with Silva, and only the 8-2 Farias topped the Gracie Butantã and Gilmar China Team product.
Luis will be Silva’s second consecutive undefeated opponent, following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Bispo. “Wagnão” also started competing professionally in 2013, but he hasn’t kept quite as busy as Silva and has only registered half as many outings as his opponent. Luis began his career as a middleweight and debuted with a first-round submission victory. He fought to a draw in his sophomore appearance before adding three more stoppage wins — two knockouts and one submission — to his resume. Luis’s opponents entered their fights with him while sporting a combined 7-3-1 record.
While Luis has posted a solid set of finishes, he’s done so against a far less experienced cast of characters than his upcoming opponent. Silva has been able to finish most of his rivals, and he can get things done with strikes or submissions. Luis is in for an uphill battle against a far more decorated opponent.
A cut cost Silva his fight against Farias, but the bout revealed a sloppy ground game and weak takedown defense from “Cabeção.” The Muay Thai specialist excels on the feet, where he has a full range of kicks and utilizes some striking attacks as well. Working in Silva’s favor, Luis prefers to stand, too. The biggest difference here is that Luis is capable of defending takedown with far more consistency than Silva. On the feet, Silva is the more technical striker, but Luis appears to have more raw athleticism.
These two men are finishers. It’s really a battle of Silva’s experience against the athleticism of Luis. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see either man score the finish in what should ultimately be a very close back-and-forth affair. While Silva has a more proven track record, it’s difficult to ignore Luis’s big finishes in his brief career. Luis might have just enough to bring an early end to Silva’s night.
Other key bouts: Flavio Alvaro (49-10) vs. Mauricio dos Santos Jr. (13-11), Andre Pinheiro (9-2) vs. Guido Santos (8-2) for the bantamweight title, Bruno Suema (13-4) vs. José Alexandre (21-10), Leonardo Willians (4-0) vs. Gustavo Oliveira (4-0), Patricio Andrade (4-0) vs. Junior Alves (2-3)
Event Date: Aug. 4
Watch Event: AXS TV
Kevin Aguilar (12-1) vs. Justin Rader (7-2)
After a one-week breather, the Legacy Fighting Alliance is back with its 18th event. The top of the bill features several of the promotion’s brightest prospects, including featherweight titleholder Kevin Aguilar. Aguilar is out to make his second title defense and earn a long overdue call from the UFC. The only thing that stands in his way is challenger Justin Rader.
Aguilar’s only career loss came in a Legacy Fighting Championship featherweight title showdown. On that occasion, Aguilar, already a Legacy and Bellator veteran, squared off with UFC and WEC mainstay Leonard Garcia. Garcia squashed Aguilar’s title aspirations with a first-round TKO finish. The loss halted a run that was highlighted by a decision win over veteran Nick Gonzalez and a submission finish of the previously undefeated Hunter Tucker. Aguilar rebounded from the defeat to score a pair of victories under the Legacy banner. First, he stopped Alex Black via TKO in the third stanza. Next, he forced David Bosnick to submit as a result of strikes in the second round. He finally captured the Legacy belt in his last appearance with the promotion when he edged Tony Kelley by split decision. Once Legacy merged with the Resurrection Fighting Alliance, Aguilar became the LFA champ and defended his belt with a third-round knockout of Damon Jackson. Overall, the 28-year-old has eight finishes by some form of knockout and three victories via submission. He has only seen the scorecards twice in his pro career, which kicked off in 2010. He had no combat-sports experience prior to training in MMA.
Rader is the complete opposite of Aguilar when it comes to a combat-sports background. He began wrestling at an early age and moved on to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu later in his youth. The 30-year-old eventually earned his BJJ black belt under Rafael Lovato Jr. and filled up a trophy case with medals at a variety of events, including the Mundials and ADCC. “Darth” finally gave MMA a whirl in 2014 and scored two submissions and one knockout over the course of his first three pro fights. After fighting as a featherweight through those three outings, including his Legacy debut, Rader tried shifting to the bantamweight division. The shift in divisions was an absolute disaster. Rader first lost to Ricardo Ramos via TKO in just 32 seconds. Then, he lasted just 24 seconds before he was knocked out by Joel Scott. The experiment ended when Rader returned to 145 pounds in mid-2016 and eventually reeled off three decision victories and one first-round TKO finish. Rader earned this title shot with a decision nod over the previously undefeated Bellator veteran Emmanuel Rivera.
Aguilar has been a top-notch finisher throughout his MMA campaign, but his narrow victory over the aforementioned Kelley might be a red flag going into this contest against a world-class grappler with wrestling skills. Kelley is a Team Alpha Male fighter who brought that camp’s reputation for strong wrestling to the cage against Aguilar. Aguilar’s inability to clearly separate himself from Kelley over the course five rounds might foreshadow what we’ll see when the Texan clashes with Rader.
This contest is bound to go one of two ways. Either Rader’s weak chin resurfaces and costs him a quick knockout loss, or Rader’s grappling abilities neutralize Aguilar for the better part of five rounds en route to a decision. As tempting as it might be to point to Rader’s skill set and crown him the new LFA champ, it would be foolish to overlook Aguilar’s ability to add another quick loss to Rader’s resume. The champ will defend his belt with a knockout that should finally punch his ticket to the big show.
Other key bouts: Brendan Allen (7-2) vs. Chris Harris (9-1), Chris Kelades (9-3) vs. Tyler Shinn (8-3), Braden Smith (8-1) vs. Chauncey Foxworth (6-4), Daryl Wilson (6-1) vs. Jarrod Card (16-8-1)
Event Date: Aug. 5
Jamall Emmers (11-3) vs. Erick Sanchez (8-3)
Global Knockout calls itself California’s premier MMA organization. While that might be a stretch — Tachi Palace Fights would certainly argue the claim — the promotion’s 10th event is definitely going to turn heads thanks to the inclusion of recognizable names like headliners Jamall Emmers and Erick Sanchez, veterans Justin Baesman and David Douglas, and up-and-comers Brandon Hester and Sinjen Smith. We’ll focus on the featherweight main event between Emmers and Sanchez.
Emmers entered the Resurrection Fighting Alliance cage for the first time after a strong run across numerous promotions, including the aforementioned Tachi Palace Fights and Legacy Fighting Championship. Emmers, a natural featherweight, stumbled in his RFA debut, a lightweight title fight against Thiago Moisés. He bounced back upon returning to 145 pounds and fighting Rivaldo Junior at RFA 41 and tacked on a decision nod over Cory Sandhagen at his first Legacy Fighting Alliance event. Emmers made his pro debut in 2012 and went 1-1 through his first two fights before finding his groove and piling up six straight wins. During his streak, Emmers topped Ernest De La Cruz at Legacy FC 17 and took victories at three Best of the Best events to maintain a grasp on the promotion’s featherweight crown. His second career loss came against veteran Rey Trujillo at the fourth Best of the Best show. Trujillo, a Legacy and Strikeforce vet, submitted Emmers in the second round. The 28-year-old then moved to Tachi Palace Fights, where he picked up two victories before joining the RFA. The Pinnacle MMA product has three finishes via strikes and two submission victories.
The 26-year-old Sanchez is a member of the Team Alpha Male camp. He debuted in 2014 and went 2-1 before appearing on the preliminary card of World Series of Fighting 16, where he decisioned Drey Mitchell. Another 1-1 stretch on the regional circuit propelled Sanchez to appearances under the Combate Americas and Bellator banners, where he beat Rudy Morales and Thomas Diagne, respectively. Sanchez then settled in with Combate Americas and won two of his next three with the promotion.
Neither of these fighters has been a shining example for consistency. Despite three losses each, it’s Sanchez who has had the bigger series of ups and downs, with each three-fight winning streak snapped by a loss.
Emmers might have just as many losses as Sanchez, but it’s his recent set of victories over Junior and Sandhagen that separates him from his opponent. Emmers is capable of working a patient game to score points with the judges and emerge with another unanimous nod.
Other key bouts: Justin Baesman (19-13-1) vs. Brandon Hester (3-0), Sinjen Smith (2-0) vs. David Douglas (9-7), Josh Paiva (8-2) vs. Martin Sandoval (9-8), Chad Hanekom (3-0) vs. Eric Smith (0-1), Nohelin Hernandez (4-0) vs. Fierce Taylor Jr. (1-2), Mike Morales (2-0) vs. Buddy Wallace (0-0)
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