Ben Askren (ONE Championship)

Out of Obscurity: LFA 21, ONE Championship and KOTC

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…

Legacy Fighting Alliance 21
Branson Convention Center in Branson, Mo.
Event Date: Sept. 1
Watch Event: AXS TV
Twitter: @LFAfighting


Spotlight Fight:
Kyle Noblitt (8-0) vs. Antônio Paulo “Montanha” Branjão (4-0)

The 21st offering from the Legacy Fighting Alliance has several top prospects vying for the attention of the big leagues. In addition to the likes of Grady Hurley, Trey Ogden and Katy Collins, the lineup features a headliner between undefeated light heavyweights Kyle Noblitt and Antônio Paulo “Montanha” Branjão.

Noblitt enters the cage as the more experienced fighter. The 27-year-old went 7-1 as an amateur before finally turning pro in 2015. He’s streaked out to an 8-0 start as a pro. His only amateur defeat came via submission. As a pro, he’s only been out of the first round twice, earning one decision win and one second-round submission finish. He also had five first-round stoppages as an amateur. Noblitt has primarily fought as a heavyweight. He recently started upping his level of competition to take on veteran competitors Bryan McVea and Rob Morrow, fighting both men in a single night. However, his most notable outing is likely his second pro fight, which came on the preliminary card of Bellator 150 and ended in just 45 seconds by way of a technical knockout. The Glory MMA and Fitness fighter was an all-state wrestler during his high school years. Noblitt does have a troubled past, however. He was reportedly set to fight on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series before reports surfaced that he is a registered sex offender in the state of Missouri. DWTNCS opted not to feature Noblitt.

Those who prefer not to support someone who has been charged with attempted rape will obviously cheer on Noblitt’s opponent, the Brazilian Montanha. The 29-year-old has posted a perfect record through four fights, but he has not fought on a consistent basis. The Team Nogueira export debuted as a pro in 2012 and scored a technical knockout of Eduardo Silva. The following year, he tacked on two more first-round knockouts. He was absent from official activity in 2014, but that’s because he was a member of the cast for The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3. On the reality series, Montanha defeated Fernando Camoles via strikes to make it into the house, but he was ultimately eliminated when he was stopped via strikes by eventual heavyweight finalist Vitor Miranda. Montanha returned to action in 2015 with another TKO finish, this time against Stefano Alves. He was slated to meet Joachim Christensen in 2016, but the bout fell through. His fight against Noblitt will be his first outing in more than two years.

There’s a lot of finishing ability in this fight between two men who have journeyed into the heavyweight division before but will compete at 205 pounds in this headliner. Noblitt has a more diverse arsenal of finishes. He’s stopped three opponents with submissions and four with strikes. Montanha prefers to let his striking do the work. Someone’s likely to have a short night in this main event.

Montanha has the height advantage, but he’s outclassed in the experience and wrestling departments. The Brazilian’s recent stretch of inactivity hurts his chances as well. Noblitt might not be a very likable person, but he has the tools to be a strong fighter, albeit one who misses out on opportunities due to his checkered past. Noblitt is likely to use his wrestling to get this fight to the mat, where he’ll pummel Montanha for the TKO finish.

Other key bouts: Grady Hurley (14-1) vs. Kevin Holland (9-3), Trey Ogden (8-1) vs. T.J. Brown (9-4), Katy Collins (7-2) vs. Shannon Sinn (3-5), Charles Johnson (4-0) vs. Jeremiah Cullum (6-1), Yazan Hajeh (5-0) vs. Oscar Valdez (7-4), Dakota Bush (3-0) vs. Jose Martinez (7-2)

ONE Championship: Shanghai
Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China
Event Date: Sept. 2
Watch Event: pay-per-view stream at
Twitter: @ONEChampionship

Spotlight Fight:
Ben Askren (16-0) vs. Zebaztian Kadestam (9-3)

Fun fact: the man that UFC President Dana White labeled as a boring fighter has scored finishes in five of his last seven fights. That man is ONE Championship welterweight titleholder Ben Askren. While Askren’s reputation for utilizing his wrestling to neutralize opponents and blanket them on the mat for round after round has been earned, he’s shedding this style for a flashier finishing strategy. Still undefeated through 16 pro outings, Askren puts his belt on the line in Shanghai when he fights Zebaztian Kadestam.

Askren is, of course, one of the best fighters outside of the UFC. The two-time NCAA Division I national champion wrestler made his pro debut in 2009 and conquered Bellator’s tournament format by 2010 to earn a shot at the Bellator welterweight champion, Lyman Good. Askren topped Good on the scorecards and won his next three Bellator fights by decision. The “Funky” one took out his last two Bellator opponents, including future champ Andrey Koreshkov, by stoppage. Despite his tremendous run, Bellator and the UFC passed on Askren when he became a free agent. This led the Roufusport fighter overseas to ONE Championship, where he debuted with a submission win over Bakhtiyar Abbasov and then successfully challenged for the title against Nobutatsu Suzuki. Following a botched title defense against Luis “Sapo” Santos, Askren went on to compete in a catchweight bout against Nikolay Aleksakhin that went the distance. Then, he defended his title with a first-round submission of Agilan Thangalapani. Overall, the elite wrestler has tallied four knockout wins and five submission victories.

Kadestam is a somewhat accomplished journeyman in the Pacific region. The Swedish fighter debuted in 2011 and won his first four fights. He stumbled in his fifth outing, which came against Silas Maynard in China. Kadestam lost a decision to Maynard, but he rebounded with a stoppage win over Ross Ebanez and then claimed Pacific X-treme Combat gold with a decision nod over Josh Calvo. He successfully defended the title twice, but he suffered a loss sandwiched in between those title defenses. The loss came in his homeland under the International Ring Fight Arena banner against Hakon Foss, who held a 3-2 mark entering the bout. Following his second PXC title defense, the Pancrase Gym Sweden export stumbled yet again, this time in a submission defeat against veteran Juho Valamaa. “The Bandit” bounced back less than two months later when he made his ONE debut opposite Askren’s nemesis, the aforementioned Santos. With the win over Santos, Kadestam punched his ticket to a match-up with Askren. Kadestam has seven finishes via strikes.

Askren’s ONE Championship opponents thus far have held a combined 108-15-3 mark prior to their fights with the “Funky” one. Yet, 61 of those victories belong to Sapo, and Sapo’s 2-4 Bellator run and 0-1 WEC stint represent the only world-class competition outside of ONE for any of those opponents. Kadestam brings a 9-3 mark, but he, too, has not proven himself on the world stage. Furthermore, the Swede appears to have some serious holes in his game that have been exploited by the likes of the aforementioned Maynard, Foss and Valamaa, none of whom stand out as world-class fighters.

If Foss could edge Kadestam on the scorecards and Valamaa could submit the Swede, Askren shouldn’t even have to break a sweat. Any sure-thing fight comes with the caveat that “anything can happen in MMA,” but this should be all Askren. If the fight goes the distance, it’s only because Askren is toying with his prey. The more likely outcome involves a quick takedown and submission finish for the champ.

Other key bouts: Tetsuya Yamada (21-5-2) vs. Narantungalag Jadambaa (12-5), Sagetdao Petpayathai (1-0) vs. Mahmoud Mohamed (4-5-1), Amir Khan (7-2) vs. Jaroslav Jartim (8-6-1)

King of the Cage: Never Quit
Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
Event Date: Sept. 2
Watch Event: MAV TV
Twitter: @KingOfTheCage

Spotlight Fight:
Juan Archuleta (15-1) vs. Adel Altamimi (7-4)

King of the Cage has served as the early stomping grounds for many of MMA’s legends, including Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Urijah Faber. In recent years, however, that honor has shifted to the likes of the now-defunct Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Legacy Fighting Championship, their combined form of the Legacy Fighting Alliance, and even promotions such as Tachi Palace Fights and Ring of Combat. KOTC doesn’t often grace this preview, but this week is an exception. That’s because Juan Archuleta is set to headline the promotion’s Never Quit bill in Ontario, Calif. He’s out to conquer his fourth KOTC division when he meets Adel Altamimi for the promotion’s junior welterweight — that would be 160 pounds — title.

Archuleta’s accomplishments should turn heads. First, he won the Gladiator Challenge bantamweight title in his pro debut, which came in 2014. His lone loss came in his one appearance under the World Series of Fighting banner, but four fights later he snagged the Tru-Form Entertainment featherweight crown. Two fights later, he beat The Ultimate Fighter 15 alum Chris Tickle for the KOTC lightweight title. Then he won the KOTC featherweight strap in his next outing with a win over Jordan Griffin. Next, he captured the California Fight League featherweight belt. He returned to KOTC for a bantamweight-title victory over Derrick Mandell and then jumped up to lightweight for his first lightweight title defense, a 24-second TKO demolition of Brandon Hastings. His most recent outing was a decision nod over Vytautas Sadauskas. Hell, as if winning fights wasn’t enough, he also has an acting credit to his name for his appearance as a corner man and fight coach on Audience Network’s Kingdom MMA drama series. The 29-year-old “Spaniard” fights out of Joe Stevenson’s Cobra Kai camp, but he also has trained with Cub Swanson. The California native has six wins by some form of knockout and one submission finish. Archuleta has a wrestling background that includes time spent in Dan Henderson’s California Jets wrestling program. He also wrestled in college at Purdue and now serves as a standout wrestling coach in California.

Altamimi certainly can’t top that insane resume. In fact, “Kyokushin” experienced a very rocky road out of the gates as a pro fighter. The 28-year-old’s career started in 2014, but he won just two of his first six fights. His losses all came via strikes. However, the Black House fighter turned things around in late 2016 and has now posted a five-fight winning streak. He scored quick first-round finishes of all five recent opponents, including 43-fight veteran Bobby Sanchez. The one problem? Sanchez is just 10-33, and the other four opponents combined for a 5-11-1 mark — two of these men were debuting pros — before they met Altamimi. The Iraqi-born, California-based fighter has never needed more than two minutes to finish an opponent in his victories. Unfortunately, four of his rivals were able to finish him inside of two rounds.

Archuleta should be a prime candidate for a UFC contract. The biggest knock on the 29-year-old is his level of competition recently. Sadauskas is 2-8, Altamimi is just 7-4, and he’s only faced a few experienced opponents with records that stand significantly above the .500 mark. Yet, Archuleta is 15-1 and already boasts titles in three KOTC divisions, with a fourth potentially on the way this weekend.

Altamimi still isn’t the jump up in competition that Archuleta needs, but he does provide a test of the Cobra Kai product’s submission defense. Archuleta’s probably looking at a two-minute drill here. If he weathers the early storm, it should be smooth sailing the rest of the way. If Altamimi is going to win, it’s going to happen within the first two minutes following a mistake by Archuleta. History suggests that Archuleta won’t slip up so easily, but he was submitted by a rookie once, so there’s always a chance. That chance is slim, though. Archuleta’s wrestling will allow him to control where the fight takes place. The California native is probably the better striker in this affair, and Altamimi’s chin isn’t the best. Once the Iraqi-born fighter fails in his early submission attack, Archuleta will pick him apart to score the TKO finish.

Other key bouts: Cynthia Arceo (2-0) vs. Cassie Robb (2-7), Johnny Munoz Jr. (4-0) vs. Zane Douglas (2-4)

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Chad Curry vs. Nick Barnes at LFA 20 Curry by submission Barnes by split decision
Kanna Asakura vs. Saori Ishioka at Deep Jewels 17 Ishioka by decision Asakura by decision
Frodo Khasbulaev vs. Dzhihad Yunusov at WFCA 41 Khasbulaev by submission Khasbulaev by decision