Igeu Kabesa (EFC Worldwide)

Out of Obscurity: ProFC 62, M-1 Challenge 75, EFC Worldwide 57 and Cage Warriors 81

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…

ProFC 62: Lightweight Grand Prix Finals
KSK Ekspress in Rostov-on-Don, Russia
Event Date: March 3
Website: Facebook/ProfcLeague
Twitter: @profc_MMA


Spotlight Fight:
Kamil Magomedov (8-1) vs. Vladimir Kanunnikov (7-0)

The Russian and Dagestani regions continue to produce prospects at a ridiculous rate. Two young up-and-comers from this group will be featured at ProFC 62. Lightweights Kamil Magomedov and Vladimir Kanunnikov take top billing at an event that also features a welterweight title showdown between prospect Maxim Shvets and veteran competitor Dimitry Zebroski.

The 24-year-old Magomedov turned pro in 2012 and reeled off six straight stoppage victories before suffering his first and only setback. He did finish two of these six opponents via strikes, but his more common go-to was the choke submission, which accounted for the other four victories. He lost his seventh pro fight when he fell on the scorecards to the unheralded Artur Zainukov. The Krepost Fight Club export rebounded with two wins in his 2016 campaign. The Dagestani fighter made his ProFC debut early in the year with a choke submission of .500 fighter Adam Tsurov and closed out the year with a choke finish of Aziz Hajdarov, another rather inexperienced .500 fighter.

Kanunnikov checks in at a year younger than his opponent. The Russian kicked things off in 2013 and has been perfect through seven pro outings. The ProFC mainstay captured unanimous verdicts in his first three bouts before finding first-round submissions in back-to-back contests. He resumed his penchant for going the distance in his two most recent affairs. First, he edged 1-1 fighter Ruslan Gasankhanov in a split verdict. Then, he took the unanimous nod over 14-14 veteran Claudiere Freitas.

While these two prospects have head-turning marks, neither has an eye-opener among their victories. Magomedov’s loss to a debuting pro is not very encouraging, but neither is Kanunnikov’s inability to finish inexperienced, mediocre competition. The biggest difference comes in how these men capture their victories. Kanunnikov relies heavily on outworking his opponents and taking the win on the scorecards. Magomedov is a much more decisive finisher.

Magomedov has a habit of taking foes to the mat and finishing them by submission. Kanunnikov is a grinder, but he might not be able to survive an entire fight against Magomedov. This one is likely to end with a tapout.

Other key bouts: Maxim Shvets (11-3) vs. Dimitry Zebroski (14-9-1) for the welterweight title, Shamil Bashirov (1-0) vs. Boris Miroshnichenko (15-9), Ali Abdulkhalikov (2-0) vs. Yves Landu (8-6), Gamzat Saidbegov (3-0) vs. Andrey Goncharov (5-2), Amirkhan Guliev (6-1) vs. Georgy Sakaev (0-2), Magomedrasul Gasanov (6-2) vs. Ruslan Khaskhanov (16-9), Sadrudin Vakhidov (3-0) vs. Arslan Eslemesov (4-2), Gusey Gadzhiev (2-0) vs. Roman Ogulchanskiy (1-1)

M-1 Challenge 75
Sports Complex Olimpiyskiy in Moscow
Event Date: March 3
Website: m1global.tv
Watch Event: Russia 2 (Russia), m1global.tv
Twitter: @OfficialM1

Spotlight Fight:
Alexander Shlemenko (54-9) vs. Paul Bradley (23-7)

While ProFC showcases the youngster, fans can check out some veterans at fellow Russian promotion M-1 Challenge’s 75th event. The lineup features undefeated prospect Alexey Kunchenko and familiar American name Keon Caldwell, but the main event garners our attention. The middleweight scrap features former Bellator champion Alexander Shlemenko against American veteran Paul Bradley.

Shlemenko has seemingly hit his stride again following a rough couple of years in which he first went up in weight and suffered a loss to Tito Ortiz and then dropped his Bellator title with a loss to Brandon Halsey. Two fights later, he failed a drug test that led to the reversal of his victory over Melvin Manhoef to a no-contest and a year-long suspension. Shlemenko returned to action in early 2016 and notched a pair of victories over top Russian fighter Vyacheslav Vasilevsky while competing under the M-1 banner. The knockout artist returned to Bellator in October and finished UFC veteran Kendall Grove. This will be his first fight of 2017.

Bradley, who typically fights at welterweight, steps back up to the 185-pound ranks for his shot at a marquee match-up with Shlemenko on Russian shores. The grinding wrestler first made his name known to fans when he appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 7. A medical condition forced him off the show, but he eventually made appearances with Strikeforce, where he lost a middleweight bout to future UFC titleholder Luke Rockhold, and the UFC, where he lost decisions to Rafael Natal and Mike Pierce. Bradley has gone on to become a Bellator regular, racking up a 3-1 record with one no-contest for the promotion. He also made an appearance with the World Series of Fighting, suffering a split decision loss to Yushin Okami in a postlim battle.

Bradley’s grinding style has led to a number of victories, but he does tend to come up short against the best opponents he’s faced. His most notable wins came against Karl Amoussou, Josh Neer and Chris Honeycutt. Shlemenko easily outpaces all of these men in terms of his in-ring success. Bradley is going to have to put the Russian on the mat and hold him there for the duration of the fight. Shlemenko, however, isn’t easy to pin down. Furthermore, the former Bellator champ can be a threat on the mat.

Bradley’s not easy to stop, but he’s also going up in weight here. He won’t have a size edge against Shlemenko. The last time Bradley faced a skilled striker at 185 pounds was also the first time Bradley was ever stopped in pro action. Shlemenko could follow suit. Even if the Russian can’t score the stoppage, he should be able to outpoint the American and keep the fight standing en route to a decision nod.

Other key bouts: Alexey Kunchenko (15-0) vs. Maksim Grabovich (5-3) for the welterweight title, Magomed Sultanakhmedov (18-5) vs. Sergey Romanov (10-1), Maxim Divnich (12-2) vs. Keon Caldwell (11-3), Boris Polezhay (15-5) vs. Carlos Eduardo (14-4), Abubakar Mestoev (3-0) vs. Niko Samsonidse (2-0), Valery Myasnikov (10-1-2) vs. Enoc Solves Torres (19-9-1), Viktor Kolesnik (9-2) vs. Young Bok Kil (8-2), Mohamed Grabinski (14-3) vs. Raul Tutarauli (7-4), Aleksey Sotnikov (4-1) vs. Roman Bogatov (1-0)

Extreme Fighting Championship Worldwide 57
Carnival City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Event Date: March 4
Website: efcworldwide.com
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:
Igeu Kabesa (8-0) vs. Danny Henry (9-2)

The South African EFC Worldwide promotion has yet to produce a top UFC star, but there are a few up-and-comers who have demonstrated potential to put the African nation on the UFC’s map. Igeu Kabesa, the promotion’s featherweight champion, is among the EFC’s top fighters. Kabesa will put his belt on the line at the company’s 57th event, where he’s set to meet Danny Henry.

The champion is a product of the Fight Fit Militia. He has a background in wrestling. Kabesa has been an EFC Worldwide mainstay for his entire pro career. He debuted in 2013 and won six fights before challenging his current opponent, Henry, for the featherweight crown. It was Kabesa’s first fight at 145 pounds after competing mostly as a lightweight. “Smiley” captured the strap with a five-round decision over Henry. He returned to action in December and submitted challenger Hanru Botha in the first round. After Boyd Allen was forced out of EFC Worldwide 57, the organization booked Kabesa in a rematch against former champ Henry.

Henry, a Scottish fighter who trains under the tutelage of James Doolan, has been competing professionally since 2011. He won his first three fights by stoppage before losing a decision to Michael Doyle. Henry rebounded with four straight wins, including a submission of the aforementioned Botha and a striking stoppage of the aforementioned Allen, en route to capturing the EFC Worldwide featherweight championship. His next fight was the unsuccessful defense against Kabesa. Henry has scored two knockout finishes in his subsequent fights to set up the rematch for the belt.

This rematch should make for a fun fight. Kabesa earned the hard-fought nod in their first meeting, but Henry had his moments in the fight as well. Despite being the taller and lankier fighter, Henry wasn’t able to run away with the stand-up. In fact, Kabesa delivered some of the best exchanges of the fight. The ground battle was a mix of momentum shifts that favored whomever landed on top.

Kabesa’s wrestling background came into play in his first meeting with Henry. He didn’t always have the best takedown technique, but he was able to use balance to make things land in his favor. Fans could be in for more of the same in what should be an entertaining rematch that goes the distance. In the end, Kabesa should retain his crown.

Other key bouts: Mike Vermeulen (4-1) vs. Elvis Moyo (6-4), Christian Holley (10-3) vs. Martin van Staden (16-9), Wessel Mostert (3-0) vs. Tony Mustard (6-1), Bokang Masunyane (1-0) vs. Luthando Biko (0-0)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 81
3 Arena in Dublin, Ireland
Event Date: March 4
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Karl Moore (7-1) vs. Josh Clark (12-3)

This week’s regional and developmental offerings were so good, we couldn’t resist throwing a fourth fight out there. This one comes courtesy of U.K. promotion Cage Warriors. The organization’s 81st show takes the company to Ireland for a bill topped by a title tilt between Karl Moore and Josh Clark for the vacant light heavyweight championship.

Moore will enjoy the home-field advantage. The Irishman trains out of Fight Academy Ireland and has already encountered several notable names from the European circuit. He debuted in 2011 and won his first three fights by submission, including a choke finish of current UFC fighter Cyril Asker. After winning his first five fights, Moore stumbled against another future UFCer, Paul Craig. Moore has since rebounded with two more stoppage wins.

The 32-year-old Clark is the veteran in this affair. “The Hillbilly Heartthrob” made his pro debut in 2007 and won his first six fights. He suffered his first setback when he stepped up in competition to take on John Troyer under the Bellator banner. Clark bounced back from the decision loss to secure a victory in his next fight, but he took his second career loss in an XFC outing in his subsequent fight. Clark again bounced back, this time with four straight wins, including a decision over veteran Marcus Finch. In between those four victories, the AFS Academy and Syndicate MMA export appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 19, where he defeated John Poppie via submission and lost to Corey Anderson by majority decision. He made his RFA debut in 2016 in a loss to Trevin Giles, but he returned to the win column with a knockout of Brent Knopp in October.

Clark, who has seven striking finishes and two submission wins, proved he’s no slouch with his performance against Anderson in their TUF exhibition bout. Anderson went on to win the light heavyweight TUF trophy, while Clark headed back to his more appropriate home in the middleweight division. Clark survived against Anderson, but Anderson has become known as a grinder more than a finisher. In Clark’s other TUF fight, the aforementioned Poppie was effective in the clinch and Clark appeared to be on his way to a loss — or, at best, a very close decision win. Then, Poppie made a mistake and ended up as the victim of a submission courtesy of Clark.

Clark has lost to some middling competition, but Moore is anything but a mediocre fighter. The Irishman has been able to stop quite a few opponents and seems more at home at 205 pounds, whereas Clark is better suited for the middleweight division. Clark has failed to post a big win in TUF or RFA competition, and he’s probably not headed for the victory here either. Moore has shown tremendous stopping ability, and he might be able to take advantage of Clark on the ground in much the same way as the aforementioned Giles did.

Other key bouts: Paull McBain (3-0) vs. Lloyd Manning (2-0), Catherine Costigan (5-2) vs. Wendy McKenna (1-0), Joe McColgan (2-0) vs. Arnold Quero (13-5), Darren O’Gorman (4-1) vs. Blaine O’Driscoll (3-1)