Every week, Combat Press takes a look at three regional, developmental and 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.
In addition, each week we’ll check back on the events highlighted in the previous edition of Out of Obscurity and compare our picks to the actual results.
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. 9
Watch Event: Russia 2 (Russia), m1global.tv
Arman Ashimov (7-2-1) vs. Mikael Silander (17-5)
With the UFC’s shallow pool of remaining fresh challengers for flyweight kingpin Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, any high-level showdown of flyweight prospects on the regional or international scene is worthy of special attention. M-1 Challenge’s 87th event features a clash for the promotion’s interim flyweight crown. The title hopefuls, Arman Ashimov and Mikael Silander, are still a few steps away from a UFC berth at the very least, but an M-1 title in either man’s trophy case would go a long way in lifting them up the flyweight polls.
Ashimov hails from Kazakhstan, where he was a mainstay of the Alash Pride FC promotion before joining M-1. “Mustafa Ozturik,” as he is sometimes known, debuted in 2014 and went 5-2-1 on the Kazakh regional circuit. His first loss came to mediocre fighter Vartan Asatryan via submission, and he suffered his other loss on the scorecards to fellow prospect Shyngys Kairanov. Meanwhile, his pre-M-1 victories came against inexperienced opponents. Upon joining M-1, Ashimov met undefeated prospect Gadzhimurad Aliev, who he dispatched with a knockout. His most recent affair put him in even deeper waters when he faced 19-fight veteran Rodrigo Melônio, who held a 16-3 mark when the two men clashed. Ashimov again used his fists to score the finish, this time in the first frame.
Silander is another tough veteran task for Ashimov. The Finn has been plying his trade since 2010, and he’s had his hand raised in 17 of his 22 outings. The “Hulk” kicked off his career with seven straight wins, including a submission of future ONE Championship fighter Toni Tauru. He finally ran into trouble when he met future UFCers Ali Bagautinov and Neil Seery, as well as journeyman Lawrence Diguilio. Those three men handed Silander losses, but the Espoon Kehähait product did notch a win over .500 fighter Wade Choate in between his defeats at the hands of Bagautinov and Seery. The 32-year-old rebounded to deliver winning streaks ranging between two and four fights, but every time he’s start to put together wins, someone would come along to trip him up again. First, it was Velimurad Alkhasov, who handed Silander a split-decision loss in an Absolute Championship Berkut flyweight tournament semifinal bout. Then, it was the aforementioned Asatryan, who submitted Silander in a Fight Nights Global tournament quarterfinal match-up. In this same stretch of time, though, Silander was able to top the likes of Japanese veteran Shunichi Shimizu and largely successful up-and-comers Pedro Souza and Vitali Branchuk.
Silander is an enigma. The veteran performer can beat strong competition like Shimizu, but he has stumbled against a subpar talent like Asatryan. He seems both strong and weak on the ground — six submission wins and two submission losses — but he can take a punch, as evidenced by his lack of knockout losses.
That ability to avoid the knockout is going to be very valuable if Silander opts to stand with Ashimov. The Kazakh fighter has ridiculous power for a flyweight. Ashimov is comfortable on the feet, but he tend to snap forward to throw one punch or wait for his opponent to press forward before landing a counter. Either way, he is quite capable of removing his adversary from consciousness. His fights against Melônio and Aliev are prime examples of Ashimov’s ability to strike.
Silander mixes up his attack more than Ashimov. He’ll throw kicks as well as punches at a much higher rate than his upcoming foe. He also favors clinch work, scrambles and the ground game, but he’s very willing to stand and trade too. He’ll have to tie up Ashimov in the clinch and drag this fight to the ground if he has any hope to pull out the win. On the feet, Ashimov is quite capable of scoring the knockout. On the mat, things get more interesting. The problem is that Silander has to close distance to get the fight where he wants it. Chances are, that approach opens him up to Ashimov’s quick and deadly one-punch knockout power. Even Silander’s chin won’t stand up to that test.
Other key bouts: Timur Nagibin (13-3) vs. Jadison Costa (23-8), Kleber Silva (14-7) vs. Dimitriy Mikutsa (7-4), Shavkat Rakhmonov (8-0) vs. Levan Solodovnik (3-2), Pablo Ortmann (7-0) vs. Ingiskhan Ozdoev (5-3), Anderson Queiroz (17-6) vs. Daniil Prikaza (8-2-1), Adam Bogatirov (5-0) vs. José Agustin (5-3), Stanislav Podolskiy (5-1) vs. Amiran Gogoladze (4-1), Pavel Gordeev (9-1) vs. Bobur Kurbonov (5-1), Aleksandar Rakas (12-6) vs. Anatoly Liagu (5-2-1)
Event Date: Feb. 10
Alexander Romanov (6-0) vs. Alexander Stolyarov (17-6)
On the other end of the weight spectrum, we find an interim heavyweight title battle that takes place under the Eagles Fighting Championship banner in Moldova. The promotion’s eighth event pairs undefeated up-and-comer Alexander Romanov with 23-fight veteran Alexander Stolyarov in a showdown for the gold.
The 27-year-old Romanov has been pummeling opponents under the Eagles FC banner for much of his short career. His only foray outside of the promotion came in a single appearance for ProFC Ukraine, where he stopped the previously unbeaten Shota Betlemidze via first-round submission. In Eagles FC action, he has scored three submissions and two knockouts. His opponents have varied in quality from a 2-0 prospect to a 11-37 veteran. His recent 97-second knockout came against a debuting pro. Romanov has looked like a beast since entering the professional ranks in very late 2016, but Stolyarov marks a sizable step up in competition for the prospect.
Stolyarov emerged out of the Alash Pride FC organization in Kazakhstan in 2013. He advanced to the league’s heavyweight tournament semifinals before he was eliminated via decision by Azamat Bahodurzoda. The 31-year-old has been a journeyman ever since. He won his next three fights and advanced as far as the semifinals of an Absolute Championship Berkut tournament before he was decisioned by Zelimkhan Umiev. His rocky road continued when he lost his next fight against Bogdan Bulakh, but he righted the ship and scored four straight stoppage victories. This led to a showdown against former UFC heavyweight title challenger Jeff Monson, who submitted Stolyarov in the third round of their fight. Stolyarov lost his very next fight to a 1-1 opponent, but he again corrected course and reeled off nine consecutive wins, including eight straight stoppages. However, his most recent outing ended in disappointment when Stolyarov was dropped and finished by Szymon Bajor.
Stolyarov, a Russian Top Team fighter, has nine knockout wins and six submissions, but he preys on rather weak competition and doesn’t always come out on top. Romanov is more accomplished than many of Stolyarov’s victims, and the younger fighter’s own flair for the dramatic finish is a big threat to a fighter who has been knocked out and submitted before. Stolyarov holds a huge edge in height, but it might not be enough against someone of Romanov’s talent and aggression.
The name of the game for Romanov is relentless pressure. He’s a huge heavyweight who barrels forward and shoots for takedowns. He’s strong in the clinch and has excellent balance on the feet that helps him avoid takedowns and trips. Once he drags his opponent to the mat, he’s vicious with his ground-and-pound attack. He’s quick to move to mount and rain down punches, even going so far as to sit back fully and throw both fists at once in a gorilla-like onslaught. Romanov tends to overwhelm his opponents with this approach.
Stolyarov gives Romanov a huge opponent with an aggressive approach of his own, but Stolyarov just isn’t consistent enough to garner much confidence. This fight could turn out to be a ridiculous affair full of flurries and takedowns, but Romanov’s consistent ability to destroy his foes should shine through. Expect another destructive finish from the big 27-year-old.
Other key bouts: Mikhail Syrbu (10-3) vs. Raul Guzmán (2-2) for the bantamweight title, Iska Ismayilov (1-0) vs. Gheorghe Lupu (3-3)
Event Date: Feb. 10
Chance Rencountre (11-2) vs. Chris Harris (10-2)
At least one of this week’s title bouts doesn’t involve an interim tag. Even outdoing the UFC, whose pay-per-view affair unfortunately doesn’t feature a showdown for an undisputed title, the much smaller C3 Fights organization heads to Newkirk, Okla., for an event where the organization will crown a welterweight champion. Chance Rencountre and Chris Harris collide in an effort to claim the strap.
Rencountre is no stranger to the MMA’s top organizations. In just his second pro fight after debuting in 2013, the welterweight landed on the main card of Titan FC 26, where he bested Jason Witt. After claiming another five wins, the Alliance MMA fighter landed in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance, where he fell short against future Legacy Fighting Alliance champ James Nakashima. After tallying another win under the C3 banner, the “Black Eagle” joined Bellator MMA. In three fights with Bellator, the 31-year-old scored two victories and suffered a split-decision loss. His wins came against Jake Lindsey and Justin Patterson, the second of which avenged Rencountre’s initial Bellator loss.
The 27-year-old Harris has made some of the same stops as his opponent on his journey up the MMA ladder. After four wins by some form of knockout to open his career, Harris, who has fought much of his career as a middleweight, debuted at Bellator 150 in a 185-pound affair. Harris won that fight via decision and took his next Bellator fight with a submission finish of Brian Foster. Harris, who was alternating between regional fights and Bellator appearances, built up an 8-0 mark before finally losing his third Bellator outing on the scorecards against Jordan Young. In mid-2017, he transitioned to the LFA roster and added a win over Cortez Coleman and a submission loss to Brendan Allen. Harris most recently tapped Kyle Kurtz in the first round of their Evolution Fighting Championship bout.
At 6-foot-2, Rencountre is a stringy and long welterweight. However, he doesn’t always use his size to his advantage. He’s never out of a fight — two split-decision outcomes and even a fight that went the distance against the tough Nakashima stand out on his resume — but he’s vulnerable to getting out-dueled in these affairs.
Harris came down from a heavier weight class, where he had found plenty of success. His approach is much more aggressive than Rencountre’s, but he’s faced setbacks when meeting the best competition he’s seen. If the trend continues, then Rencountre might be too much for Harris to handle. This one will primarily end up as a striking war, and it’s likely to go the distance. In the end, Rencountre might just pull out another razor-thin decision. Regardless, C3 could have a barn-burner on its hands.
Other key bouts: Jerrod Sanders (16-3) vs. Brandon Phillips (7-3), Kyle Noblitt (9-0) vs. Jamal Pogues (3-1), Calen Born (3-0) vs. Kyron Bowen (2-2)
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