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…
Event Date: Oct. 24
Shane Alvarez (10-1) vs. Darren Uyenoyama (8-5)
The latest offering from the Filipino-based Pacific Xtreme Combat organization gives a flyweight prospect a chance to shine against a UFC veteran competing outside of the Octagon for the first time since he received his UFC release. The veteran is Darren Uyenoyama, a fighter who has also made stops in Strikeforce and Dream. The prospect is Shane Alvarez, a Trench Warz and PXC vet who has lost just once in his 11-fight career. The pair might not enjoy top billing at PXC 45—that honor goes to Rolando Dy and Kyle Aguon, who will vie for the promotion’s bantamweight title—but their flyweight showdown is a key battle on a card that also features prospect Alex Volkanovski and debuting female flyweight Brogan Walker.
Uyenoyama has had an up-and-down career. He made his pro debut in 2002 with a decision win over legendary small guy Rambaa Somdet. He didn’t re-emerge for his sophomore outing until 2007, but he found himself in the Strikeforce cage by 2008. In less than two and a half minutes of work under the Strikeforce banner, Uyenoyama had secured two victories with the promotion. Then, he traveled to Dream, where he dropped a unanimous decision to Hideo Tokoro. He returned to Strikeforce and maintained his undefeated record with the promotion with another win. As a result of his Strikeforce success, Uyenoyama found his way into the UFC in 2011. He picked up victories over Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Phil Harris, but saw his winning streak snapped by perennial flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez. Uyenoyama’s most recent fight, which also took place inside the Octagon, ended in a close split decision in favor of his adversary, Alptekin Ozkilic. The 35-year-old Californian was a wrestler in high school. He is a highly decorated grappler and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Ralph Gracie. Uyenoyama has claimed four of his victories by way of submission.
Alvarez turned pro in 2008 and won his first seven fights. He engaged in a five-round war with Robert Wusstig at Trench Warz 15 and came out on the wrong end of a split decision. “Pikaboo” has rebounded nicely with three victories under the PXC banner. The Saipan-based fighter has won three fights via TKO and submitted another opponent via strikes. He also has finished an opponent via rear-naked choke and another by way of a kimura. Alvarez’s competition could use an upgrade—his recent streak consists of opponents who currently hold a combined record of 8-12, and his seven-fight streak is comprised of a group of fighters who now stand at a combined 7-28. Even Wusstig, the one fighter who defeated Alvarez, sits on the wrong side of the .500 mark with a 4-7 record (he was 2-5 when he went up against Alvarez).
There is only a two-fight disparity in the total number of fights for each man, but they are miles apart in terms of experience. While Alvarez tore through opponents who now hold 5-8 and 2-3 marks and just eked by a fighter who is now 1-1, Uyenoyama was losing to arguably one of the best flyweights in the world and a legitimate UFC prospect. He’s engaged in combat against legends like Somdet and Yamamoto as well. That’s a significant asset to bring into his fight with Alvarez, who has even struggled against some very average and sub-par competition.
Alvarez has a strong ground-and-pound attack, but he can be wild and reckless. Against Kevin Esteves, for example, Alvarez scored the submission via ground-and-pound strikes, but he had to fend off a guillotine choke attempt from the now 1-5 fighter before he was able to launch his own offense. His takedown defense also leaves something to be desired. He was put on the mat several times in his fight with Derrick Rangamar and had to rely on his ability to escape or sweep to get out of bad positions. That worked just fine against a fighter like Rangamar, who now stands at 3-13, but it won’t work against a world-class grappler like Uyenoyama. The UFC veteran has the wrestling background to put Alvarez on the mat, and he has the skill and experience to finish him there. Unless Alvarez can stuff Uyenoyama’s takedowns and end up in top position, he’s in for a long night of defending submissions from the bottom. Uyenoyama has relied on his rear-naked choke for several victories, and he shouldn’t have too much difficulty taking Alvarez’s back and sinking in another choke for the finish in this contest.
Other key bouts: Rolando Dy (5-2) vs. Kyle Aguon (7-4) for the bantamweight championship, Alex Volkanovski (7-1) vs. Kyle Reyes (5-2), McKlane Alfred (3-1) vs. Vince Masga (4-1)
Event Date: Oct. 24
Pawel Zelazowski (7-0) vs. Mickael Lebout (11-3-1)
KSW may be the biggest promotion in Poland, but it’s not the only one. While KSW takes a two-month break between its Oct. 4 show and its upcoming December return, the Profesjonalna Liga MMA—or the Professional League of MMA, to the English speakers among us—is hard at work. The promotion has actually hosted more numbered events in its two-and-a-half-year existence than KSW has hosted in a decade. This weekend, the PLMMA returns with two shows, the Legionowo-based PLMMA 41 and the Brodnica-based PLMMA 42. The Legionowo card features the more intriguing fights, with Marian Ziolkowski and Adrian Zielinski battling for the lightweight championship, prospect Sylwester Borys testing himself against veteran Antoni Chmielewski and women’s bantamweights Izabela Badurek and Barbara Nalepka competing on the card. There’s also a welterweight championship clash between undefeated champion Pawel Zelazowski and challenger Mickael Lebout.
The 23-year-old champion is a member of the Okniński Team. He has spent his entire career with the PLMMA, beginning with his early fights as a middleweight and culminating in a title run as a welterweight. After capturing five stoppage victories, Zelazowski shifted his focus to the 170-pound division and fought Salim Touahri for the vacant welterweight title. After just 28 seconds, the young Polish prospect was the champion. He followed his quick knockout of Touahri with a first-round submission win over Pierre Chretien. Zelazowski is a strong wrestler with powerful hands. He’s only gone beyond the first round once, and most of his fights have ended in under two minutes of the first frame. He has five submission finishes, a TKO and, of course, the vicious knockout of Touahri.
Lebout is a French fighter who trains with CrossFight Paris. The most notable name on his resume is current UFC fighter Nicholas Musoke, but Lebout’s fight with Musoke was declared a no-contest due to a judging error. The fight came during a stretch of Lebout’s career where the fighter went 1-3-1 with the no-contest. Outside of that rough period of his career, the 27-year-old is undefeated. He turned pro in 2011 and reeled off six wins before suffering his first setback, and he emerged from his rocky 2012-13 to have a spectacular 2014 that has seen him rebound with four victories in the calendar year. He has six submissions, including three via armbar, and just one TKO victory. Two of his losses came on the scorecards, and the third loss was due to a doctor’s stoppage. Lebout has gone the distance in four of his victories, including two split verdicts.
Zelazowski has a wide range of weapons at his disposal. He has knockout power, but he often abandons crisp flurries in favor of lunging power punches. He has the instincts to fall back on his wrestling when he’s in trouble, as evidenced by his performance against Mikhail Busurmatorov. What started as a flash knockdown in Busurmatorov’s favor ended up a powerful takedown and ground-and-pound TKO with Zelazowski taking Busurmatorov’s back and flattening him out before pounding away. The kid is also dangerous from his back, where he finished his debut fight against Oskar Slepowronski. The 23-year-old is willing to stand with opponents for a while, but he’s always ready to shoot for the takedown at the first opening.
Zelazowski’s wrestling will come in handy against Lebout. The French fighter’s resume might lead one to believe that he relies heavily on wrestling and grappling, but he’s perfectly happy to stand with opponents and doesn’t shoot for many takedowns. His work on the ground is more the product of an opportunistic streak than a focused takedown attack. Lebout tends to stand upright and keep his hands low, dodging punches with head movement. He might get the better of Zelazowski in stand-up exchanges, unless he gets clipped by one of the Polish fighter’s big punches. However, Lebout doesn’t have the ability to avoid going to the mat with his bigger, stronger opponent. That’s where he’ll encounter trouble. Zelazowski will power through with takedowns and follow up with a ground-and-pound attack that will overwhelm Lebout. Don’t be surprised if Zelazowski bashes his way to another first-round stoppage in this title defense.
Other key bouts: Marian Ziolkowski (9-2-1) vs. Adrian Zielinski (12-3) for the lightweight championship, Antoni Chmielewski (26-12) vs. Sylwester Borys (5-1), Izabela Badurek (4-2) vs. Barbara Nalepka (2-0)
Event Date: Oct. 26
Mizuto Hirota (15-7-1) vs. Masakazu Imanari (28-13-2)
The 69th offering from Deep’s Impact series has no shortage of recognizable names, but featherweights Masakazu Imanari and Mizuto Hirota form what is perhaps the most interesting and competitive pairing on the card.
Imanari, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, has captured 18 submission victories in a career that has included reigns as the Cage Rage and Deep featherweight champion and the Deep bantamweight champion. He is a Pride, Dream and ONE FC veteran. The Team Roken fighter loves to attack his opponents’ legs and has claimed more than a few of his wins by heel hook or toe hold. He’s been known to pull guard and use other creative methods to get to his opponent’s leg without using a traditional takedown. When these unorthodox methods fail, though, the 38-year-old can end up on the wrong side of a judges’ decision or find himself the victim of a TKO, though the latter has only happened on three occasions in his 43-fight career.
Hirota is the opposite of Imanari. The former Sengoku and Deep lightweight champion is a striker who has finished eight of his foes by some form of knockout. He has seven losses, but six of those defeats came on the scorecards. He has only been stopped by Shinya Aoki, a one-time teammate of Imanari with Nippon Top Team. Hirota refused to tap in the fight and suffered a broken arm at the hands of Aoki. The 33-year-old returned to Deep earlier this year after a three-fight skid across the Strikeforce and UFC promotions that saw him suffer losses to Pat Healy, Rani Yahya and Rodrigo Damm.
Imanari’s recent five-fight run with Deep hasn’t exactly produced the best results. “Ashikan Judan” won his first two fights with Deep, but then dropped two in a row. His most recent fight ended in just 22 seconds with the veteran scoring a heel hook submission finish of Chan Jung Park. The only problem with that win is that Park was just 1-1 coming into the contest, making him a completely ill-matched opponent for a highly decorated former champ like Imanari. Hirota is a much better foil for the submission specialist.
Imanari hasn’t been a very consistent fighter in the late stages of his career. He has suffered losses to Antonio Banuelos, Haruo Ochi and Hideo Tokoro, but he has defeated Kevin Belingon and Abel Cullum. Hirota, meanwhile, has faced some rough times, but he was busy going the distance against a grinder like Healy and tough grapplers Yahya and Damm. In terms of recent fight experience, Hirota has been pushed harder, though he hasn’t fared any better than his adversary in this contest.
What this fight really comes down to is the same thing any fight with Imanari boils down to: stop him from attacking the legs. If Hirota can keep this fight standing and possibly force Imanari to result to pulling guard, butt-scooting and other desperation tactics, then the fight will head in his favor. Let Imanari tie up a leg, though, and Hirota could be tapping within seconds. Imanari is still a clever and scrappy fighter, but he won’t be able to catch up to Hirota, who will play it smart and stay on the outside en route to a decision victory.
Other key bouts: Yoshiyuki Nakanishi (14-3) vs. Ryuta Sakurai (24-18-6), Daisuke Nakamura (27-15) vs. Shinji Sasaki (13-8-2), Takafumi Otsuka (17-12-1) vs. Toshinori Tsunemura (7-3-4) for the bantamweight championship, Daiki Hata (16-9-7) vs. Seiji Akao (18-8-3), Keita Nakamura (27-6-2) vs. Yuki Okano (8-6-1), Naoto Miyazaki (10-3-3) vs. Hiroki Aoki (15-8-1), Kimihiro Eto (6-0) vs. Luiz Andrade I (17-16-3), Isamu Odagiri (4-1-1) vs. Kenta Nagatsuka (5-3), Satoko Shinashi (29-2-2) vs. Ye Jin Jung (0-0)