Seo Hee Ham (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: Road FC 39, Fury FC 17 and Aspera FC 53

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…

Road Fighting Championship 39
Jangchung Gymnasium in Seoul, South Korea
Event Date: June 10
Watch Event: Fite TV free stream via Combat Press
Twitter: @ROADFC


Spotlight Fight:
Seo Hee Ham (17-8) vs. Mina Kurobe (10-2)

After spending the last two-plus years on a quest to find success in the UFC’s strawweight division, former Deep atomweight titleholder Seo Hee Ham is back where she belongs. At Road FC’s 39th event, Ham returns to the 106-pound division to clash with rising prospect Mina Kurobe for the South Korean promotion’s vacant atomweight championship.

At 17-8, Ham has a very misleading record. Her resume consists of a mix of atomweight and strawweight affairs, and she’s only managed to find mixed success outside of the atomweight division. At 106 pounds, however, the South Korean fighter has posted a win over Naho Sugiyama to claimed the Deep atomweight strap and then defended the title with wins over Sadae Suzumura and Saori Ishioka. Ham had cracked the atomweight top 10 before shifting her focus back to the strawweight division. The Busan Team MAD export lost her UFC debut to Joanne Calderwood. Ham rebounded with a win over Cortney Casey, but then lost back-to-back fights to Bec Rawlings and Danielle Taylor. The 30-year-old Ham, a veteran of the kickboxing and shoot boxing circuits, has delivered just two submission wins. She tends to claim victory on the scorecards instead.

Kurobe, 40, is a late bloomer as an MMA fighter. The Master Japan product, who has a background in grappling, debuted in December 2012 at the age of 35. She won her first five fights, including three by way of rear-naked choke submission. Her victories, however, came primarily against opponents who currently sit right around the .500 mark. When she stepped up to face Mei Yamaguchi, Kurobe fell on the scorecards. Her next fight, which came against the aforementioned Sugiyama, also ended in disappointment when the scorecards were read. Kurobe regained her confidence with wins over MMA newcomers Hana and Renju Date, who had a combined 1-0 mark when they clashed with Kurobe. The Deep Jewels mainstay then stepped it up and scored significant wins over veterans Tomo Maesawa and Saori Ishioka. She then rematched and defeated Sugiyama for the Deep atomweight strap. In late May, Kurobe made a grappling appearance with Deep that ended in a draw with fellow MMA fighter Emi Tomimatsu.

Kurobe has had an excellent start to her career, but she’s already 40 and might not have many years of active competition left. Despite her own grappling acumen, Kurobe has scored just three submissions. She has gone the distance in six of her victories. The Japanese fighter’s goal will be to get this fight to the ground and control Ham for the bout’s duration.

Ham has faced quite a few solid strawweight opponents, so Kurobe’s going to have a difficult time bullying the Korean fighter around. Furthermore, Ham has looked her best while competing as an atomweight. Her return to the division is a welcome one for fans of the atomweight ladies. Ham’s not a finisher and neither is Kurobe, so this one is likely to require the judges. Ham’s return to the division should be a triumphant one, and yet more proof that she belongs at the lower weight.

Other key bouts: Kai Asakura (8-0) vs. Je Hoon Moon (9-9), Yoshiko Hirano (1-0) vs. Sun Yoo Cheon (0-2), Rafael Fiziev (3-0) vs. Seung Yeon Kim (2-1), In Jae La (5-0-1) vs. In Ho Cha (2-3), Se Young Kim (3-0) vs. Jung Young Lee (3-0)

Fury Fighting Championship 17
Shrine Auditorium in San Antonio
Event Date: June 10
Watch Event: FloCombat
Twitter: @FuryFightingTX

Spotlight Fight:
Roger Narvaez (8-2) vs. Antonio Jones (5-1)

The Texas-based Fury Fighting Championship heads to San Antonio for its 17th event. The show, which is heavy on amateur and inexperienced talent, does include an interesting marquee match-up between UFC veteran Roger Narvaez and upstart Antonio Jones. The pair will vie for the Fury FC light heavyweight crown.

Narvaez, a taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, had his moment in the spotlight when he stepped into the Octagon to meet Patrick Cummins at UFC Fight Night 42. The “Silverback” suffered a second-round technical knockout to Cummins. While he did rebound with a split nod over Luke Barnatt, Narvaez continued to struggle on the big stage. After suffering another TKO, this time against Elias Theodorou, the 33-year-old was dismissed by the UFC. Narvaez, who has competed primarily at middleweight during his pro career, moved back to light heavyweight and topped Juan Torres in his Fury FC debut in November. He’ll remain at 205 pounds for this fight against Jones.

“Doomsday” enters this contest with a strong record through six fights. The 32-year-old debuted at middleweight in 2015 and has competed at 185 pounds up until now. He submitted fellow rookie Derrick Beroit in his debut outing, but then moved to more seasoned competition. His subsequent wins have come against fighters who sported a combined 27-23 record when they met Jones. The New Mexico-based fighter knocked out Billy Colon and Patrick Miller. He also scored a notable win, albeit via a close decision, over Bellator and Legacy FC veteran Ike Villanueva. However, he faced a setback when he encountered Juan Ramon Grado, who submitted Jones in a June 2016 showdown.

Jones might flash a prospect record — Sherdog lists him as 4-0 and Tapology as 5-0, while the UG fighter database has him at just 3-1 — but these results can be misleading. Jones has lost as a pro, and he also has one loss — another submission — as an amateur. Jones is vulnerable on the ground.

Narvaez happens to be a skilled grappler, which doesn’t bode well for Jones. The UFC veteran should be able to expose the holes in his opponent’s game and work over Jones on the mat. This one will end with a submission finish for Narvaez.

Other key bouts: Alec Williams (5-1) vs. Travonne Hobbs (3-9)

Aspera Fighting Championship 53
Crocobeach Complex in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil
Event Date: June 10
Website: Facebook/asperafc
Twitter: @AsperaFC

Spotlight Fight:
Alan dos Santos (16-4) vs. Marcos “Forever” dos Santos (8-1)

The main event of Aspera Fighting Championship 53 pairs two men who share the same last name and a thirst for gold. The vacant Aspera lightweight title will be on the line when Alan dos Santos clashes with Marcos “Forever” dos Santos.

Alan dos Santos is a member of the Astra Fight Team. He debuted in 2009 and went 12-1 through his first 13 pro fights. His only loss in this stretch came against Renato Gomes. In 2014, dos Santos advanced to the semifinals of the XFC International lightweight tournament before he was eliminated by Gláucio Eliziário. After a three-fight winning streak, he suffered back-to-back losses to veteran competitors David Cubas and Gilmar Dutra Lima. His most recent outing, a September 2015 bout, ended in technical knockout win for the veteran. Dos Santos can get the job done anywhere, as evidenced by his eight knockouts and six submissions.

Forever has been fighting professionally since 2012. He scored stoppages in his first four fights before emerging on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Vladson Alves. He responded with another four straight victories, including a Limo Fight interim lightweight title win over Paulo Machado. Overall, he has four wins by some form of knockout and one submission finish.

Forever has had more consistency, but he hasn’t clashed with the same level of opposition that Alan dos Santos has seen in his career. They are likely to deliver a good back-and-forth on the feet, but dos Santos should edge Forever on the mat if the fight goes to the ground. On the feet, it’s perhaps a bit more even, but it’s still a safe bet that the Astra fighter can overcome to take the judges’ nod and leave the cage with the belt.

Other key bouts: Gustavo Erak (15-3-1) vs. Michael William Costa (12-6), Hermes Franca (23-17) vs. Eduardo Andrade (4-3)

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Vitaly Minakov vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at FNG 68 Minakov by KO Minakov by KO
Dominick Reyes vs. Jordan Powell at LFA 13 Reyes by finish Reyes by KO
Marif Piraev vs. Gilmar Dutra Lima at GM World League II Piraev by KO Piraev by submission