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.
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 2
Jarrah Hussein Al-Silawi (10-2) vs. David Bear (7-0)
The Brave Combat Federation had a very busy start to its existence, hosting nine events in just 14 months. However, the pace has slowed recently. The league’s 10th show, titled “The Kingdom Rises,” marks its first event since November. It’s an admirable comeback, though, that features a featherweight title tilt and plenty of prospects. The best of those prospects might just be the welterweight duo of David Bear and Jarrah Hussein Al-Silawi, who co-headline the card.
The 27-year-old Bear has been out of action since late 2016, but he’ll return at Brave’s 10th show and seek to maintain his unblemished record. The French fighter made his pro debut in 2012 and won three fights in his first night of action. He added two more wins by mid-2014, but then went quiet until 2016. He added one submission victory in January of that year and a second victory in December. Overall, the MMA Factory product has five submission victories and two decision nods.
Al-Silawi came up through the amateur ranks with the Cage Warriors organization, and he made his pro debut in 2013 with the organization. He scored a 33-second knockout victory in his first outing, but he was likewise crushed in just 31 seconds in his second pro fight. After picking up four more victories, all via stoppage, and transitioned to the Desert Force promotion, the Source MMA export stumbled again, this time by way of a split-decision loss to Mohammad Fakhreddine. The “Jordanian Lion” has responded with five straight wins, including two submissions and a victory that avenged his prior knockout loss.
Both of these fighters have proven capable in the past. Al-Silawi scored a couple of quick knockouts as an amateur and added three more as a pro, but he’s also fond of attacking with kimuras from bottom position. Many of his submission victories have indeed come via his targeting of an opponent’s shoulder. Bear, meanwhile, combines an effective boxing game with explosive takedowns and a relentless attack from top position. He’s known for his ability to secure submissions, and his favorite methods tend to be chokes and armbars.
These guys have solid records, but they are hardly the most tested of prospects. Bear’s most accomplished opponent was Davy Gallon, who is now 16-6-2, but Bear defeated him when Gallon was only three fights into his pro campaign. Al-Silawi’s recent wins over the 8-2 Daniele Scatizzi and the 7-2 Carl Booth represent his highest level of competition.
Al-Silawi’s Muay Thai tendencies give him a chance for the knockout here, especially against a potentially rusty Bear. However, the Jordanian, who will enjoy the home-field advantage, has to be careful not to fall too heavily into his normal pattern of backing up to the cage. If he does, then Bear could work his way inside for the clinch and takedown before overwhelming Al-Silawi on the mat. Furthermore, even the much slower Fakhreddine was able to score takedowns and tag Al-Silawi repeatedly. Bear is much lighter on his feet and quicker with counters.
This could be a close fight, but Bear seems like the more refined fighter. He should be able to find a home for his combinations and counters on the feet, get Al-Silawi to the mat and work his aggressive ground-and-pound game to set up a submission finish.
Other key bouts: Elias Boudegzdame (14-4) vs. Jakub Kowalewicz (9-3) for the featherweight title, Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady (8-1) vs. Charlie Leary (14-8-1), Mohammad Fakhreddine (10-1) vs. Tahar Hadbi (13-6), Felipe Efrain (12-2) vs. Frans Mlambo (4-2), Will Fleury (3-0) vs. Tarek Suleiman (6-4), Sodiq Yusuff (5-1) vs. Dylan Tuke (4-1), Chad Hanekom (4-0) vs. Ikram Aliskerov (4-0), Nawras Abzakh (6-1) vs. Abdul Hussein (4-0)
Event Date: March 2
Watch Event: AXS TV
Robert Watley (9-1) vs. Brandon Jenkins (11-5)
By this point, it almost goes without saying that the Legacy Fighting Alliance is the top source feeding new talent into the UFC. The company’s lightweight champion, Robert Watley, has already had a few chances to make his Octagon debut, but he doesn’t want to enter the UFC on short notice. His goal is to make sure the timing is right before he signs on the dotted line. So, for now, Watley will stick to full camps and defending his Legacy title. At the promotion’s 34th event, his challenger will be Brandon Jenkins.
The 28-year-old Watley has evolved a lot since his earliest days as a fighter. He went just 3-2 as an amateur, dropping a pair of decisions and scoring two knockouts. His pro campaign got off to an equally unremarkable start — he lost his debut via submission to .500 fighter Francisco Isata. Watley turned things around, though, beginning with his sophomore outing when he dropped Spencer Strube in the third round. He continued to score victories while bouncing between the Shogun Fights organization and Cage Fury Fighting Championships. After a four-fight winning streak, Watley landed in a bout for the vacant Shogun Fights lightweight title. He won the belt with a second-round knockout of Dan Root. Watley has exclusively fought in championship affairs ever since. First, he defended his Shogun strap with a decision victory over Cole Presley. Next, he captured the Xtreme Caged Combat crown with a knockout of Josh Visel. He moved on over to Legacy and immediately captured the title with a decision nod over Thiago Moises. Watley has gone on to defend the belt with a knockout of Daryl Wilson at LFA 27.
Jenkins scored finishes in his first five pro fights before running into a rough patch in which he went 1-3. Jenkins has gone on to recover and win five of his next seven fights. His most recent victory over Carl Wittstock marked the first time Jenkins won a decision (four of his losses came on the scorecards). Jenkins is currently 2-1 under the LFA banner, with a split-decision loss to Jeff Peterson, a knockout victory over Billy Christianson and the nod over Wittstock. Overall, Jenkins has seven knockout wins and three submissions.
As solid as Jenkins appears to be as a pro, a look at his amateur mark might raise some concerns. He went 5-11 while suffering numerous submission and decision losses. He’s been far more consistent as a pro, but he’s never faced someone quite as good as Watley before. Watley has been competing at the top levels of the regional and developmental circuit for a while now. He’s capable of finishing fights or holding the upper hand if the bout goes the distance. It’s going to be a tough task for Jenkins to defeat a guy who would already be in the UFC if he was willing to take short-notice fights.
Watley’s desire to fully prepare for a fight just adds to how dangerous he’ll be against Jenkins. Watley has destroyed far better opponents with strikes. Jenkins does seem to have a tough chin — he’s never lost via any form of knockout — and might be able to hang in there for five full rounds, but that just means a full 25 minutes of Watley beating up on him. It’s more likely that Jenkins survives for the first three rounds before Watley finishes him with strikes in the championship frames.
Other key bouts: Travis Perzynski (22-9) vs. Trey Ogden (9-2), Jordan Griffin (14-5) vs. Darrick Minner (20-7), Nate Jennerman (10-3) vs. John DeVall (15-8), Bobby Lee (7-1) vs. Nick Ammerman (4-0), Tim Hiley (5-0) vs. Willie Whitehead (2-1), Kelly Kobold (18-3-2) vs. Katy Collins (7-3), Calyn Hull (2-0) vs. Patrick Martin (5-3), Alton Cunningham (4-0) vs. Wayman Carter (7-7)
Event Date: March 3
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Tomasz Narkun (14-2) vs. Mamed Khalidov (34-4-2)
Last weekend, Aslambek Saidov added another victory to his record while headlining Absolute Championship Berkut 81. This weekend, his cousin, Mamed Khalidov, tries to follow suit when he headlines the 42nd event from Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki, better known as KSW. It’s a major event for the 2017 Combat Press Regional/International Promotion of the Year, featuring the league’s undefeated lightweight champion Mateusz Gamrot and women’s flyweight titleholder Ariane Lipski in separate title defenses. Meanwhile, Khalidov, KSW’s reigning middleweight champ, takes top billing in a 203-pound catchweight affair against KSW light heavyweight kingpin Tomasz Narkun. Better yet, you can watch all three of these fights on a live pay-per-view stream via Fite TV right here on Combat Press.
Khalidov is quite possibly the most successful mixed martial artist to remain outside of the major promotions for nearly the entirety of his career. He did make one appearance on ShoXC — a rather easy win over Jason Guida — and fought three times under the Sengoku banner — he split a pair of fights against Jorge Santiago and defeated Yuki Sasaki — but he has primarily called KSW home. He has held KSW gold at both the light heavyweight and middleweight levels. The 37-year-old has been fighting professionally since 2004, and three of his four losses came within his first six fights. Khalidov has claimed the scalps of such notable opponents as Tor Troeng, Igor Pokrajac, James Irvin, Matt Lindland, Jesse Taylor, Rodney Wallace, Kendall Grove, Melvin Manhoef, Maiquel Falcão, Brett Cooper, Michał Materla, Luke Barnatt and Borys Mańkowski. Khalidov has accumulated 13 knockouts and 17 submission finishes.
Narkun isn’t quite as accomplished as his rival, but the 28-year-old has done well for himself through his first 16 pro outings. “Żyrafa” has only suffered losses to Vyacheslav Vasilevsky and Goran Reljić. His own list of victims includes Reljić, whom he defeated in a rematch that netted Narkun the KSW light heavyweight crown, as well as Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Marcin Wójcik. Narkun has been quite effective in his victories, none of which have gone the distance. He has 11 submissions and three knockouts. Narkun was knocked out once, but that loss came in 2010.
This is a great superfight at the top of an excellent card that, in addition to two titles fights, features the likes of Materla, Scott Askham, and undefeated prospect Christopher Henze. Narkun is a career 205-pounder who has made quick work of some credible opponents. Khalidov is widely considered to be among the best middleweights in the world, and he wasn’t too shabby when he fought at light heavyweight.
Narkun probably hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves in this preview series, because he always lands on the same card as either Khalidov or Gamrot. Now, though, he has a chance to pick up a win over one of the men who most often overshadows him for the KSW spotlight. While Narkun has looked great in most of his fights, some doubts linger about his abilities following his losses to Vasilevsky and Reljić. While both of those opponents are notable names, Vasilevsky couldn’t even make it through a Bellator tournament — he lost to the aforementioned Falcão — and Reljić managed a dismal 1-3 UFC tenure and recently emerged from a four-fight skid.
Khalidov is miles beyond Vasilevsky and Reljić. He’s vastly better than Sokoudjou. In other words, he’s an elite match-up for a guy who has been feeding on decent but not great competition. The biggest concern for Khalidov is that he could be nearing a decline now that he’s in his late 30s. If Khalidov slows down or his gas tank isn’t there, then Narkun could capitalize. However, Khalidov is on a 14-fight winning streak and hardly seems to be done as a top fighter. He should prove to be too much for Narkun, who will fall victim to a knockout in this superfight.
Other key bouts: Michał Materla (25-5) vs. Scott Askham (15-4), Łukasz Jurkowski (16-10) vs. Martin Zawada (27-14-1), Mateusz Gamrot (13-0) vs. Grzegorz Szulakowski (9-1) for the lightweight title, Ariane Lipski (10-3) vs. Silvana Gómez Juárez (6-1) for the women’s flyweight title, Chris Fields (12-7-1) vs. Marcin Wójcik (10-5), Filip Wolański (10-2) vs. Bartłomiej Kopera (9-3), Christopher Henze (8-0-1) vs. Krystian Kaszubowski (5-0)
|Daichi Takenaka vs. Dae Hwan Kim at ONE Championship||Takenaka by decision||Takenaka by disqualification|
|Aslambek Saidov vs. Roan Carneiro at ACB 81||Saidov by knockout||Saidov by decision|
|Ivan Shtyrkov vs. Marcin Łazarz at RCC 2||Shtyrkov by knockout||Shtyrkov by decision|