Diana Rael (Will Fox/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: King of the Cage, Cage Warriors 74 and West Coast FC 12

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…

King of the Cage: Tactical Strike
Coeur D’Alene Casino in Worley, Idaho
Event Date: Nov. 13
Website: kingofthecage.com
Twitter: @KOTC_News


Spotlight Fight:
Amy Montenegro (4-1) vs. Diana Rael (5-3)

Thanks to the UFC’s inclusion of the women’s strawweight division under its banner, the 115-pound weight class continues to gain fighters who are migrating in from the surrounding 125- and 105-pound divisions. King of the Cage has secured two such fighters as part of its Tactical Strike card. Amy Montenegro shifted from flyweight down to strawweight during the summer. Former atomweight Diana Rael, meanwhile, has spent a year and a half on the sidelines but now returns as a 115-pounder. The two ladies square off in one of the featured bouts of KOTC’s Idaho show.

The 30-year-old Rael can be expected to enter the fight as the smaller combatant. She debuted in 2010 and took wins in her first two fights before suffering defeat at the hands of Lacey Schuckman. The Serial Boxe Fight Team product rebounded with a split decision victory over Angelica Chavez and then lost two in a row, with her defeats coming against current Invicta atomweight champion Michelle Waterson and Invicta vet Stephanie Frausto. Rael’s two most recent fights produced better results, as Rael secured a submission victory against Darla Harris and a 46-second TKO of Ashley Aguirre.

Montenegro didn’t make her pro debut until 2013, but she quickly turned heads with three wins by the end of the year. In 2014, she moved her focus from flyweight to strawweight but came up short in her 115-pound debut. Montenegro dropped a split decision to Katie Howard in that debut performance, but she recovered in September with a submission win over Kathina Catron. The White Buffalo Warriors fighter has picked up three of her victories by way of submission.

Rael is a fighter who really belongs at atomweight. She stands 5 feet tall, and she even looked small against the likes of the aforementioned Waterson. Rael is an aggressive striker who packs power in her flurries of punches, but her speed will be her most valuable asset against the plodding Montenegro. Montenegro is going to struggle to match Rael, who will keep up a high pace. Rael’s power might not translate to the strawweight division, but she’ll still be able to use her speed to get in, light up Montenegro with combinations and get out. What she won’t want to do is attempt to use trip takedowns to get Montenegro to the mat. The strategy backfired on her against Waterson, who escaped from the bottom and quickly took Rael’s back en route to the submission finish. Rael won’t be able to prevent similar sweep attempts from Montenegro.

Montenegro, who stands 5-foot-4, will hold the size advantage. She needs to tie up Rael and slow her down. If she can get the clinch, she can try to take Rael to the mat. Montenegro doesn’t have strong takedowns, but her size might allow her to simple bully Rael to the canvas. If Montenegro is successful in taking down Rael, the fight will be hers for the taking. Rael’s submission defense leaves a lot to be desired, and Montenegro should be more than capable of using her size and grappling ability to control Rael on the mat.

Rael’s resume raises some red flags. At atomweight, she did well against mediocre competition floating around or below the .500 mark. Whenever she took a step up, even against the now 4-5 Frausto, she faltered. A move to the strawweight division isn’t going to do her any favors. Montenegro isn’t an elite fighter, but her submission skills and size are enough to make her a danger to Rael, who has a tendency to make mistakes in the grappling department. Montenegro is going to be able to initiate clinches when Rael closes the distance, and those clinches will lead to takedowns. Rael has suffered two losses by way of rear-naked choke and Montenegro’s three submission wins have come by way of that same submission hold. It’s not hard to do the math there. Montenegro should emerge with the submission win.

Other key bouts: Trevor Prangley (33-11-1) vs. Bill Widler (8-6) for the light heavyweight title

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 74
Copper Box Arena in London
Event Date: Nov. 15
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event:
Fight Now TV (USA and Caribbean)
Premier Sports (United Kingdom)
Setanta Sports 1 (Ireland)
Fight Network (Canada, Portugal, Belgium, Middle East)
Fight Klub (Poland)
Setanta Action (Africa)
Viasat Sport (Norway)
TV 10 (Sweden)
Fox Sports (Turkey, Greece, Malta, Cyprus)
MMA Junkie (USA/Canada)
Viaplay (Scandinavia)
irishmma.tv (Ireland)
cagewarriors.tv (rest of the world, excluding the United Kingdom)
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Pannie Kianzad (6-0) vs. Eeva Siiskonen (3-1)

With two title fights headlining two main cards, plus the inclusion of Joseph Duffy—the last man to defeat rising UFC star Conor McGregor—the 74th numbered event from Cage Warriors has plenty to offer fans. Duffy will engage in battle with fellow prospect Julien Boussuge, welterweight star Nicolas Dalby will defend his 170-pound crown against Mohsen Bahari and the promotion will crown a champion in its women’s bantamweight division. The ladies vying for the title are Pannie Kianzad and late-replacement opponent Eeva Siiskonen.

Kianzad was initially expected to face undefeated 19-year-old Agnieszka Niedzwiedz for the bantamweight belt, but the young Polish fighter was forced out of the contest with a rib injury. The 32-year-old Siiskonen steps in on less than a week’s notice to take Niedzwiedz’s place. The Finn has been competing as a professional since 2012 but only recently returned to action following a year-long layoff to mend from a knee injury. She picked up wins in her first two pro outings and then suffered a first-round submission loss to Julia Stoliarenko, a Lithuanian fighter whose current record stands at 1-1-1. In September, she returned with a second-round knockout finish of Inga Kaledaite, a fighter who remains winless as a pro. The MMA Imatra product has finished two fights via strikes.

Kianzad is the much more recognizable name in this match-up. The Swedish fighter was a fixture in the top 15 of the women’s featherweight division before opting to drop to 135 pounds. “Banzai” made her debut in 2012. She has posted six wins, including decision victories over notables Milana Dudieva and Annalisa Bucci. The Rumble Sports fighter either finishes fights via strikes or goes the distance. She shares a common opponent with Siiskonen—Helin Paara, who lost to both ladies by way of unanimous decision. The 22-year-old Kianzad has a background in boxing.

In her most recent outing against Megan van Houtum, Kianzad struggled to avoid takedowns early. She took some punishment when she was on bottom, but eventually turned the tide to control van Houtum in the clinch and wear her down before gaining mount in the third round and scoring the TKO finish. Kianzad has a tendency to get in wild scrambles on the mat, but she fares well when she manages to stay off her back. Siiskonen has decent stand-up and grappling of her own, but she can be sloppy on the ground.

Kianzad could be defeated by an opponent with strong wrestling or judo abilities and a good grappling base. She won’t face any of those problems here. Siiskonen is willing to stand with opponents, and Kianzad will be happy to oblige her. Kianzad will press for the clinch, where she can dominate Siiskonen before taking her to the mat for a serving of ground-and-pound. Siiskonen can be bullied around in the clinch, and it’s doubtful that she’ll be able to escape if Kianzad ends up on top of her once the fight hits the canvas.

Both of these ladies were signed to bolster the Cage Warriors roster, but Kianzad figures to be the centerpiece of the company’s 135-pound women’s division. She’s a strong fighter who is capable of weathering the early storm and dominating as the fight goes on. Her wins over Bucci and Dudieva prove that she has what it takes to hang in the higher levels of the division. Kianzad and Siiskonen might get into some wild exchanges early in this fight, but Kianzad will start to dominate as the fight progresses. She’ll earn the TKO stoppage by the late second or early third round to secure the Cage Warriors title.

Other key bouts: Nicolas Dalby (12-0) vs. Mohsen Bahari (8-1) for the welterweight title, Joseph Duffy (11-1) vs. Julien Boussuge (10-3), Saul Rogers (8-1) vs. Mick Sinclair (12-4), Tom Breese (6-0) vs. Philip Mulpeter (7-4), Andrei Manzolo (7-2) vs. Bola Omoyele (7-3), John Maguire (19-8) vs. Brad Wheeler (13-9), Sean Carter (9-1) vs. Tim Wilde (5-0), Pedu Adetola (2-0) vs. Darren Stewart (1-0)

West Coast Fighting Championship 12
McClellan Conference Center in Sacramento, Calif.
Event Date: Nov. 15
Website: westcoastfighting.com
Watch Event: live pay-per-view stream on Competitive Fighting Sports
Twitter: @WFC_MMA

Spotlight Fight:
Brandon Ricetti (7-0) vs. Josh Emmett (6-0)

The West Coast Fighting Championship promotion is back with its 12th offering. Lightweight champion Brandon Ricetti headlines the card as he puts his title and unblemished record on the line. His opponent is Josh Emmett, a rising prospect from Team Alpha Male.

Ricetti captured the West Coast FC lightweight crown in June when he defeated Ousmane Thomas Diagne via rear-naked choke in the second round of their championship tilt. “Kiba,” who debuted in 2013, had already notched six wins in the span of a year before he challenged Diagne for the strap. Unfortunately, Ricetti’s run came against a set of competition that now holds an underwhelming record of 16-30. The 27-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt has finished all of his opponents by way of submission, and all but one of those victories came in the first round.

Emmett made his pro debut in 2011 but didn’t start fighting regularly until 2013. As a two-time NAIA National qualifier, the 29-year-old fits the Team Alpha Male mold as a strong wrestler. He spent the early part of his career at featherweight, but this will be his third consecutive bout as a lightweight. Emmett has stopped two fights via strikes and one by way of submission. However, Emmett, much like Ricetti, has faced a set of opponents who feature an embarrassing combined record, currently standing at 12-46-1.

Ricetti survived a rough first round in his fight with Diagne. He attempted a takedown and ended up on bottom, and he ate several big punches in the stand-up. Ricetti’s takedown attempts were typical of a grappler who doesn’t have a strong wrestling base. Emmett, meanwhile, uses his striking as little more than a disguise for his next takedown attempt. He’ll throw a strike or two and then change levels to shoot for his opponent’s legs. His takedown attempts will give Ricetti problems. Meanwhile, Ricetti’s sloppy stand-up—he leaves his chin exposed as he ducks and throws—will leave him open to the wrestler’s knees and big hooks.

Ricetti might throw up an occasional armbar attempt from the bottom, but he’s not a very active fighter off his back. That’s bad news for the champ, because Emmett’s wrestling will be too much for him to overcome. In other words, Ricetti is going to spend most of this fight on his back. Emmett is comfortable working from the top and riding his way to a decision, but he also has the ability to work toward submissions or use his ground-and-pound to score the TKO. Against Ricetti, expect the latter. Emmett will ground-and-pound his way to the lightweight title.

Other key bouts: Josh Appelt (10-3) vs. Carl Seumanutafa (8-5), Josh Berkovic (5-0) vs. Mike Christensen (11-8) for the featherweight title, David Mitchell (15-4) vs. Michael Gonzalez (3-1), Anthony Avila (12-3) vs. Cesar Avila (7-3), Dominic Waters (6-2) vs. Mikhail Venikov (4-2), Nick Pica (3-0) vs. Trey Williams (0-0), Steve Gruber (3-1) vs. Benji Gomez (3-1)