Demarte Pena (EFC Worldwide)

Out of Obscurity: EFC 55, Cage Warriors Unplugged and Pancrase 282

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…

Extreme Fighting Championship Worldwide 55
GrandWest Casino in Cape Town, South Africa
Event Date: Nov. 11
Watch Event: Live main card on television networks SuperSport World of Champions (Africa), Fight Now! TV (U.S., Canada and Caribbean), Abu Dhabi TV (Middle East and North Africa), Fight Sports (Europe and Asia) and ESPN Player (Europe).
Twitter: @EFCworldwide


Spotlight Fight:
Demarte Pena (11-0) vs. Irshaad Sayed (11-2)

If there’s one fighter who has truly stood out among the Extreme Fighting Championship roster, it’s Demarte Pena. Pena, who once reigned as the EFC Africa featherweight champion, shifted his sights to the bantamweight division in 2014 and quickly claimed the EFC crown for the weight class. At EFC Worldwide 55, he will put his title on the line against challenger and current interim champion Irshaad Sayed.

Pena vacated his EFC Africa featherweight crown to challenge Nkazimulo Zulu for the bantamweight title. After five hard-fought rounds, Pena emerged with the belt. He successfully defended the title against Francis Groenewald in 2014 and Cedric Doyle in 2015, but he has been out of action since his defense against Doyle. The 27-year-old fights out of Fight Fit Militia and made his pro debut in 2011. He captured the EFC Africa featherweight title in just his third fight and went on to make five successful title defenses before making the move to 135 pounds. Pena has seen the scorecards seven times, while only picking up two TKO victories and two submission wins. He’s seen the championship rounds in an astounding eight of his 11 pro fights. “The Wolf” is a SASCA grappling champion and an undefeated amateur Muay Thai competitor through six contests, but he also has a background in Shaolin Kung Fu, karate and judo.

Sayed is a 13-fight veteran who started his pro career in 2010. The “White Tiger” spent much of his early career in Asia, including six fights in Chinese promotions. In that span, he suffered two losses to Tuerxun Jumabieke and won the remainder of his fights against mediocre competition. He even made an appearance under the ONE FC banner, defeating Jessie Rafols. After a year of inactivity from early 2013 to early 2014, Sayed migrated to the EFC promotion in South Africa. He has scored five straight victories with the organization, including a win over the aforementioned Doyle for the interim bantamweight title. The 27-year-old fights out of Evolve MMA. He has scored five striking stoppages and two submission victories. He has a background in kickboxing and Muay Thai, and he has held the WPMF World Muay Thai title and the RUFF bantamweight championship in the sport of MMA.

Pena has established himself as the elite man atop the EFC roster. He can finish opponents via strikes or submissions, but he tends to be more of a grinder who is content to let the judges determine the outcome. It’s worked to Pena’s favor thus far. Sayed has a better finishing rate, but he stumbled twice against Jumabieke, another grinder.

Pena has been an extremely effective fighter throughout his EFC career. Sayed is a dangerous opponent for Pena, but he’s failed to show that he can beat someone of Pena’s caliber thus far in his career. Sayed’s best shot is going to be a knockout finish, but Pena’s likely to close the distance and neutralize any offense from the Cape Town native. Sayed’s going to have a long night and a grueling fight on his hands. Pena will emerge with the unified championship via yet another judges’ decision.

Other key bouts: Dave Mazany (13-6) vs. Leon Mynhardt (15-8) for the lightweight title, Ruan Potts (9-6) vs. Brendon Groenewald (6-4), Cameron Pritchard (3-0) vs. Dino Bagattin (11-5), Sylvester Chipfumbu (2-0) vs. Guy Mongambi (0-1)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship: Unplugged
BT Sport Studio in London
Event Date: Nov. 12
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Paddy Pimblett (12-1) vs. Julian Erosa (17-3)

Cage Warriors isn’t bothering with numbering its latest event. Instead, the show will be dubbed “Unplugged” and features two interesting title fights. Chris Fishgold will clash with Nic Herron-Webb for the company’s lightweight title. Meanwhile, young up-and-comer Paddy Pimblett takes the headlining slot when he puts his belt on the line against The Ultimate Fighter alum Julian Erosa.

Pimblett checks in at just 21 years old. “The Baddy” already has 13 fights under his belt as a pro. He made his debut in 2012 and won his first four fights before stumbling against Cameron Else in a 35-second submission loss. The Next Generation MMA Liverpool product responded to the loss by capturing eight straight wins while stepping up to face more experienced competition. Pimblett has finished three fights via TKO and scored one submission due to strikes, but chokes account for the majority of his victories. He captured the featherweight title in the Full Contact Contender promotion and made one successful defense of the belt. He most recently snagged the vacant Cage Warriors featherweight crown with a first-round TKO of Johnny Frachey in September.

Erosa is best known to mainstream MMA fans as a competitor from the 22nd season of TUF who advanced as far as the semifinals before he was knocked out by Artem Lobov. Erosa’s path through the tournament included a unanimous verdict against Jason Soares in the qualifying round, a majority decision win over Mehdi Baghdad in the elimination round and a split decision nod over Abner Lloveras. “Juicy J” made two official UFC appearances, first defeating fellow TUF 22 combatant Marcin Wrzosek by split decision at the finale event and then suffering a knockout loss to Teruto Ishihara at UFC 196. The 27-year-old Yakima MMA export did kick off his career with a nine-fight winning streak that consisted mostly of finishes, but he lost two of his next three before returning to the win column for another four straight prior to his time on TUF. Since his departure from the UFC, Erosa has scored wins over notable regional fighters Daniel Swain and Austin Springer. Despite struggling to a number of close decisions, Erosa is actually a strong finisher who has dispatched six opponents via strikes and eight by way of submission.

The 5-foot-10 Pimblett can usually utilize length to his advantage on the feet in order to connect with strikes, especially his kicks, but that won’t be the case against the taller Erosa. Pimblett’s stand-up looks stiff and awkward. His real gift is the submission game. Opponents aren’t safe in the clinch, and they can find themselves in quick trouble if they score the takedown or land on their back off a Pimblett takedown.

Erosa is definitely the biggest test to date for the young Pimblett. The TUF alum has exchanged blows with some skilled veteran opponents and often comes out on top. While his time on TUF left plenty to be desired, this is exactly the type of opponent who could give the Brit some serious headaches. Pimblett’s biggest weakness could be his submission defense, and that’s an area Erosa will seek to expose. The champ’s previous quick submission loss is cause for concern. Sometimes when a prospect, and especially one who hails from Europe, finally meets a UFC-level opponent, the results are not pretty. Erosa didn’t excel in his time inside the Octagon, but he’s certainly got the skills to hush any buzz Pimblett brings along with him.

Other key bouts: Chris Fishgold (15-1-1) vs. Nic Herron-Webb (19-7) for the lightweight title, Che Mills (16-8) vs. Matt Inman (18-8), Faycal Hucin (11-3) vs. Andreas Michailidis (7-2), Kenneth Bergh (4-0) vs. Johan Romming (9-5-1), Sam Creasey (7-0) vs. Shajidul Haque (8-2)

Pancrase 282
Differ Ariake in Tokyo
Event Date: Nov. 13
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @_PANCRASE_

Spotlight Fight:
Victor Henry (12-2) vs. Rafael Silva (27-5)

This week’s edition of Out of Obscurity is one of the rare instances where the preview doesn’t just feature one or two of the world’s biggest MMA prospects, but a full three. Victor Henry, like the aforementioned Demarte Pena and Paddy Pimblett, has been a fixture of this series for the last couple years. Henry returns to the Pancrase cage at the promotion’s 282nd event. Henry will meet fellow bantamweight Rafael Silva.

After a rocky amateur career in which he dropped two fights, Henry turned pro in 2010 and started training with Josh Barnett and the CSW crew. He won his first six pro contests before running into Joe Murphy. Murphy, a World Series of Fighting veteran and future Resurrection Fighting Alliance fighter, handed Henry his first pro loss by way of a closely contested split decision. Henry rebounded from the defeat in a big way. He scored a TKO victory over Dream veteran Hideo Tokoro and a first-round submission finish of Cory Vom Baur. Then, he stunned Masakatsu Ueda with a third-round kneebar submission finish. He claimed two more victories before mounting an unsuccessful challenge for the bantamweight title against Shintaro Ishiwatari. He returned to action in April and picked up a decision win. The 29-year-old is a taekwondo black belt, but his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills have accounted for six submission victories to go along with his two stoppages via strikes. Henry has only been stopped once, via submission, and that was during his amateur run.

Silva’s name might sound familiar to North American fans who’ve stuck with the Bellator organization. The Brazilian challenged Joe Warren for the promotion’s bantamweight title in 2014 after defeating Rodrigo Lima and Anthony Leone to win a Bellator tourney bracket. “Morcego” came up short in a five-round battle with Warren and then went on to score just one win in his subsequent two Bellator outings. The Astra Fight Team product kicked off a new winning streak when he opted to test the international waters across three continents and four different promotions. Along the way, the 31-year-old claimed Aspera featherweight gold and defeated Masakatsu Ueda under the Pancrase banner. Silva has eight wins by some form of knockout and 13 victories via submission, but he has also seen the scorecards on nine occasions.

Henry and Silva have a common opponent in Ueda. Henry stopped the veteran competitor by submission, whereas Silva had to settle for the decision nod. Overall, Henry has also been effective against better competition. Silva is no slouch and he should put up a great fight, but he can’t boast the likes of Hideo Tokoro and the aforementioned Ueda. In fact, Silva’s most notable finishes came against the aforementioned Lima and Derinaldo Guerra, while he was forced to settle for decisions against Leone and Rob Emerson.

It might be a big ask to expect Henry to finish Silva, but this highly competitive fight should go in the CSW fighter’s favor on the scorecards.

Other key bouts: Rin Nakai (17-2-1) vs. Priscila de Souza (12-7), Masakatsu Ueda (22-5-2) vs. Hidekazu Fukushima (12-3-1), Kenta Sakuma (10-3-2) vs. Kenta Takizawa (5-2), Daiji Abe (2-0) vs. Kenta Takagi (15-12), Syuri Kondo (2-0) vs. Monique Adriane Azevedo (0-0)