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: Oct. 6
Watch Event: Live main card on kwesesports.com (Sub-Saharan Africa), Kwesé Free Sports 1 (Africa), SABC 3 (South Africa), TV Player (United Kingdom), Fight Sports (Europe and Asia) and efcworldwide.tv (worldwide).
Igeu Kabesa (10-1) vs. Calum Murrie (4-1)
The 74th offering from the EFC Worldwide promotion out of South Africa may not be as stacked as some of the company’s past ventures, but it features one of the organization’s most accomplished champions, featherweight Igeu Kabesa. The titleholder will put the strap on the line against Calum Murrie in the evening’s main event.
The champion is a product of the Fight Fit Militia. He has a background in wrestling. Kabesa has been an EFC Worldwide mainstay for his entire pro career. He debuted in 2013 and won six fights before challenging future UFC fighter Danny Henry for the featherweight crown. It was Kabesa’s first fight at 145 pounds after competing mostly as a lightweight. “Smiley” captured the strap with a five-round decision over Henry. He defended the title with a first-round finish of Hanru Botha, but lost the belt in a rematch against former champ Henry, who secured a first-round submission on Kabesa and then vacated the strap when he signed with the UFC. Kabesa reclaimed the vacant title with a first-round finish of Pierre Botha and then stepped up to lightweight, where he stopped Paulo “Bananada” Silva with a spinning elbow.
Murrie is a Scottish fighter who hails from the Higher Level Martial Arts camp. After a strong 7-1 run at the amateur level that included five finishes, Murrie turned pro in 2016 and made his debut under the Absolute Championship Berkut banner. He needed just 69 seconds to lock in a brabo choke and finish fellow rookie Jack Holt. Murrie picked up another submission in his next fight and then took a decision nod over his most experienced opponent yet, Luke Ord. Murrie took another step up in competition when he joined EFC Worldwide and met Boyd Allen inside the cage. Allen, a former featherweight champion with the promotion, outworked Murrie for the decision win. The Scotsman rebounded with a first-round submission of Pierre Botha to climb into title contention.
Sadly, Kabesa and Allen were scheduled to meet earlier this year, but the bout was scrapped and Kabesa instead fought longtime journeyman Bananada. The Allen match-up made far more sense for Kabesa, who sits alongside the likes of Demarte Pena, Irshaad Sayed and Nkazimulo Zulu as one of the promotion’s more well-known stars. Murrie, despite his short run at the pro level, also stacks up as a dangerous adversary for the champ. The Scottish upstart is an extremely gifted grappler who can make quick work of opponents, but his style is based off a taekwondo background and features a lot of kicks, with an unorthodox approach to his takedown attempts. Murrie can also land looping strikes, but those punches, despite snapping back the head of the aforementioned Allen, don’t seem to pack a ton of power.
While Murrie’s kick-heavy approach could present a problem for Kabesa, it could also lead to plenty of openings for the champion to score takedowns. However, Kabesa might not want to test Murrie’s submission proficiency on the mat. Meanwhile, he will want to take note of Allen’s most effective strategy against Murrie, which consisted of chopping away at the Scot’s legs. Murrie looked shaky at times after taking a few solid kicks. Kabesa’s biggest strengths, though, will be his knockout power and his ability to control the action in the clinch. The champ will close the distance to neutralize Murrie’s kicking game, but he’ll rely on strikes off the clinch separation to score his biggest points. Murrie has never been finished, but that could change after he eats a few of Kabesa’s powerful punches.
Other key bouts: Diana Felipe (2-1) vs. Cheyanne Vlismas (1-1), Billy Oosthuizen (2-0) vs. Zwe Ngema (0-1)
Event Date: Oct. 6
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Dricus Du Plessis (12-1) vs. Roberto Soldić (13-3)
EFC Worldwide fans should also recognize the name of one of the featured fighters on the KSW 45 card. Dricus Du Plessis left the South African promotion as a reigning two-division champion, and he found gold again when he landed in Poland’s top organization. Now, the man who quickly became the KSW welterweight kingpin with a “Performance of the Night” finish over Roberto Soldić returns to defend his belt in a rematch with Soldić.
Du Plessis, a former WAKO world champion kickboxer, failed in his bid to become the youngest champion in EFC Africa history when, at age 20, he was submitted by Garreth McLellan in a middleweight title bout. He rebounded from the loss with a first-round submission win over Darren Daniel in a 185-pound bout and then started flirting with a move to welterweight. Over the course of his next three fights, Du Plessis dropped to 170 pounds, fought in a catchweight bout at 176 pounds and captured the vacant EFC Worldwide welterweight crown with a submission victory over Martin van Staden. He then returned to middleweight and notched another submission win when he defeated Rafał Haratyk in the main event of EFC Worldwide 56. He returned to welterweight and made a title defense against Mauricio de Rocha Jr. at EFC Worldwide 59 and then shifted back to middleweight once more at EFC Worldwide 62, where he topped Yannick Bahati to become a two-division titleholder. Du Plessis, who has only been competing professionally in MMA since 2013, fights out of Team CIT. The 24-year-old “Stilknocks” has four wins by some form of knockout and eight victories via submission.
Soldić is a Croatian-born fighter who trains out of UFD Gym Dusseldorf. The 23-year-old’s “RoboCop” moniker might make many think of the movie of the same name, but it’s also a nice little wink, intentional or not, at fellow countryman Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Soldić has been fighting professionally since 2014. He won his first four fights by stoppage before facing a setback in a decision loss to Marko Radaković. After rebounding with two additional wins, including one finish, Soldić tasted defeat again, this time by way of a split verdict against future Bellator fighter Yaroslav Amosov under the Tech-Krep banner. The Croatian rebounded in spectacular fashion to win title belts in three different organizations over the span of his next three fights. Those three title wins, which included a victory over veteran Ivica Trušček, made up the first portion of Soldić’s streak of seven straight knockouts heading into his first encounter with Du Plessis. Before his defeat at the hands of the South African, Soldić defeated Borys Mańkowski to claim the KSW welterweight strap.
Soldić, who has been tasked with handling the likes of Trušček, Mańkowski, Vaso Bakočević and Lewis Long, seemed like a clear favorite headed into the pair’s first meeting. Du Plessis was venturing outside of the EFC Worldwide promotion for the first time for a huge test, after all. However, the veteran kickboxing champ demonstrated that he was no joke. Yet, Soldić did give him a scare or two in the first stanza, a round in which he overwhelmed the challenger at times with flurries of punches. Du Plessis was forced on the defensive, but he did manage to suplex the Croatian and almost secured a rear-naked choke as the round came to a close. Soldić was doing well again in the second frame until Du Plessis floored him with a big left hand and finished the fight with some additional ground-and-pound strikes.
Soldić tends to be a counter striker, but he certainly didn’t sit back and wait for Du Plessis to surge forward in the pair’s first fight. The Croatian has excellent combinations that slowly build up to overwhelm opponents, and he was working his game well before Du Plessis staged his comeback. Soldić stays active on the mat and looks to escape to his feet at any opportunity. Fans are in for a real treat with this rematch. Either fighter is capable of turning the tide at any moment. Du Plessis probably has some additional confidence stemming from his prior win over Soldić, but he might not be able to weather the early storm a second time. Soldić will be more careful not to walk right into a defensive takedown this time and instead opt to score the finish in the stand-up after landing a barrage of strikes.
Other key bouts: Phil De Fries (15-6) vs. Karol Bedorf (15-3) for the heavyweight title, Erko Jun (1-0) vs. Paweł Mikołajuw (3-3), Damian Janikowski (3-0) vs. Michał Materla (26-6), Scott Askham (16-4) vs. Marcin Wójcik (11-5), Alfie Davis (10-2) vs. Leszek Krakowski (12-1), Max Nunes (17-5) vs. Wagner Prado (14-3), James McSweeney (15-16) vs. Thiago Silva (20-7)
Event Date: Oct. 6
José Maria Tomé (38-8) vs. Rentsen Otgontulga (3-0)
Some veterans on the regional scene are busy building a case for another shot at the big show. Others, like Jose Maria Tomé, have been reduced to little more than gatekeepers with added benefit of a UFC veteran tag next to their name. Tomé, a Brazilian flyweight, provides a big-name match-up for up-and-coming Mongolian Rentsen Otgontulga in one of only three professional bouts on the RUF MMA 29 card.
The 36-year-old Tomé was one of the earliest names to emerge when the flyweight division enjoyed its rise to the UFC level. The seasoned veteran made his pro debut in 2004 and was already 33-3 by the time he stepped into the Octagon in 2013. Along the way, the Brazilian suffered his only losses to Leandro Higo, Jussier “Formiga” da Silva and Carlos Oliveira. Meanwhile, he notched victories over a long list of mediocre opponents. His UFC debut came against John Lineker, who finished Tomé with strikes in the second round. The Team Nogueira fighter fell again in his only other UFC appearance, which came against Dustin Ortiz. Following his UFC release, Tomé won four straight and claimed a flyweight title on the Brazilian circuit. He fought for the vacant Absolute Championship Berkut flyweight title in 2016, but he was submitted in the fifth round by Askar Askarov. This was the start of a rough patch for the Brazilian in which he went just 1-3 with the Russian promotion while losing to Askarov, Kurban Gadzhiev and Maycon Silvan. Tomé’s only win in this stretch came against middling opponent Bruno Mesquita.
Otgontulga’s resume is far shorter than that of his veteran foe. The 26-year-old Mongol made his first two pro appearances with the Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation, where he scored first-round victories over sub-.500 opponents. His next fight took place in his homeland, where he claimed a victory over a rookie fighter. After a nearly two-year hiatus, Otgontulga returned in 2017 and fought to a no-contest with Raphael Montini de Lima. This will be his first fight of 2018.
It seems like RUF wants to see just how low Tomé can go. Otgontulga could be a legitimate fighter, but his record so far looks like lots of padding and very little actual substance. The Mongol has also remained primarily in his region of Asia, which still has some distance to cover before it’s seen as a source of world-class MMA talent. If Tomé does lose this fight, then it’s probably time for the Brazilian to hang his gloves up for good.
Tomé should have enough left in his tank to avoid that outcome. Although he might be on a skid right now, those losses still came to opponents with a combined winning record of 31-4. All but one of his remaining defeats came to either future or current UFC fighters. The UFC castoff is more than capable of delivering knockout or submission finishes, and he should run circles around Otgontulga in terms of his skill level. The Mongol probably stands a better chance on the feet, so expect his experienced opponent to take the fight to the mat and lock in a submission for the victory.
Other key bouts: Daniel Madrid (14-6) vs. Armando Murillo Jr. (4-2)
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