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: June 7
Watch Event: NBC Sports
Andre Harrison (17-0) vs. Tuerxun Jumabieke (20-5-1)
Out of the ashes of the World Series of Fighting, the Professional Fighters League is finally here. The promotion has already hosted a handful of events, but this offering takes the billing as PFL 1, which kicks off its 2018 season. The lineup features a ton of talent and should set the tone for the league. Andre Harrison fought twice under the WSOF banner and even competed on one of the PFL’s early shows, and he’ll headline PFL 1 against UFC veteran Tuerxun Jumabieke.
Harrison is probably one of the best fighters outside of the UFC at this point. He’s captured featherweight gold under the Ring of Combat, Titan Fighting Championship and WSOF banners. He even defended his title at the PFL’s show in Everett, Wash., with a win over Steven Rodriguez. The 30-year-old has proven himself against such notables as Jeff Lentz, Kurt Holobaugh, Des Green, Steven Siler, Alexandre Bezerra and Lance Palmer. “The Bull” is a grinder out of Bellmore Kickboxing MMA who has picked up 12 of his victories on the scorecards. He’s a strong wrestler and clinch fighter, but he can more than hold his own on in the stand-up game as well.
Jumabieke entered the UFC after a 15-0 run on the regional circuit in Asia. The results were disappointing for the heralded prospect. He dropped a decision to Mark Eddiva in his Octagon debut. His next fight ended in a submission loss to Leandro Issa. Finally, following a first-round stoppage loss to Marcus Brimage, Tuerxun was shown the door and headed back to his homeland. The Xian Sports University product fought to a draw in his first post-UFC fight, but he has gone on to post a 5-3 mark over his eight most recent outings. His most notable victory in this stretch came against Paata Robakidze, while the rest of his wins came against inexperienced or sub-.500 competition. Meanwhile, his losses came against seasoned and successful veterans Soo Chul Kim, Aliyar Sarkerov and Boris Fedorov. The 32-year-old’s grinding style has led to just four submission victories and six striking wins to accompany 10 decisions.
This is a showcase fight for Harrison. Jumabieke is coming off a loss to the Russian prospect Fedorov in a fight that took place in late May. The Chinese fighter might be a star in his homeland, but he’s struggled to find success against even the most modest of prospects. Jumabieke is capable of grinding out low-level fighters in clinch battles and on the ground, but he can’t exert the same type of pressure against more skilled foes.
Harrison certainly lines up as one of those more skilled opponents for Jumabieke. The Bellmore product need look no further than the footage of Jumabieke’s UFC tenure to find the route to victory in this fight. He can outpoint the Chinese star on the feet, but his biggest success will come in taking Jumabieke down and working from top position. Jumabieke doesn’t have the ability to escape bad positions or threaten with anything from off his back. Harrison might actually add a finish, most likely by knockout, to his resume in this one.
Other key bouts: Lance Palmer (12-3) vs. Bekbulat Magomedov (19-2), Alexandre de Almeida (18-7) vs. Lee Coville (4-1), Magomed Idrisov (8-1) vs. Steven Siler (29-17), Marcos Galvão (18-9-1) vs. Nazareno Malegarie (34-4), Timur Valiev (12-2) vs. Max Coga (19-4), Mike Kyle (23-15-1) vs. Shawn Jordan (19-8), Jared Rosholt (15-4) vs. Valdrin Istrefi (12-1), Caio Alencar (11-2) vs. Jake Heun (11-6), Josh Copeland (16-4) vs. Jack May (9-3), Francimar Barroso (19-7) vs. Daniel Gallemore (7-4), Kelvin Tiller (8-1) vs. Alex Nicholson (11-5)
Event Date: June 8
Watch Event: AXS TV
Jaleel Willis (8-1) vs. Chel Erwin-Davis (5-1)
The 42nd edition of the Legacy Fighting Alliance features six undefeated prospects in the early stages of their career. The card also highlights veterans Derrick Krantz and Kassius Kayne in the evening’s main event. However, we’ll turn our attention to the welterweight clash between Jaleel Willis and Chel Erwin-Davis.
Willis has a history of wins under more than one top promotion. After debuting in 2014 and posting five victories, “The Realest” moved to the World Series of Fighting and topped fellow undefeated prospect Chauncey Foxworth at WSOF 27. His next stop was Bellator 162, where he decisioned Omar Johnson in a 160-pound catchweight postlim contest. Then, he returned to V3 Fights and captured the promotion’s vacant welterweight title with a unanimous nod over Nolan Norwood. Most recently, however, Willis was on the losing end of his LFA debut. The 26-year-old went the three-round distance with Kyle Stewart in the LFA 33 headliner, but the judges awarded Stewart with the victory. Willis has stopped four opponents with strikes, but he’s gone the distance in his four most recent bouts.
Erwin-Davis is no stranger to the mid-major promotions, either. After two stoppages as an amateur, “The First Sun” made his pro debut with the Cage Fury Fighting Championships organization. He finished his first two pro opponents before stumbling in a decision loss to Manny Walo. The 31-year-old then moved on to Bellator, where he knocked out UFC veteran Adam Cella and submitted the formerly undefeated Kevin Engel. In his most recent fight, Erwin-Davis made a stop in Shamrock FC and added a submission of Adam Meredith to his resume.
While both men have numerous appearances in high-profile promotions, Willis has far more experience as a starring component of those events. Erwin-Davis contested most of his fights on the preliminary portion of cards. Furthermore, Willis has met tougher opponents on a consistent basis, whereas Erwin-Davis lost to the best fighter he encountered.
Erwin-Davis has plenty of finishing ability, both on the feet and on the mat. In fact, he’s never gone the distance in a winning effort. Willis used to knock out his opponents regularly, but he’s had trouble finding the stoppage lately. Both men are physical fighters in the clinch and remain active when the fight hits the ground. This could turn into another hard-fought war in the same vein as Willis’s battle with Stewart.
Willis will end up in some bad spots in this fight. Erwin-Davis is always alert for submission opportunities, and Willis’s aggressive takedown attempts could expose his neck for the taking. This could backfire for Erwin-Davis, however, because if Willis survives the submission attempts, then he’s likely to earn the points from the judges for the takedowns.
Willis should have the athleticism and strength to outwork Erwin-Davis en route to a decision. However, it won’t be too surprising if Willis gets caught in a choke and drops this fight.
Other key bouts: Derrick Krantz (21-10) vs. Kassius Kayne (12-4), Charles Johnson (6-1) vs. Andrew Kimzey (3-1), Erick Murray (3-0) vs. Julius Anglickas (2-1), Lucas Clay (3-0) vs. Mike Breeden (4-0), Katy Collins (7-4) vs. Jaymee Nievara (6-3), TeeJay Britton (5-0) vs. Josh March (3-1), Marco Hutch (3-0) vs. Tyler Flores (4-2), Ryan Erickson (2-0) vs. Frank Cortez (1-2)
Event Date: June 9
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Karol Bedorf (14-3) vs. Mariusz Pudzianowski (12-5)
The Polish company has gathered an outstanding group of fighters for this one, including Wagner Prado, Michał Materla and Kleber Koike Erbst, for its 44th event. However, it’s the big men who take center stage at the show. Mariusz Pudzianowski, a five-time World’s Strongest Man winner, will try to extend his current winning streak when he meets former KSW champion Karol Bedorf.
Pudzianowski’s move to mixed martial arts was likened to Japan’s freakshow bookings. He made his debut in 2009 and won his first two fights, including a decision over Yusuke Kawaguchi. The Polish star then took a step up to meet former UFC champ Tim Sylvia. Sylvia handed Pudzianowski the first loss of his career, but “Pudzian” bounced back against Eric Esch in his next fight. The 41-year-old continued to take on big names with mixed success. He engaged in two bouts with James Thompson that resulted in a loss and a no-contest. Pudzianowski finished his next two opponents, including Bob Sapp, via strikes before suffering a loss to UFC castoff Sean McCorkle. Pudzianowski avenged the loss in his next fight and went on to defeat Oli Thompson, Paweł Nastula and Rolles Gracie. After back-to-back losses, he bounced back once again to reel off three victories, including a majority decision over UFC veteran Jay Silva in a heavyweight bout.
Bedorf has been a fixture at the top of KSW’s heavyweight ranks since 2013, when he claimed the vacant championship with a victory over the aforementioned Nastula. The 34-year-old debuted in 2007 and has suffered losses to future UFC fighter Oleksiy Oliynyk — the loss came in a one-night tournament during which Bedorf also defeated future UFCer Francis Carmont — Bellator veteran Rogent Lloret and Team Nogueira’s Fernando Rodrigues Jr. The latter of those losses cost Bedorf the title. His victims during his reign include the aforementioned Gracie, Peter Graham, Michał Kita and James McSweeney. The Berserker’s Team fighter has also registered victories over Oli Thompson and Karl Knothe. Bedorf, a decorated grappler, has only three submission finishes to accompany five wins by knockout.
The former champ Bedorf is returning to action for the first time since late 2016. He’s been sidelined with a torn Achilles’ tendon. While he may not be the most well-known opponent Pudzianowski has ever met, Bedorf arguably qualifies as the best fighter to ever enter the ring or cage with the strongman.
Pudzianowski is a plodding big man best suited to fighting the likes of the Sapps and Butterbeans of the MMA world. He can blast opponents with his fists, but he lacks technique. Bedorf should be able to score easy takedowns against Pudzianowski and then work his submission game. The biggest question is whether Bedorf will be hampered by ring rust and the effects of his injury. However, given the benefit of the doubt in those areas, Bedorf should have little trouble finding a submission against Pudzianowski. It’s a high-profile match-up that could jumpstart Bedorf’s climb back toward the heavyweight strap.
Other key bouts: Paul Redmond (14-6) vs. Gracjan Szadziński (7-2), Wagner Prado (13-3) vs. Chris Fields (12-7-1), Filip Wolański (11-2) vs. Daniel Torres (6-3), Dawid Gralka (6-1) vs. Sebastian Przybysz (3-1), Michał Materla (25-6) vs. Martin Zawada (28-14-1), Leo Zulić (8-2) vs. Łukasz Rajewski (7-3), Kleber Koike Erbst (23-4-1) vs. Marian Ziółkowski (19-6-1)
|Artem Frolov vs. Joe Riggs at M-1 Challenge 93||Frolov by knockout||Frolov by knockout|
|Killys Mota vs. Bobby Lee at LFA 41||Mota by knockout||Mota by submission|
|Márcio Santos vs. Rene Pessoa at Nemesis FC 1||Santos by submission||Result unknown|