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…
Josh Hill (14-2) vs. Xavier Alaoui (7-0)
This weekend’s programming lineup on UFC Fight Pass includes the 36th event from the TKO MMA promotion. The card features a number of prospects, including Jo Vallée, Fritz Paul, Maguy Berchel, Lindsay Garbatt, Malcolm Gordon and T.J. Laramie, as well as UFC veteran Chris Horodecki. However, the co-headliner is the gem of this strong lineup from the Canadian organization. The bantamweight bout pits The Ultimate Fighter alum Josh Hill against undefeated up-and-comer Xavier Alaoui.
Hill came up short in a recent bid to snatch the World Series of Fighting crown from Marlon Moraes. The “Gentleman” went five rounds with Moraes in their first meeting, but Moraes walked away with the unanimous nod and the belt. In the rematch, Moraes scored a second-round knockout. Moraes snapped a four-fight winning streak for Hill that started immediately after his first loss to the WSOF champ. During the streak, Hill submitted Josh Rettinghouse, handed out the first loss to the previously undefeated Bekbulat Magomedov and decisioned Bendy Casimir. The 28-year-old Hill’s other career highlight was his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 18 as a member of Miesha Tate’s team. Hill used his smothering wrestling to grind out a two-round majority decision over Paddy Holohan in the preliminary fights, but he couldn’t conquer Michael Wootten in the elimination round. Hill was able to rock Moraes in their title fight and he has scored three finishes via strikes, but he’s not typically a finisher. Instead, he relies on his wrestling to grind out opponents. The 29-year-old has scored nine of his victories by way of decision.
Alaoui is taking a tremendous leap in competition to face Hill, who holds a 14-2 mark. The combined record of his previous seven opponents stood at 4-4 when he faced them, and he’s seen four opponents who were making their pro debut. He started his pro venture with three unanimous decision nods, but he’s reeled off submissions in his four most recent appearances. The judoka does have the advantage of training with Firas Zahabi at the Tristar Gym. The 25-year-old has a lengthy amateur resume, but even that record is dominated by fights that went the distance.
Alaoui has a bright future ahead of him, but he’s in for a rude awakening against Hill, a smothering wrestler who has twice challenged for gold in a prominent promotion. Hill is going to use his clinch work and wrestling to neutralize Alaoui, and the Quebecer is going to be left with few routes to victory beyond a surprise submission off his back. Hill isn’t exactly the most exciting fighter to watch, but he tends to get the job done. His experience will lead him to another win in this co-main event attraction.
Other key bouts: Chris Horodecki (21-6-1) vs. Derek Gauthier (7-6), Jo Vallée (4-1) vs. Fritz Paul (10-3), Maguy Berchel (5-1) vs. Lindsay Garbatt (3-1), Jimmy Spicuzza (7-3) vs. Jesse Ronson (15-8), Malcolm Gordon (8-2) vs. Dimitri Waardenburg (11-7), T.J. Laramie (3-1) vs. Maxime Dubois (5-2), Adam Dyczka (2-0) vs. Emanuel Vallée (0-0)
Tony Gordillo (7-0) vs. Tim Ruberg (14-3)
Argentina isn’t exactly a hotbed for top-level MMA, but Arena Tour has put together an excellent lineup for its eighth offering. The event features notables Gleristone Santos, Thiago Meller, Johnny Iwasaki and Martin Mollinedo, along with rising prospects Pablo Villaseca, Juan Pablo Gonzales and Steven Newell. Perhaps the best match-up of all pairs notable journeyman Tim Ruberg with the undefeated Tony Gordillo in a clash of middleweights.
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 5-2 mark that includes a recent loss to Delson Heleno. The 34-year-old is an NCAA Division III All-American wrestler.
The 23-year-old Gordillo hails from Argentina and has competed exclusively within the country’s borders. He’s put together an excellent run through nine bouts, but Ruberg is a big step up from what the Top Fighting Catamarca export has seen thus far in a career that started in 2013. Gordillo has won four bouts via strikes, but he has ended his last two affairs with submission victories.
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. He held strong against Heleno, a mat technician, in their 2015 encounter, and Gordillo, despite his recent submission wins, is no master grappler at the same level as Heleno.
The biggest knock on Gordillo is certainly his level of competition. It’s difficult to find quality opposition in a country like Argentina, and the 23-year-old’s first significant test has even required the import of an American-born, Brazilian-trained competitor. Gordillo has an uphill battle on his hands. Ruberg is a seasoned veteran, and although he has struggled at times, he should be well equipped to outwork Gordillo en route to a decision nod.
Other key bouts: Pablo Villaseca (10-2) vs. Gleristone Santos (31-6), Juan Pablo Gonzales (5-0-2) vs. Alejandro Abomohor (5-3), Thiago Meller (22-8) vs. Johnny Iwasaki (24-7), Javier Oyarzabal (5-1) vs. Martin Mollinedo (19-6), Matias Juarez (7-1-1) vs. Steven Newell (9-0), Mauro Gutierrez (2-0) vs. Francis Garcia Guerra Flores (0-0), Nicolas Varela (7-1) vs. Luciano Ramos (3-2)
Marina da Glória in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Event Date: Nov. 4
Virna Jandiroba (8-0) vs. Lisa Ellis (15-10)
Fight2Night is the newest addition to an already crowded field of Brazilian promotions, but the company has done its best to put together a strong first effort. The show features UFC veterans Thiago Silva, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Hernani Perpétuo and Paulo Thiago, The Ultimate Fighter alums Eddy and Lisa Ellis and prospects Cheick Kone, Leo Leite and Virna Jandiroba. While there are plenty of interesting pairings among this group, the women’s strawweight showdown between Jandiroba and Lisa Ellis is quite possibly the most noteworthy of battles.
Ellis will serve as another test for the up-and-coming Jandiroba. The 33-year-old United Training Center product has made the rounds as one of the pioneers for women’s MMA. The TUF 20 alum has been competing professionally since 2004, but she sits just five wins above the .500 mark through 25 career outings. Lisa, who is married to fellow Fight2Night 1 combatant Eddy Ellis, has scrapped with the likes of Jessica Aguilar (twice), Megumi Fujii (twice), Aisling Daly, Jessica Penne (one official outing, one TUF exhibition fight), Seo Hee Ham (TUF exhibition fight), Felice Herrig and Bec Rawlings. Ellis hasn’t fought since 2015, though, and she hasn’t had her hand raised in victory since 2012. The decorated grappler has 11 submission victories, but she has also suffered seven submission defeats.
Jandiroba is a rising prospect with a solid background and a resume that already includes a couple of highlights. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt debuted in 2013 and finished her first five opponents, including veteran fighter Camila Lima, with choke submissions. Her sixth appearance resulted in a decision win over veteran Aline Sattelmayer. She notched another submission win, this time by armbar, against Anne Karoline, before scoring another finish by choke submission against Cristiane Lima.
Ellis might be the pioneering veteran, but she’s been far too inactive lately and largely inconsistent throughout her MMA career. Jandiroba is a legitimate strawweight prospect on the rise, and her victories over Sattelmayer, Karoline and Cristiane Lima (twice) are proof that she’s got what it takes to get past mid-tier foes like Ellis. This should be an intriguing grappling affair with plenty of scrambles, but Jandiroba is in her prime and should be able to find a way to eventually submit her American opponent.
Other key bouts: Thiago Silva (17-5) vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (17-15), Hernani Perpétuo (18-5) vs. Eddy Ellis (20-16-1), Paulo Thiago (16-9) vs. Cheick Kone (17-4), Leo Leite (9-0) vs. Moise Rimbon (22-10-3), Lucas Rodrigues (3-1) vs. Fabio Ventura (2-0-1), Jhonata Silva (3-1) vs. Raul Andrade (0-0)
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