Steve Carl (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Titan FC 38: Carl vs. Muhammad Preview and Predictions

Titan Fighting Championship returns to Florida on Saturday, April 30, for Titan FC 38. The nine-fight card will be the promotion’s first foray into the Sunshine state in 18 months and its fifth live offering on UFC Fight Pass. The talent-riddled event features top prospects taking on veteran fighters in a theme the promotion has continued to push since joining forces with the digital streaming service in January 2015. The theme is apparent in the matchmaking at the top of the card, and especially in the main event.

The vacant Titan FC welterweight title will be up for grabs when former World Series of Fighting welterweight champion Steve Carl makes his promotional debut against undefeated Titan FC veteran Belal Muhammad. Carl is returning to U.S. soil after picking up a big win against rising prospect Beslan Ushukov in Russia. Carl wrapped up a third-round choke to have his hand raised for the first time since capturing WSOF welterweight gold against current UFC fighter Josh Burkman. Muhammad is making his largest step up in competition despite building a surprisingly strong resume fighting on the U.S. regional circuit.

In the evening’s co-headliner, Titan FC title contenders Jason Novelli and Yosdenis Cedeno battle for a potential spot in an upcoming championship fight for the vacant Titan FC lightweight title. Novelli has won four straight since dropping to 155 pounds following a loss to Seattle’s masked crime fighting citizen Ben Fodor, better known in the Pacific Northwest as “Phoenix Jones.” Cedeno enters into his promotional debut after losing three of his four UFC bouts. “The Pink Panther” earned his place in the world’s top MMA promotion after a six-fight winning streak Cedeno capped with the vacant Championship Fighting Alliance lightweight championship belt in 2013.


The rest of the fight card features prospects and veterans fighting for the chance to move up the Titan ranks. Top-ranked flyweight Pedro Nobre has spent much of the past year crawling his way back into the flyweight rankings after a year of injuries, a weigh-in debacle and canceled events. Nobre fell short in his bid for the Titan FC flyweight championship in March, but the resilient Brazilian is back in the cage again, eager to move on from only his second career defeat. Nobre will have to go through undefeated American Sid “Vicious” Bice in his return to the cage.

Another former UFC fighter, heavyweight slugger Jack “The Outlaw” May, returns for the first time since getting knocked out in the third round against Shawn Jordan at UFC Fight Night 47 in August 2014. May welcomes fellow debutant Chase Sherman. These heavy-handed fighters have knocked out a combined 15 opponents.

Undefeated Brazilian prospect Caio Rocha makes his Titan FC debut after racking up four professional wins. Rocha meets fellow undefeated fighter Peter “The Joker” Petties, who already has one win inside of the Titan FC cage. The ultra-exciting Cory “Capcom” Tait is ready to button mash his way to victory against frequent Titan FC competitor Andrew “The Beast” Whitney. Two-time IMMAF amateur world champion Jose “Shorty” Torres steps up in competition against American Top Team fighter Reynaldo “Reyzinho” Duarte. And Bruce Lutchmedial locks horns with veteran Pablo Alfonso.

The fight card kicks off at 7 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.

WW Championship: Steve Carl (22-4) vs. Belal Muhammad (8-0)

The 30-year-old Iowa native Steve Carl has spent much of the past five years vying for his position as a top welterweight in many of the world’s top promotions. He earned his place in the Bellator season-two welterweight tournament after winning 12 of his first 13 professional fights. Carl burst onto the national fight scene with an upset victory over eventual title challenger Brett Cooper at Bellator 15. Carl had his seven-fight winning streak halted with one of the best submissions of the year from Dan Hornbuckle in the semifinals of the tournament. He would get back in the win column with a submission of Tyler Stinson, but he fell short against eventual champion Douglas Lima in the season-five welterweight tournament quarterfinals.

The fight against Lima was Carl’s last inside of the Bellator cage, but it wasn’t his last time fighting on the big stage. He put together four straight wins on the regional circuit before getting the call up for the first World Series of Fighting event in November 2012. Carl earned submission wins in his first two WSOF bouts to earn a shot at the vacant welterweight title opposite UFC veteran Josh Burkman. Carl overcame massive odds to become the first WSOF welterweight champion when he locked up a triangle choke in the fourth round of their championship fight.

In his first title defense, Carl had his knee ripped and torn apart from the most feared leg-lock artist in the sport’s entirety, Rousimar Palhares. It took just 69 seconds for Palhares to lock on a heel hook and force the referee to stop the contest. The referee couldn’t come soon enough, however, as Carl let out an agonizing scream while Palhares furthered his infamous rap sheet of holding onto submissions for longer than he needed to. The fight was Carl’s last bout with the WSOF, as he was afforded the opportunity to join the cast of The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians. Carl was upset in the first round against Valdir Araujo after a tumultuous confrontation between teams while Carl was attempting to cut his remaining weight in the rival team’s locker room. Carl had a second opportunity to fight on the show when he faced off with rising prospect Kamaru Usman. The reality-show atmosphere wasn’t kind to Carl, however, and he lost once more. Carl got back in the win column at the end of 2015 with an impressive submission finish of Beslan Ushukov in Russia.

Carl will need to get past the undefeated Belal Muhammad if he hopes to continue his winning ways. The unbeaten Chicago native is no stranger to the Titan cage. Muhammad lived up to his nickname by winning his first two Titan fights by decision. He made his promotional debut with a decision victory over Alabama native Keith Johnson before picking up his second professional win against Hawaiian Zane Kamaka. Muhammad’s best win, however, came outside the promotion when “Remember the Name” was fighting under the Bellator banner. In his second Bellator outing, he defeated A.J. Matthews.

Carl is the favorite heading into this fight for the vacant title, and for good reason. Carl has earned finishes in 19 of his 22 career wins over the course of his nearly 11-year career. Muhammad is a well-rounded fighter who is comfortable in all areas of a fight, but he will have to contend in the grappling exchanges with a strong welterweight, which could mean Muhammad adjusts his game plan to use his footwork and movement to tire the larger Carl. Carl has had trouble in the wrestling game in his past few fights, leading to losses and a large amount of time spent in disadvantageous positions. Muhammad may attempt to fight Carl in this manner, but that very well could have the opposite effect. Carl takes what Muhammad can give him and he gives it right back in the way of a fight-ending submission.

LW: Jason Novelli (11-1) vs. Yosdenis Cedeno (10-5)

Jason Novelli is a skilled martial artist hailing from the Pacific Northwest. The 36-year-old splits time between his primary gym, Rose City FC, and Team Quest in Portland, Ore. “Pepsi” returned to his professional MMA career in 2013 after a nearly eight-year gap between his pro debut and his second professional contest. Novelli started a six-fight winning streak before getting his first opportunity at a championship at Super Fight League America 3, Super Fight League’s co-promoted event with Washington-based promotion Cage Sport. Novelli dropped the fight to Ben “Phoenix Jones” Fodor when his consciousness left his body from a rear-naked choke in the third round.

Novelli put himself back in the win column with a rear-naked choke of his own, the first step on the path to his current four-fight winning streak. Novelli debuted with Titan FC against E.J. Brooks in September. After he picked up a decision win over the Bellator veteran, Novelli stepped outside of the promotion for his next bout, a lightweight title fight in the Alaska Fighting Championship. Novelli submitted Cody Rice with a rear-naked choke in the second round to further his success since dropping to 155 pounds. Novelli most recently ended Titan FC veteran Zak Bucia’s four-fight winning streak with a decision win at Titan FC 37 in March.

Yosdenis Cedeno, 31, will return to the cage for the first time since being cutting from the UFC. The Cuban-American fights out of Jaco Hybrid Training Center and the Blackzilians camp, returns to fight in his home state for the first time since he joined the UFC. Cedeno earned his spot inside the Octagon after picking up strong wins over UFC veteran Anthony Christodoulou and Bellator vet Torrance Taylor on his way to winning the CFA lightweight title.

Once in the Octagon, Cedeno debuted as an almost three-to-one favorite over the undefeated BAMMA Badbeat lightweight champion Ernest Chavez. Chavez was able to add in two key takedowns and ground control to sway two of the three judges in a close contest. Cedeno won his first UFC fight in his next bout against Jerrod Sanders at UFC Fight Night 45 in July 2014. Cedeno was next matched against rising Canadian prospect Chad Laprise. The tough match-up proved to be too much for Cedeno, who was taken down in all three rounds and lost a unanimous decision. Cedeno most recently fought and lost to thick-headed veteran Cody Pfister at UFC 189.

Cedeno is an all-or-nothing fighter in many ways. He has found himself down in fights where he wasn’t able to stay off the mat, but he has also showcased his strong leg kicks and offensive attack, even in losses. With nearly nine months since his last fight and almost two years since his last win, it’s safe to say Cedeno will be hungry for a victory. The question leading into this fight is if he can defend the takedown against an experienced grappler like Novelli.

These fighters have been trending in opposite directions, and Cedeno’s misfortune will continue if he can’t stay on his feet. Novelli will find a way to keep Cedeno down long enough to get the judges’ nod, but don’t expect the most aesthetically pleasing performance. This fight could get pretty ugly for Novelli if he can’t keep it where he wants it.

FlyW: Pedro Nobre (17-2-2) vs. Sid Bice (5-0)

Pedro Nobre is a 30-year-old Brazilian who made his name beating the best of the best in Brazil. The well-rounded flyweight showcased his diverse skills when he began his career with an impressive 14-fight unbeaten streak that included 12 finishes. Nobre was cast as a member on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. He lost his first TUF fight when he was knocked out in the first round against Marcos VinĂ­cius two weight classes above his normal weight category. The Brazilian Top Team member tasted his first professional defeat at the hands (and knees) of rising WSOF prospect Sheymon Moraes in the finals of a one-night tournament. The setback was a surprise to many. Nobre moved back into the win column with two wins in one night to capture the once-thriving Bitetti Combat’s flyweight tournament crown.

Nobre’s stellar record was enough to convince Zuffa brass to give the Brazilian another chance with the promotion to fill in for an injured George Roop against top-10 fighter Iuri Alcântara. The bout was marred with controversy when the much larger former lightweight Alcântara took Nobre’s back and started landing punches from the top. Alcântara was warned by the referee that he was hitting the back of the head, and the bout had to be stopped when the fouls continued. The action of Alcântara wasn’t controversial; it was the result of the referee stepping in that gave way to Nobre not being able to continue in an odd conclusion to the fight. The bout was ruled a no-contest by the Brazilian commission, but Nobre’s actions seemed to leave a bad taste in the promotion’s mouth. That would be Nobre’s last chance with the promotion.

Sid Bice is an undefeated American prospect training out of FactoryX Muay Thai in Englewood, Colo. Bice has impressed on his way up the Colorado MMA fight scene. He made a name for himself with impressive performances in his home state’s Sparta Combat League. Bice earned two knockout wins on his way to an opportunity with UFC feeder organization Resurrection Fighting Alliance, where he knocked off fellow unbeaten prospect Eric Shelton at RFA 16 in 2014. Bice spent more than 14 months on the sidelines before getting the chance to debut in Titan FC. He impressed in his first bout under his new promotion when he took home a decision from another formerly undefeated fighter, Shaine Jaime, at Titan FC 35 in September.

Nobre will head into this bout as the clear favorite. Bice has racked up wins on his way to his biggest career opportunity to date, but facing one of the top flyweights outside of the UFC in just his sixth fight is a tough task, and one that may leave him fighting uphill all night. Bice is an impressive athlete who will likely hang with Nobre in most areas of the fight, but Nobre just went 25 minutes with consensus top-20 flyweight Tim Elliott just last month.

Nobre will show his veteran poise and shake off his rust for a much-needed win.

HW: Jack May (7-2) vs. Chase Sherman (9-1)

Jack May is a 35-year-old heavyweight training with Southern California’s Combat Submission Wrestling training center, better known by its acronym, CSW. The 6-foot-8 May trains alongside top-10 UFC heavyweight contender Josh Barnett. May has had many more downs than ups over the past two years, but the once promising heavyweight striker is finally headed back into the cage on Saturday night.

May’s journey over the past two years has been long. “The Outlaw” grew his hype by knocking out six of his first seven opponents on the California regional scene. He was reward for his impressive undefeated stretch when the UFC came calling with a fight contract. May was matched against Derrick Lewis, one of the heaviest-handed fighters in the division, in his Octagon debut. May returned as the underdog against fellow rising big man Shawn Jordan, but he dropped the fight in the third round. The knockout loss stands as May’s last fight, which came more than two years ago.

May could have trouble shaking off the ring rust in his long-anticipated return against Chase Sherman. The “Vanilla Gorilla” has amassed an impressive eight first-round knockouts since making his professional debut just over two years ago. May has hit bumps in the road to actualize stepping inside of the Titan FC cage, whereas Sherman has impressed with each victory. Sherman’s lone setback was at the hands of current UFC fighter Alex Nicholson at the end of 2014.

This match-up was previously scheduled to take place at Titan FC 36, but the event was canceled because of the health of CEO Jeff Aronson. Now, these knockout artists will clash in the middle of the cage and only one man will remain standing.

May has fought through much adversity to get to this fight. That resiliency will finally pay off in the form of a big win on Saturday night. May puts Sherman down in the first round.

Fight Card Predictions
Fight Prediction
140-pound Catchweight: Bruce Lutchmedial (4-1) vs. Pablo Alfonso (9-7) Alfonso by submission
FW: Peter Petties (3-0) vs. Caio Rocha (4-0) Rocha by decision
BW: Jose Torres (1-0) vs. Reynaldo Duarte (8-8) Torres by submission
FW: Cory Tait (8-3) vs. Andrew Whitney (12-4) Tait by knockout