Every week, Combat Press takes a look at three regional, developmental or 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…
Marcus Edwards (8-2) vs. Shane Campbell (9-2)
Maximum Fighting Championship wanted to put a title fight at the top of the bill for its 41st effort, but when lightweight champion Tom Gallicchio was forced out of action with an injury, the company had to settle for the next best thing, a fight between two top contenders. Those contenders are Marcus Edwards, who was originally slated to challenge Gallicchio for the strap, and late replacement Shane Campbell. In an interesting twist, the bout could have implications in two weight classes. If Edwards claims the victory on Friday, he’ll become the interim lightweight champion. If Campbell wins, he’ll snag a spot in a bout for the promotion’s vacant welterweight crown.
Edwards has displayed a dynamic skill set throughout his MMA career. The Factory X Muay Thai fighter enjoyed a lengthy run of success as an amateur, picking up numerous submission wins and a 20-second knockout victory. “Bad Intentions” turned pro in 2012 and came up short in his debut against Justin Gaethje. He rebounded with four victories, including a first-round submission finish of Dakota Cochrane. It was enough to earn him a shot at the Sparta Combat League lightweight title, but he faced another setback when he emerged on the wrong end of a split decision against Efrain Escudero in the championship bout. Edwards again responded with four straight victories. Edwards has four wins by some form of knockout and four victories by way of submission. The 25-year-old’s last two wins came under the MFC banner and led to his status as the No. 1 contender, but now he’ll have to win one more fight to stake his claim to a title shot.
Campbell is simply a prospect in the world of MMA, but he’s a highly decorated champion in the striking arts. The Canadian has claimed numerous titles as a Muay Thai fighter. His kickboxing record stands at 62-9. He has stumbled on two occasions as a mixed martial artist. The first time was in 2011 when he dropped a unanimous verdict to Dave Mazany, and the second time came in 2013 when he became Jesse Ronson’s ticket into the UFC courtesy of a submission loss to “The Body Snatcher.” Campbell’s striking has translated to just three wins by some form of knockout, but the Shaolin Muay Thai product also boasts two submission victories.
Campbell is a solid kickboxer, but he has failed to convert his striking talent into knockouts when competing in MMA. He’s also in need of additional work in his ground game. Edwards can be explosive in both areas. “Bad Intentions” has scored four sub-minute finishes, and he’s scored all but one of his victories in the first stanza (and the only win that came beyond the five-minute mark required just an additional 26 seconds of round two). Furthermore, Edwards has vanquished all but the best competition he has encountered—Gaethje is still undefeated and recently claimed World Series of Fighting gold, and Efrain Escudero is a former The Ultimate Fighter winner who has had three stints with the UFC.
Edwards’ ability to shoot out of the gates and finish opponents in a matter of seconds is truly impressive. He just needs to connect once to send an opponent reeling, and he’s opportunistic and skilled enough to take opponents out anywhere the fight goes. He scored a 41-second guillotine choke finish against Vincent Vigil in his fourth pro fight and his last two victories each came in the closing 10 seconds of round one via rear-naked choke. His history of quick finishes extends to his amateur days, where he only went to a decision twice and picked up his remaining nine wins in the first round.
Campbell is a much more deliberate fighter who has only ended three contests inside the opening five minutes and has seen the scorecards on five occasions. He may enjoy a reach advantage to go with his three-inch height advantage, but he’s going to have difficulty dealing with the fast pace Edwards brings to the ring. Campbell doesn’t always use his range well either, and he can be bullied around in the clinch. He has suffered losses to Mazany and Ronson, a pair of fighters who have found limited success thus far in their careers.
Edwards is faster, stronger and more explosive than his opponent. Although he tends to prefer a stand-up attack, he has some slick grappling and could opt to shoot for takedowns if Campbell’s length gives him any problems. The mat is where Edwards gains a sizeable edge over the kickboxer, and that’s where he’ll pick up the victory. It probably won’t be a quick first-rounder, but look for Edwards to add to his resume with a second-round finish of Campbell.
Other key bouts: Victor Valimaki (18-8) vs. Jeremy Osheim (5-0), Andrew McInnes (4-1) vs. Ryan Healy (25-13-1)
Vale Tudo Japan 6th
Ota City General Gymnasium in Ota, Tokyo, Japan Event Date: Oct. 4 Website:Facebook/VTJ Twitter:@vtj1
Isao Kobayashi (15-1-4) vs. Takeshi Inoue (21-9)
Vale Tudo Japan is back with its sixth effort. The flyweight grand prix finals bout between Hiromasa Ogikubo and Czar Sklavos takes center stage, but the biggest prospect in the lineup fights further down the card. Lightweight King of Pancrase Isao Kobayashi compiled a 15-1-4 mark as a 155-pound fighter, but now he’s testing the waters at featherweight. His first challenge? Former Shooto featherweight champion Takeshi “Lion” Inoue.
Kobayashi’s reign as the lightweight King of Pancrase started in 2012 when he avenged his only career loss—a unanimous-decision defeat at the hands of Koji Oishi—by scoring a unanimous verdict of his own over Oishi. Now 25 years old, Kobayashi has gone on to win four more fights, successfully defend his title and fight to a draw with UFC veteran Jorge Patino. The southpaw has a background in judo, but he tends to victimize his opponents with his fists en route to knockout and TKO victories. The Sakaguchi Dojo product launched his pro career in 2008 as a 19-year-old. He won the 2009 Pancrase Neo-Blood lightweight tourney and the 2011 Pancrase Lightweight Grand Prix.
Inoue is a legendary Japanese fighter, but his best years seem to be in the past. The “Lion” twice claimed the Shooto lightweight crown, but his most recent championship reign ended in 2010. Before he relinquished his title in a split-decision loss to Hatsu Hioki, Inoue was 18-3. He’s gone just 3-6, including the loss to Hioki, in his last nine fights. The 34-year-old has fallen in four consecutive fights, three times by decision and once via submission. The submission loss, which came against Rob Lisita, marked the first time Inoue had ever been stopped in a professional MMA career dating back to 2003. Inoue holds a black belt in judo and has four submission wins. The veteran has also picked up 10 stoppages via strikes, and he’s gone the distance in 15 fights.
Kobayashi has found a tremendous amount of success as a lightweight, but he could take it to the next level if he chooses to remain at featherweight as he moves forward in his career. This fight could be a symbolic passing of the torch, even if it comes while Inoue is in the full downswing mode of his career. Inoue hasn’t experienced sustained success since 2009-10, and he’s only fought three times since the start of 2012 (and not at all yet in 2014).
Inoue is still a tough out, and he’s only ever been submitted. Kobayashi’s challenge will be to hand Inoue the first knockout loss of his decade-plus career. That’s still a tall order for a fighter who tends to engage in reckless free-for-alls against his opponents. If Inoue can stay technical in his striking, he could have a chance at defeating Kobayashi at his own game, picking the younger fighter apart for the bout’s duration and taking the judges’ nod. However, Inoue isn’t afraid to engage in a complete firefight either. There’s a lot of potential here for a furious slugfest that pits Inoue’s iron chin and fearless striking against Kobayashi’s own reckless, brawling style. Although Inoue offers a stiff challenge for Kobayashi, the momentum clearly rests with the Pancrase champ. Unless something goes drastically wrong in his first cut to featherweight, Kobayashi is bound for a win in what should be a thrilling stand-up affair.
Other key bouts: Hiromasa Ogikubo (12-3-2) vs. Czar Sklavos (10-3) in the flyweight tournament finals, Caol Uno (31-16-5) vs. Raja Shippen (14-8-1), Hiroyuki Takaya (18-11-2) vs. Ryogo Takahashi (5-2), Kuniyoshi Hironaka (22-9) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (11-5-3), Mamoru Yamaguchi (26-9-4) vs. Yosuke Saruta (9-4-2), Kota Onojima (9-3-1) vs. Shoko Sato (20-13-2), Hayato Suzuki (8-0-2) vs. Ryuya Fukuda (6-2), Kazuyuki Numajiri (8-2) vs. Juri Ohara (13-8-2)
Karol Bedorf (10-2) vs. Rolles Gracie (8-2)
The last time Karol Bedorf stepped into the KSW ring, he captured the promotion’s vacant heavyweight title with a win over Pawel Nastula. Now, almost exactly a year later, Bedorf is set to make his first defense. KSW has chosen an apt location for that defense at its 28th event. The top Polish organization is sending challenger Rolles Gracie into the titular “Fighters’ Den”—Bedorf’s hometown of Szczecin.
Bedorf, who is on a four-fight winning streak, won’t have to travel far from the Berserker’s Team gym to meet Gracie. The 31-year-old is a grappling specialist who has competed at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship, where he faced the likes of Fabricio Werdum and Jeff Monson. He took home top honors for three straight years in the European Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships. “Coco” has struggled to finish opponents in his MMA career, though. He only has three submission wins and two TKO stoppages, though that number includes his championship win over Nastula. Meanwhile, he has lost via submission to current UFC fighter Alexey Oleinik and dropped a decision to Bellator veteran Rogent Lloret. The heavyweight made his pro debut in 2007 with a win over UFC veteran Francis Carmont, and he also holds wins over Karl Knothe and Oli Thompson. Bedorf was slated to make his first defense earlier this year, but his first scheduled opponent, former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, withdrew with an injury and Bedorf followed suit after being paired with Nick Rossborough.
His challenger is from MMA’s most famous family, the Gracies. Rolles is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a third dan black belt in judo. The 36-year-old made his pro MMA debut in 2007 as part of the now-defunct IFL. He won his first bout and his subsequent two appearances in 2009, then joined the UFC in 2010. Viewed as the potential successor to the Gracie UFC legacy, Rolles instead lost his Octagon debut to Joey Beltran in an abysmal showing. The promotion released Rolles, who went on to win his next five fights, including a bout against Bob Sapp under the ONE FC banner. His most recent appearance, which came more than a year ago, was a knockout loss to Derrick Mehmen under the World Series of Fighting banner. Rolles, like his relatives, is a grappler, but he has fared better than Bedorf in that realm. He is a multiple-time Pan-American champion and has placed second at the ADCC tournament and the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. In MMA action, he has notched all eight of his victories by way of submission, though one of those finishes—against the aforementioned Sapp—came via strikes.
Rolles has fed on low-level competition throughout his MMA tenure, but he has faltered when the spotlight has been at its brightest. His cardio came into question following the loss to Beltran, and he has not done much to put the topic to rest, losing only winning one of two additional fights that have gone beyond the first frame. Gracie also hasn’t pushed himself against the best competition since his UFC loss. Of his subsequent opponents, Braden Bice and Lee Mein sit on the negative side of the .500 mark, the quality of Sapp as an opponent goes without saying, Tony Bonello was coming off a two-and-a-half-year layoff and Yusuke Kawaguchi was in the midst of what would end up being a four-fight skid when he met Rolles. As soon as Gracie returned to a major promotion and fought an opponent with a respectable record, he stumbled again.
Bedorf’s grappling background would lead one to believe that he’d have his sights on the takedown from the opening bell, but that’s not the case. The Pole has an odd predilection for the stand-up game. In fact, he only went to the mat twice over his last two fights. The first time was when Oli Thompson scored a takedown against him, and the second was when he fell through the ring ropes on top of Nastula, leading to the TKO by retirement in that title tilt. Perhaps that’s why he’s become a decision machine. He has claimed five wins and suffered one loss on the scorecards. His striking style isn’t going to lead to many knockouts, though his head kick could definitely finish a foe. The 6-foot-2 fighter enjoyed a height advantage over Nastula, but he’ll stand in the shadow of Gracie, who checks in two inches taller than his opponent.
Rolles needs to seek the takedown and the quick submission finish, otherwise he’s doomed to fall victim to a grinding marathon of a fight contested exclusively on the feet, where Rolles is a fish out of water. It’s doubtful Bedorf has the hands to finish Rolles, but he has the striking to keep Gracie at bay and the takedown defense to make Rolles work especially hard to get the fight to the mat. That combination could spell disaster for Rolles, a fighter who infamously sputtered out against Beltran. Bedorf has proven time and again that he has a solid gas tank, so taking this fight into deep waters is crucial to his game plan. We’ve seen Bedorf lose before, but those losses came against solid competition and it’s been more than three years since he has faced a setback.
Rolles can’t be counted out entirely. If the black belt can drag this fight into his world, he could twist Bedorf into a pretzel. However, the fight starts on the feet, and Bedorf is competent enough to keep it standing. The Pole might not make it an exciting bout, but he’ll grind out the decision victory as Gracie fades in the later rounds.
Other key bouts: Michal Materla (20-4) vs. Jorge Luis Bezerra (19-10), Maciej Jewtuszko (10-2) vs. Vaso Bakocevic (16-6-1), Daniel Acacio (30-16) vs. Rafal Moks (9-6), Anzor Azhiev (4-1) vs. Helson Henriques (7-2-1), Michal Andryszak (12-4) vs. Michal Wlodarek (5-0), Jakub Kowalewicz (4-1) vs. Kamil Gniadek (7-2)
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