Matt Bessette (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: BAMMA 29, CES MMA 44 and ACB 60

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…

Genting Arena in Birmingham, West Midlands,
Event Date: May 12
Watch Event: Spike TV UK (United Kingdom), Setanta (Africa), KIX (Asia), ESPN Player (Europe), AXN SciFi Russia (Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Latvia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan). Live preliminary card stream available online at Facebook/Lonsdale and main-card stream at Facebook/BAMMAUK.
Twitter: @bammauk


Spotlight Fight:
Terry Brazier (7-1) vs. Walter Gahadza (16-1)

BAMMA has perhaps one of the oddest title systems of any high-profile promotion. Rather than crowning a single champion in each weight class, the league actually has its set of “World” champions and then another set of “Lonsdale” champs. At the promotion’s 29th offering, there are a total of four title fights. Two of these are for world titles and two are for Lonsdale titles. It’s one of these latter contests, taking place in the welterweight division, that deserves serious attention. Prospects Terry Brazier and Walter Gahadza throw down for the Lonsdale 170-pound crown.

Brazier, an NFM fighter, has been competing professionally since 2015. His first six pro fights ended in the first round. He won five of those contests, including one via submission and four by way of strikes. His only loss came in a nine-second knockout at the hands of Darren Hession. Brazier has since tacked on two decision wins and a Lion Fighting Championships welterweight crown. “The Dominator” has mostly fought inexperienced or low-level competition and only recently stepped up to meet a fellow prospect in Niklas Stolze.

Gahadza has put together a very impressive resume through 17 pro fights. He has suffered just one loss since debuting in 2011. Unfortunately, the defeat came in the “Black Sniper’s” most recent fight against Nathan Jones. Gahadza dropped a split decision to Jones in a prelim bout at BAMMA 27. Prior to the loss, the 29-year-old reeled off 16 straight victories while only going the distance three times. His most recent victory came against The Ultimate Fighter alum and UFC veteran Colin Fletcher, albeit by disqualification. Gahadza’s resume also includes far more skilled opponents than Brazier has encountered.

It’s a little odd to see a fighter emerge from a loss and get thrown into a championship affair, but that’s exactly what has happened to Gahadza. He’s quite capable of carrying a crown, too. He had a close fight against Jones that could have arguably swayed in his favor.

While Brazier is no pushover, we have yet to see him truly prove himself against a veteran presence. Gahadza provides him with a great test in this regard. The 17-fight veteran has never been dominated or finished, and he’s quite capable of dominating and quickly finishing an opponent himself.

Brazier and Gahadza are both quick starters, but Brazier has struggled to finish fights as he’s moved up to fight more seasoned opponents, even if one of those foes held a sub-.500 mark. Gahadza’s going to put a lot of pressure on Brazier, and Brazier might not be able to handle it. Brazier suffered a knockout loss while competing as a middleweight, but now he might experience his first defeat at the welterweight level.

Other key bouts: Brett McDermott (7-5) vs. Ruben Wolf (11-9) for the heavyweight title, Yannick Bahati (7-2) vs. Matthew Hallam (6-2) for the middleweight title, Tim Barnett (4-0) vs. Mario Saeed (9-3) for the Lonsdale lightweight title, Mitchell Richards (1-0) vs. Fabian Edwards (0-0), Ronnie Mann (25-9-1) vs. Daniel Crawford (8-1), Jai Herbert (4-1) vs. Rick Selvarajah (8-2), Josh Plant (1-0) vs. Daniel Cassell (2-2), Mike D’Aguiar (1-0) vs. Sam Halliday (5-5), Mick Stanton (2-0) vs. Łukasz Świrydowicz (2-3), Mindaugas Gerve (1-0) vs. Maciej Sosnowski (0-1), Shay Walsh (15-4) vs. Aaron Blackwell (15-10-1)

Classic Entertainment and Sports MMA 44
Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.
Event Date: May 12
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @CESMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Matt Bessette (21-7) vs. Jeremy Spoon (20-3)

The New England-based Classic Entertainment and Sports promotion returns to the Twin River Casino once more for its 44th show. It’s a solid lineup of veterans and fledgling prospects this time around. At the top of the bill, featherweight veteran Matt Bessette defends his CES championship against Jeremy Spoon.

Bessette has already had a taste of the bigger promotions. He has fought nine times under the Bellator banner, tallying a 7-2 mark with the promotion. He took unanimous decisions over Saul Almeida and Paul Barrow in his first two Bellator appearances and then scored a first-round knockout of Nick Piedmont. Bessette edged UFC veteran Diego Nunes in his next Bellator fight, but dropped decisions to Daniel Weichel and Scott Cleve in back-to-back bouts. He has gone on to jump back and forth between Bellator and CES, recording victories over Josh LaBerge, Kevin Roddy and Keith Richardson in the former and topping Khama Worthy, Taurean Bogguess, Ran Weathers, Joe Pingitore and Kevin Croom in the latter. However, he was also knocked out in speedy fashion in the CES cage by Lenny Wheeler. The Connecticut native has a record that is sprinkled with losses, but one of those losses came in a five-round contest against rising UFC fighter and The Ultimate Fighter alum Joe Proctor. Bessette went the full 25 minutes with Proctor en route to suffering a unanimous decision loss. The 28-year-old started his career in MMA in 2007 after only four months of formal training.

Spoon debuted in 2008 and also sports a 20-plus fight resume. The jiu-jitsu practitioner kicked things off with 12 straight wins, including eight submissions — of note, at least two of those submissions were due to strikes. Spoon also has a history with Bellator. He submitted Jerrod Sanders while fighting for the promotion in 2011 and decisioned Adam Schindler in his second Bellator appearance. Both wins contributed to his early streak. His first stumbles also came with Bellator. He entered a couple of Bellator featherweight tournaments in 2012, but he was eliminated from the first tourney following a decision loss to Daniel Straus and fell to Mike Richman in his second tourney bid. Spoon has gone 8-1 since then, with a loss to Ryan Roberts and victories over varying levels of competition.

These are two very frustrating fighters. They’ve each compiled a strong overall record, but they are far from consistent. The 32-year-old Bessette has the more notable victories. He’s been able to knock out Piedmont and Croom and edge the likes of Almeida and Nunes on the scorecards. Bessette has the ability to finish fights on the mat or in the stand-up game. Spoon relies much more heavily on the ground game.

Despite a similar amount of fights, Bessette’s biggest advantage might be his experience. He’s been in the cage with some extremely tough opponents. A victory for Spoon wouldn’t be a complete shocker, but Bessette will get the upper hand with his striking and match Spoon on the mat en route to a decision nod.

Other key bouts: Greg Rebello (21-7) vs. Kevin Sears (6-3), Jon Manley (9-3) vs. Many Walo (11-2-1), Sean Soriano (9-5) vs. Jacob Bohn (5-3), Maria Rivera (2-0) vs. Marisa Messer-Belenchia (0-0), Brian Sparrow (2-0) vs. Justin Sumter (3-1), Mike Rodriguez (7-2) vs. Alec Hooben (5-2), Carlos Candelario (5-0) vs. Shawn Mack (6-2), Jennifer Leigh Norris (3-0) vs. Kerri Kenneson (0-0)

Absolute Championship Berkut 60
Hallmann Dome in Vienna, Austria
Event Date: May 13
Website: Facebook/acberkut
Watch Event: Fite TV free stream via Combat Press
Twitter: @acb_league

Spotlight Fight:
Zach Makovsky (19-8) vs. Josiel Silva (7-1)

The UFC’s sudden willingness to part with top-10 fighters has opened the door for promotions like Absolute Championship Berkut to scoop up marquee talent. Surprisingly, ACB isn’t using its one UFC stud free-agent signing in a headlining spot at its 60th event. However, Zach Makovsky’s first post-UFC outing is still an important addition to the lineup. Makovsky will clash with prospect Josiel Silva in a flyweight scrap that fans can watch for free right here on Combat Press.

Makovsky, an NCAA Division I wrestler and former Bellator bantamweight champion, captured the Resurrection Fighting Alliance flyweight strap and punched his ticket to the UFC. Inside the Octagon, “Fun Size” impressed to the tune of three wins in four outings. He topped Scott Jorgensen, Josh Sampo and Tim Elliott on the scorecards, but he dropped a decision to Jussier “Formiga” da Silva. The loss to Formiga kept Makovsky just outside of title contention, but he was pitted against top contenders and former title challengers for his next three fights. Unfortunately, all culminated in losses. First, it was John Dodson. Then, Joseph Benavidez. Finally, Dustin Ortiz handed the 34-year-old Tristar fighter a split decision loss that prompted Makovsky’s exit from the promotion. Makovsky is a grinder who has gone the distance in 17 of his 27 pro fights since debuting in 2006.

Silva, who made his pro debut in 2012, is far less heralded. “Sobrinho” is a more consistent finisher, however. He won his first bout via strikes, but then suffered his lone career loss, also by way of strikes, in his sophomore outing. The 26-year-old bounced back with six straight wins, including two knockouts and two technical knockouts. He hasn’t even fought in any of the high-level Brazilian promotions, but Silva is now jumping across an ocean to meet a borderline top-10 flyweight.

Silva’s propensity for striking finishes makes this an interesting affair, but Makovsky has never been knocked out. Furthermore, he’s gone the distance with Dodson (nine knockouts) and Benavidez (six knockouts), a pair of fighters who scored plenty of their KO finishes in the big show. If the speedy and powerful Dodson couldn’t put Makovsky to sleep, then there’s no way Silva will.

Makovsky’s wrestling should be the deciding factor in this contest. His recent record looks horrible — just one win in his past five outings — but he’s only losing to the elite. He’s been grinding his way to decisions in the UFC, but this step back to a much lower level of competition should give him the chance to rebuild his confidence while scoring a submission finish.

Other key bouts: Arbi Aguev (28-7) vs. Andy DeVent (15-10), Ali Eskiev (6-1) vs. Igor Svirid (11-4), Shamil Nikaev (6-0) vs. Aurel Pîrtea (12-8), Benny Alloway (19-7) vs. Ismail Naurdiev (14-1), Burak Kizilirmak (7-1) vs. Marko Burušić (9-6), Tamirlan Dadaev (19-5) vs. Rafał Lewoń (13-6), L’udovit Klein (7-0) vs. Ahmed Abdulkadirov (3-0)