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: April 5
Watch Event: Combate and SPORTV2 (Brazil)
Gilberto Dias (24-5-1) vs. Lincoln de Sá (23-9)
No need to check your calendars. It’s not 2013, when a fight between Gilberto Dias and Lincoln de Sá would have been among the most anticipated non-UFC flyweight offerings around. Instead, it’s 2019, and both of these diminutive Brazilians are a little worse for the wear. Dias, who exited 2013 with a 13-2-1 mark, is now 23-5-1. Meanwhile, de Sá, who exited 2013 at 13-3 after having just lost to future UFCer Alexandre Pantoja, went through an extremely rocky patch and now sits at 23-9. Yet, here we are, with Dias and de Sá set to square off in a 121-pound catchweight affair as part of a Shooto Brazil card that features former Bellator bantamweight champion Marcos Galvão in the main event.
Dias has bounced around between the bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight divisions throughout his career. The Constrictor Team fighter debuted in 2007 but didn’t compete regularly until 2010. In early 2014, he claimed the Inka FC flyweight crown, but he failed to add the Coliseu Extreme Fight strap to his collection that year. After his failed CEF bid, he went on another five-fight winning streak that culminated in flyweight title wins under the Jungle Fight and The Warriors Combat banners. He turned around and lost the TWC championship to Rômulo Araújo and then joined Shooto Brazil, where he has gone 4-1. The 35-year-old “Cangaceiro” has an aggressive striking attack and effective takedowns, but he struggles to get the finish against the better fighters he has faced.
De Sá’s aforementioned loss to Pantoja came in one of his frequent stops under the Shooto Brazil banner. “Cowboy” rebounded from the defeat to score back-to-back wins over Joriedson de Souza. After accumulating three straight wins, he met Pantoja again in a fight that marks the beginning of the roughest patch of his career. After falling short to Pantoja in the pair’s rematch, de Sá went a disappointing 6-6 over his next 12 fights, never winning more than two consecutive outings. To his credit, de Sá suffered his losses mostly against solid competition, including future UFCer Reginaldo Vieira, World Series of Fighting veteran Sidemar Honorio, M-1 vet Yunus Evloev, grizzled Brazilian journeyman Janailson Silva and prospect Bruno Azevedo. De Sá has righted the ship over his four most recent fights, but his competition in those bouts leaves a lot to be desired. Much like his upcoming opponent, de Sá has bounced between divisions, primarily flyweight and bantamweight, throughout his career.
Yes, this would have been a dream match-up in 2013 or earlier. Now, it’s a solid fight between two established veterans of the Brazilian circuit. Dias, though, has proven to be the more consistent fighter. Dias has been stopped twice, but one of those stoppages was due to a cut. He may favor a grappling game, but he’s fully equipped to stand toe-to-toe with anyone in his division.
De Sá has suffered the majority of his losses via decision, and nearly half of those verdicts have split the judges. He can keep a fight close. Meanwhile, the 36-year-old has found 12 submissions and five knockouts. Dias isn’t one to get stopped, though. “Cangaceiro” has only suffered two losses via some form of knockout, and one of those was the aforementioned cut stoppage. This figures to be another fight where de Sá keeps it close but can’t quite grab the win. Dias should emerge with the judges’ nod.
Other key bouts: Marcos Galvão (18-11-1) vs. Elvis Silva (9-5), Lucas Gaspar (1-0) vs. Keweny Lopes (2-1-1), Rafael Ramos (7-0) vs. Gabriel Castro (3-2), Mairon Santos (2-0) vs. Micael Isaias Braga (1-0), Jessica Delboni (7-1) vs. Maiara Amanajás (8-3), Victor Ramos (3-0) vs. Kaio Tavares (7-5), Victor Perciliano (1-0) vs. Lucas Cardoso (1-2), Josafá Frazão (3-0) vs. Júnior Assis (2-1)
Event Date: April 6
Karlos Vemola (25-5) vs. Prince Aounallah (14-9)
The year 2013 wasn’t a great one for Karlos Vemola. Unlike the Shooto Brazil fighters covered above, Vemola had already made enough of a mark to join the UFC ranks by then. He couldn’t survive in the Octagon, however, and washed out by 2013 with a UFC mark of 2-4. It’s been a long road back for “The Terminator,” but his 16-1 run since departing the UFC has landed him back on the map. He heads to his native Czech Republic for a featured bout on the 15th edition of the Night of Warriors series. Vemola tangles with fellow veteran Prince Aounallah.
Vemola put together a spectacular run early in his career to punch his ticket to the Octagon. He was perfect through seven fights, including a huge victory over Stav Economou, prior to joining the UFC roster. Once in the world’s largest promotion, the holes in his game were exposed by the likes of Jon Madsen, Ronny Markes, Francis Carmont and Caio Magalhães — hardly the best of the best — while Vemola was only able to get the better of Seth Petruzelli and Mike Massenzio. The 33-year-old London Shootfighters disciple was explosive, but he was short on cardio and far too sloppy in the cage. Yet, following his UFC tenure, Vemola returned to his winning ways with a decision nod over Denniston Sutherland. He cruised to a double-digit win total that included nods over Piotr Strus and Moise Rimbon. His only post-UFC loss came to future UFCer Jack Hermansson via first-round armbar.
Aounallah hasn’t exactly turned heads since debuting in 2012. The Muay Thai specialist’s longest winning streak consists of three fights, and he’s also lost back-to-back bouts. “His Majesty” holds notable victories over Cheick Kone and Mauro Cerilli, but he’s suffered losses to Mikhail Ragozin and Karl Moore, among others. The Free Fight Academy export is capable of scoring the knockout — he has seven in his career — but he’s also been stopped on five occasions.
Vemola is fighting in the country of his birth in one of the top fights on the bill. Aounallah seems like the perfect combination of a legitimate but beatable opponent for the former UFC fighter. Vemola has made a strong case to be considered as an addition to a European UFC card, and Aounallah won’t crush those dreams. Vemola does seem capable of beating most in his division outside of the UFC, and Aounallah should become his latest victim. Given Aounallah’s striking background, Vemola will be best served to take the fight to the mat and seek the tapout. He should find it, too.
Other key bouts: Viktor Pešta (13-5) vs. Ivan Vitasović (6-3-1), David Dvořák (15-3) vs. Igor Goncharov (4-4)
Event Date: April 6
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Maxim Butorin (16-1-1) vs. Dmitry Bikrev (10-3)
Want us to keep to the 2013 theme? Well, it isn’t quite as captivating for our third and final featured fight this week. The only tie-in relates to Dmitriy Bikrev, who debuted as a pro that year. Unfortunately for him, Bikrev is not the focus of our look at the 92nd show from Russia’s Fight Nights Global organization. That honor belongs to his opponent, Maxim Butorin. Bikrev meets Butorin for the FNG welterweight championship on Saturday.
Butorin has emerged as one of a seemingly endless wave of top Russian prospects. The 23-year-old made his pro debut in 2015, but fighter databases give varied resumes for the young upstart. After establishing himself with a long string of wins and just a single loss, Butorin appears to have dropped back to the amateur ranks for three amateur outings in late 2016 and 2017. He even lost two of those fights. Meanwhile, his pro record is full of low-level foes. His most experienced opponent was 15-fight veteran Alexander Chernov, who lost via split decision to Butorin eight months after handing the up-and-comer his first and only loss as a pro. Butorin also managed to fight to a draw against Mike Hill, who entered their fight with a modest 9-4 mark. The youngster is a ground specialist first and foremost.
Bikrev was actually slated to meet Butorin in late 2018 before he was forced to the sidelines with an injury. The Russian fighter won his first two pro outings, but then dropped back-to-back fights. He followed another three-fight winning streak with a loss to Alexander Sarnavskiy in the FNG 46 co-headliner. Bikrev has added five more wins, including four stoppages via strikes, to his record since falling victim to a Sarnavskiy rear-naked choke. Unlike Butorin, Bikrev has encountered a number of solid veteran opponents, including Evgeny Lakhin, Vasiliy Zubkov and Marcio Breno. That trio combined for a 46-19 record prior to their fights with Bikrev.
This is a tricky fight to predict. Butorin has found a surprising amount of success as a pro, but a deeper dive into his record reveals wins over opponents with records as ugly as 0-1, 0-4 and 4-6. His most recent win came against a fighter with a mediocre 5-4 mark. Plus, he suffered two losses across 2016-17 while competing as an “amateur” in different Russian “cup” bouts, and those losses came to opponents who never have fought at the professional level.
This one could have the makings of an upset. Bikrev has overwhelmed a number of veteran adversaries with his striking attacks, and he has a far better history of fighting solid opponents. FNG likely views Butorin as a star in the making, but he could be on the verge of a knockout loss here.
Other key bouts: Ali Bagautinov (17-6) vs. Vartan Asatryan (21-8) for the flyweight title, Mukhamed Eminov (13-0) vs. Nikita Mikhailov (7-1), Vladimir Egoyan (20-7) vs. Nikita Baltabaev (7-3), Ali Abdulkhalikov (6-0) vs. Ruslan Yamanbaev (6-6-1), Ajmal Atalwal (3-0) vs. Dmitriy Novolokin (0-0), Magomed-Ali Bakhmudov (3-0) vs. Ali Yousefi (7-6), Kirill Kryukov (7-1-1) vs. Nurboki Kurbonbokizoda (2-3)
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