Vladimir Mineev (Tapology)

Out of Obscurity: M-1 Challenge 73, Fight Nights 56 and RFA 46

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…

M-1 Challenge 73: Battle of Narts
Nazran, Russia
Event Date: Dec. 9
Website: m1global.tv
Watch Event: Russia 2 (Russia), m1global.tv, O2 TV (Czech Republic), Ran Fighting (Germany), The Fight Network (Canada, Europe, Middle East, Africa), OSN (Middle East), Eleven Sports Network (Poland), VGN (Vietnam)
Twitter: @OfficialM1


Spotlight Fight:
Ramazan Emeev (14-3) vs. Anatoly Tokov (24-2)

M-1 Challenge may no longer be the only game in town when it comes to major Russian MMA organizations, but the company’s 73rd offering is proof that it can still put together a solid lineup of fights. The card, dubbed “Battle of Narts,” features two title fights and plenty of prospects. The headliner is certainly noteworthy. It features Ramazan Emeev, the promotion’s middleweight champion, in a title defense against Anatoly Tokov, a prospect with an impressive 24-2 mark over 26 career outings.

Emeev, a Russian-based fighter of Azerbaijani descent, has been competing at the professional level since 2009. He posted a 6-2 record before becoming a mainstay of the M-1 Challenge promotion. Since he debuted under the company’s banner, the 29-year-old has gone 8-1 while holding the middleweight title on two separate occasions. His only M-1 Challenge loss came in a title defense against Vyacheslav Vasilevsky, but Emeev turned around in his next fight and avenged the loss. In his separate title runs, he’s made successful defenses against UFC veterans Mario Miranda, whom he also defeated to capture the title, and Luigi Fioravanti. He’s also notched a victory against UFC and Bellator vet Maiquel Falcão. The Gorets product was set to meet Alexander Shlemenko in June, but he sustained an injury and was forced to withdraw from the contest. Emeev has seven wins by submission and three victories by some form of knockout.

Tokov, who also made his pro debut in 2009, got off to a quick start when he blazed through his first seven foes all by way of stoppage. In that run, he finished six opponents via strikes and disposed of the other opponent with an armbar submission. He stumbled in back-to-back fights to close out 2011 and open 2012, but Tokov has been perfect ever since, accounting for an astounding 17 straight victories. As a member of the Stary Oskol team under Alexander Nevsky, Tokov is a teammate of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. He has scored 14 wins by either knockout or technical knockout, and he’s eliminated an additional five adversaries via submission. He claimed an Absolute Championship Berkut tournament title after stopping Maxim Shvets in the quarterfinal round, Adam Zając in the semis and Arbi Aguev in the finals. The 26-year-old has also appeared under the Rizin banner, where he stopped AJ Matthews in just 55 seconds.

Tokov has looked unstoppable during his current winning streak. He has seen a few decisions in his run, including a unanimous nod over Vladimir Filipović in a 192-pound catchweight affair in his most recent outing, but he tends to put away his opponents in dominant fashion. Emeev is a much tougher test for Tokov, though. The champ has been fighting UFC castoffs while finding plenty of success.

Tokov poses the greatest threat to Emeev when the fighters are standing. The champ needs to get the fight to the mat and work his submission game. He has performed admirably against the likes of the aforementioned Falcão, whom he submitted early in their contest, and Vasilevsky, a fighter who had previously connected with his chin in their first fight before also suffering a submission loss to Emeev.

This fight should be an entertaining scrap where both fighters take an aggressive approach while looking for the finish. Tokov has the power to score a big knockout and capture the gold, but Emeev’s experience against higher-level competition could be the difference. The champ will retain the belt by grounding his opponent and hunting for the submission.

Other key bouts: Ivan Buchinger (31-4) vs. Magomed Idrisov (6-0) for the featherweight title, Lee Morrison (14-7) vs. Movsar Evloev (5-0), Josh Rettinghouse (13-4) vs. Sergey Morozov (6-1), Diego D’Avila (15-5) vs. Zalimbeg Omarov (7-1-1), Alexei Nevzorov (11-2) vs. Andrey Lezhnev (11-6)

Fight Nights Global 56: Russia’s MMA Supercup 2016
Vladivostok, Russia
Event Date: Dec. 9
Website: fightnights.ru
Twitter: @Fnsofficial

Spotlight Fight:
Vladimir Mineev (8-0) vs. Maiquel Falcão (36-9)

Russian MMA has a busy weekend. In addition to the M-1 Challenge offering, Friday’s lineup also includes a card from Fight Nights Global. The promotion’s 56th event lacks the depth of its rival, but it called upon a UFC veteran to top the bill. Maiquel Falcão continues his search for consistency when he clashes with fellow middleweight Vladimir Mineev in the evening’s main event.

Falcão’s troubles outside of the cage played a significant role in his departure from the UFC after an uninspired victory over Gerald Harris in his lone Octagon appearance. The Brazilian has also made a stop in Bellator, where he marched through Norman Paraisy, Vyacheslav Vasilevsky and Andreas Spang in a middleweight tournament to earn his shot against Alexander Shlemenko. Shlemenko dropped the Brazilian in round two. Falcão has suffered numerous setbacks since the loss. He has gone 5-4 in that stretch, with losses to Mamed Khalidov, Vasilevsky, Aziz Karaoglu and Ramazan Emeev. The 35-year-old has a penchant for knockout finishes — he has stopped 24 opponents via strikes — but he also registered seven submission wins. His inconsistency in the cage has also led to six knockout defeats and three submission losses.

Mineev is a highly decorated kickboxer who is just starting to get his feet wet in the MMA world. The 26-year-old made his pro MMA debut in 2014, but he’s been active in the pro kickboxing circuit since 2009. The striker hasn’t settled into just one weight class, instead opting to bounce around between weights ranging from 176 pounds on the small end of the scale on up to light heavyweight at his heaviest. Along the way, Mineev has finished five opponents with his fists and two by way of submission. His kickboxing resume includes 11 knockout stoppages.

Mineev scored first-round finishes in his first five MMA fights, but his best opponents in this stretch were Xavier Foupa-Pokam, a struggling UFC veteran, and Yasubey Enomoto, who pushed Mineev to the first decision of his pro MMA career.

Normally, a seasoned fighter and UFC veteran would seem like a mismatch for a kickboxer with an upstart MMA resume. However, Falcão doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. He’s been on the losing side too often against a mix of competition that falls far short of the elite level. Falcão should give Mineev some real struggles, but the kickboxer could bring a quick end to the evening by using his striking at range to pick apart the Brazilian.

Other key bouts: Magomedsaygid Alibekov (7-0) vs. Nariman Abbasov (13-2) for the lightweight title, Evgeny Shalomaev (3-0) vs. David Gladun (0-0)

Resurrection Fighting Alliance 46
Branson Convention Center in Branson, Mo.
Event Date: Dec. 9
Website: rfafighting.com
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @RFAfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Jordan Johnson (5-0) vs. Lemarcus Tucker (5-1)

Last week signified the end of an era for Legacy Fighting Championship, and Gerald Harris delivered a loud and clear bang to those proceedings with his finish of Alex Cobb. This week, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance is bowing out with its swan song. Next year, these two promotions will merge into one under the Legacy Fighting Alliance banner. The RFA effort doesn’t even deliver a name as big as Gerald Harris at its 46th and final show, but it certainly features a better list of prospects, including light heavyweight title hopefuls Jordan Johnson and Lemarcus Tucker.

Johnson came to the RFA by way of Arizona’s Power MMA camp after stints at the MMA Lab and then Alliance. He debuted in 2014 and pummeled his first two opponents with strikes. His third fight came in the RFA cage, where he needed just 48 seconds to submit Gemenie Strehlow. Johnson continued his rampage with another RFA win, this time with a 52-second submission finish of Ryan Debelak. Johnson, who had still yet to see the second round after his fourth pro fight, went into the third frame at RFA 39 before recording a submission finish of Shaun Asher.

Tucker isn’t quite as perfect as the man he’ll face for RFA’s vacant light heavyweight crown. The “Freight Train” hit the regional circuit in 2014 and defeated his first three opponents, including two by stoppage. Then he ran into Bryan McVea and suffered a technical knockout loss in the third round. The Arkansas-based fighter responded with another win as a heavyweight before dropping to light heavyweight and defeating John Lair. This will be the 32-year-old Tucker’s RFA debut.

This fight delivers great odds for a finish. Johnson has only been past the first round once, and he’s never seen the scorecards. Tucker, meanwhile, has gone the distance once. Both men are capable of finishing the fight on the mat or with their fists, though Johnson appears the better bet for a submission finish and Tucker the stronger pick to end this fight by knockout.

Tucker’s previous loss came to a sub-.500 fighter, which is alarming. While it might be easy to write it off as a consequence of fighting a bigger man at heavyweight, Tucker actually outweighed McVea by three pounds. Johnson has yet to be defeated, so we haven’t really seen any huge holes in his game yet. He could tag Tucker early and capitalize by following Tucker to the mat and securing the submission finish.

Other key bouts: James Nakashima (5-0) vs. Dez Hill (8-3), Bobby Moffett (8-2) vs. T.J. Brown (7-3), Katy Collins (5-1) vs. Mandy Polk (3-2), Dontale Mayes (2-0) vs. Kenny Fredenburg (7-4), Stephen Skoch (3-0) vs. Marcu Hutch (1-0)