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…
Melvin Blumer (12-2) vs. Leandro Higo (15-2)
The latest offering from Resurrection Fighting Alliance may not have any title fights, but it includes plenty of match-ups that could set up new title contenders in a number of divisions. At the top of the RFA 32 bill, bantamweights Melvin Blumer and Leandro Higo battle to move one step closer to a shot at gold while also hoping to gain the attention of the UFC.
Blumer is fighting on the same card as his brother, Marvin, who competes in the same division but sports a few more losses on his record. Melvin Blumer, meanwhile, has only suffered two defeats. The 33-year-old has been perfect since suffering a March 2012 loss, however, and has six straight wins. The Minnesota-based fighter made his pro debut in 2010 and won his first four fights before running into trouble against Matt Veal. After the submission loss, the Minnesota Militia product added two more wins, including one in a trip to Japan, before the loss to Stéphane Pelletier. Blumer has a well-balanced resume that includes five wins via strikes and five victories by way of submission. “The Career Killer” has made just one prior appearance under the RFA banner. It came in his last outing, where he finished UFC veteran Jeff Curran via strikes.
The 26-year-old Higo is a Team Nogueira member who only recently returned to MMA action after an extensive layoff. The Brazilian debuted in 2006 and won his first eight fights by stoppage, including a submission finish of José Maria Tomé. Over his next four bouts, he suffered two losses. First came a defeat at the hands of middling fighter Marcos Vinicius (not to be confused with UFC veteran Marcos Vinicius “Vina”). Then, after notching two more wins, including a decision nod over future UFC fighter Wagner Campos, Higo suffered a decision loss to future UFCer Iliarde Santos. Higo notched three more victories extending into 2013, but then ran into a long string of bad luck. He had a rematch with Santos scrapped from the CEF 6 card and lost two scheduled opponents for CEF 7 before landing on Eduardo Souza as his eventual foe. Higo submitted Souza, but then he went quiet for nearly two years while having three CEF match-ups and an RFA fight against Matt Manzanares scrapped. Higo, who made a failed bid on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4, finally returned in August with a win over Terrion Ware at RFA 29. Higo has 10 submission victories and just two finishes via strikes.
This should be an interesting war of styles. Blumer is a more aggressive and free-swinging striker, but he has excellent takedown defense and a solid ground game. Higo can hold his own on the feet, but he’s far better on the mat. The Brazilian is also a strong wrestler, which is not something that’s seen too often in Brazilian grapplers. Against Souza, Higo used various techniques to get the fight to the mat, including pure power in picking his opponent up and slamming him to the ground. The Team Nogueira fighter’s improved striking has also allowed him to set up his takedown attempts with strikes.
Blumer is no slouch, but he’s in for a tough time against Higo. If he can keep it standing, Blumer might be able to chip away with Higo with combinations. However, Higo is sure to make life difficult by shooting for Blumer’s legs or initiating the clinch in order to overpower Blumer and take him down. Higo has a lot of quality experience against UFC-caliber competition, and the Brazilian is a handful if he can get his opponent to the canvas. Blumer might be able to score with some big offensive moments, but Higo is going to keep the American on the defensive for large chunks of this fight. Either fighter is capable of bringing a quick end to this contest, but Higo’s ground skills might be too much for Blumer. If the Brazilian can’t get the submission finish, he’ll settle for a hard-fought and extremely close decision.
Other key bouts: Chad Curry (7-0) vs. Landon Vannata (6-0), Marvin Blumer (11-5) vs. Bill Kamery (13-4), Ben Smith (14-3) vs. Craig Eckelberg (5-0), Clay Wimer (5-0) vs. Sean Richman (2-0), Logan Storley (1-0) vs. Mac Hummel (0-0), Ben Neumann (9-3) vs. Dakota Cochrane (20-9)
Delson Heleno (27-8) vs. Tim Ruberg (12-3)
Imortal Fight Championship is billing its second event as the Road to Invicta. The event does feature a quartet of strawweight ladies, but the most experienced among the fighters has just two bouts under her belt. Therefore, we’ll turn our attention elsewhere on the card and look at the top-billed fight between welterweights Delson Heleno and Tim Ruberg.
Heleno’s name should be familiar to longtime American fight fans. The Brazilian entered the IFL after amassing a 5-1 mark that included a win over Jorge Patino. He lost his IFL 1 fight to Dennis Hallman, but eventually built a 6-4 record in the IFL ring before the promotion’s demise. Along the way, the CM System fighter picked up a notable win over future UFC star Jake Ellenberger. After exiting the IFL with a 13-5 overall record, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and capoeira practitioner went on a nine-fight winning streak and won 10 of 11 overall. He made a failed bid on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil and then lost to Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 147, which marked his lone official UFC appearance. Heleno has returned to the international circuit, where he has won four of his last five fights. His only loss in that span came against Tomasz Drwal. He’s coming off a unanimous decision nod over his current opponent in their last meeting at Arena Tour 7.
Ruberg has had an up-and-down career. He debuted in 2004, but didn’t make his sophomore appearance until 2010. He ended up winning his first eight fights, including two contests in the Bellator cage, before suffering a loss to Jason South at Showdown Fights 6. After adding another win to his resume, Ruberg competed on The Ultimate Fighter 16, where he lost to Nic Herron-Webb and was quickly sent packing. The Ohio-based fighter started training with Astra Fight Team and began competing in Brazil and Argentina while compiling a 3-2 mark that includes a recent loss to Heleno. Ruberg is an NCAA Division III All-American wrestler.
Consistency has been a big problem for both fighters. Ruberg came up short in his opportunity to make the UFC roster and suffered a pair of official losses around the same stretch, and Heleno has a career peppered with losses, though most of the defeats came against fighters who have appeared in either the UFC or Pride. Neither fighter is going to be inside the Octagon soon, but another win for Heleno could put him on the radar to compete for another high-profile organization.
Ruberg has a pressuring style that incorporates wrestling and positional control. He has a tendency to get aggressive, which can lead to mistakes. He gave up his arm against Herron-Webb during the TUF competition and blew a chance to win against Dyego Roberto when he once again left an arm for the taking. Given Heleno’s mat skills, it’s surprising that the veteran didn’t find the submission when the pair met in September.
What Heleno was able to find in their September meeting was an opponent who couldn’t match him on the feet, though the pair did engage in a competitive three rounds of action. Not much has changed in just two months. Ruberg might adjust his game to score more takedowns, but he’ll be in trouble on the mat against a submission master. Anywhere the fight goes, Heleno would seem to have the advantage. There’s a good chance that the Brazilian gets the tapout in this rematch, but he’ll continue to earn points on the judges’ scorecards at the very least en route to another unanimous verdict in his favor.
Other key bouts: Júnior Albini (10-2) vs. Martin Ottaviano (8-3), Bruno Oliveira (4-1) vs. Cristiano Souza (4-0), Eduardo Nunes (2-0) vs. Marcelo Oliveira (0-0), Jeferson dos Reis (2-0) vs. Paulo Sergio Santos (2-0)
Djamil Chan (11-2) vs. Mohamed Grabinski (11-1)
The only significant title fights of the week come in Germany, where the German MMA Championship promotion will hold its seventh event. There are three titles on the line, with Jonas Billstein and Joachim Christensen vying for the belt in the 207-pound weight class, Saba Bolaghi and Vugar Bahshiev battling for the bantamweight strap and Djamil Chan defending his lightweight crown against Mohamed Grabinski. All three fights feature legitimate prospects, but the battle between Chan and Grabinski is the only match that features fighters who competed in the preliminary fights for the current season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Chan’s TUF campaign met a quick end at the hands of Marcin Wrzosek, who submitted the 25-year-old via rear-naked choke in the first round. Since it doesn’t count on his official record, Chan maintains a six-fight winning streak heading into this weekend’s fight. The Belgian fighter made his pro debut in 2010 and picked up five wins before suffering back-to-back stoppage losses. his current streak includes a welterweight title win and two defenses under the Respect FC banner. During his reign, Chan avenged one of his career losses. He departed Respect FC and the welterweight division to turn his sights to the GMC lightweight belt, which he snagged at GMC 6 with a submission victory over debuting pro Baker Barakat. After tacking on a win under the Mix Fight Gala banner and making his TUF run, Chan is back for his first title defense. The Oosterbaan Gym fighter has eight wins via strikes and just one victory by way of submission.
Grabinski fared only slightly better in his TUF preliminary fight. The 24-year-old German pushed the fight into a third round against Martin Svensson, but he dropped the unanimous decision. When he competed in the preliminary fight, the Pride Gym Dusseldorf product was just days removed from his last official win, which came in Germany. Grabinski debuted as a pro in 2009 and won his first four fights before suffering his lone career loss. He’s now on a six-fight winning streak as he prepares to make his GMC debut. He has seven victories by way of strikes and just one submission win.
The travel and quick turnaround could have contributed to Grabinski’s loss in the TUF competition, but he certainly had the better overall showing compared to Chan. Chan is an entertaining fighter who swings for the fences, but he has plenty of holes in his game, especially in the takedown and submission defense departments.
The vicious and powerful striking game of Chan and the active attack of Grabinski could combine to create a very entertaining title fight. Both fighters are fond of delivering knockouts, but Grabinski seems to be the more disciplined and patient fighter. He also seems more confident when the fight goes to the mat. Chan represents a big step up in competition for Grabinski, who might want to test the champ’s ground game if he wants to come out with the belt and his head still attached to his body.
Chan, while highly entertaining, is just too prone to making mistakes. Grabinski isn’t a perfect fighter either, but he’s demonstrated his skills in scrambles and from top position while launching a ground-and-pound attack. The challenger should be able to deliver in his title bid and unseat the champ.
Other key bouts: Jonas Billstein (15-4) vs. Joachim Christensen (11-3) for the 207-pound title, Mikkel Parlo (12-2) vs. Abusupiyan Magomedov (13-2), Saba Bolaghi (4-0-1) vs. Vugar Bahshiev (11-9) for the bantamweight title, Katharina Lehner (3-1) vs. Alexandra Buch (8-4), Daniela Kortmann (1-0) vs. Alice Ardelean (0-2), Mike Engel (4-0) vs. Nico Serbezian (1-1), Islam Khapilaev (2-0) vs. Umol Nacofil (0-0)
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