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…
Jose Torres (5-0) vs. Gleidson DeJesus (7-2)
Titan Fighting Championship hasn’t exactly been the most active organization this year. It’s 46th event, set to take place in Florida this weekend, is just the promotion’s fifth show of 2017. Yet, the promotion sure has a homegrown star in the making at the top of the bill. The promotion’s flyweight and bantamweight champion, Jose “Shorty” Torres, is set to take center stage once again. He’s just five fights into his pro career, but he already holds two titles in a top organization. Now, he’ll put his 135-pound strap on the line against challenger Gleidson DeJesus.
The majority of the Torres trophy case consists of titles won before the 25-year-old turned pro and signed with the Titan organization. The youngster is possibly one of the most seasoned amateur MMA fighters ever. He worked his way to an undefeated mark through an astounding 17 amateur outings. Many of these victories came in tournaments conducted by IMMAF over the span of a few days. Torres won IMMAF World Championship tourneys for the 2014 and 2015 calendar years, adding to a collection of gold that already included the American Predator FC, UMMAF and Midwest Fight League championships. His amateur run included six submission victories. When Torres turned pro, he was immediately snatched up by Titan. He debuted as a bantamweight at Titan FC 37, where he submitted fellow rookie Travis Taylor in just over two minutes. His run continued at Titan FC 38, where he earned a unanimous decision over 16-fight veteran Reynaldo Duarte. Then, he engaged in an interim title clash with Abdiel Velazquez at Titan FC 40, which marked Torres’ move to flyweight. The KHK MMA Team product finished Velazquez with a second-round knockout to claim the belt. In early 2017, he made a successful defense of the crown while further proving his legitimacy with a first-round finish of UFC veteran Pedro Nobre. In his most recent fight, Torres returned to the bantamweight division and unseated Farkhad Sharipov via unanimous decision to claim the belt.
DeJesus actually represents a step down in competition for Torres. The 25-year-old has suffered two losses in his nine-fight pro career. Those defeats came in his 2011 pro debut against Sebastian Angel, who ended the fight with an armbar, and in a 2015 affair against .500 fighter Haender Rodriguez that ended in a first-round knockout. The American Top Team fighter has two submission victories and is undefeated through two Titan FC outings, although his competition in those fights left a lot to be desired — DeJesus even faced one fighter with a losing record. The Brazilian-born fighter has an unusual background: he trained in capoeira for a decade before transitioning to MMA.
Torres deserves more attention than he probably gets right now. While Titan FC is a larger regional promotion, the company’s events air on UFC Fight Pass nowadays, rather than cable television. Fortunately, Titan also has a reputation for grooming up-and-comers, namely through the achievements of the promotion’s former featherweight champion Andre Harrison. Torres could perhaps be even better than Harrison in the long run. Torres is not only a decorated mixed martial artist, but also a champion in the realms of kickboxing and Thai boxing. Furthermore, he spent a long time competing in karate. He’s a well-rounded young fighter with the ability to one day challenge the likes of Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson or T.J. Dillashaw for a UFC title.
The only concern for Torres in this fight could be the grappling ability of DeJesus, a four-time NAGA champion. However, the ATT fighter has not flashed a lot of submission ability while competing in MMA. Torres, on the other hand, has finished plenty of ammy foes and also holds three stoppage victories as a pro. Torres was able to overcome the likes of Nobre and Sharipov, so DeJesus hardly seems like a huge obstacle. As long as Torres doesn’t underestimate his opponent, the highly decorated super-prospect should emerge with another win. This one’s likely to come via knockout.
Other key bouts: Raush Manfio (9-2) vs. Chazz Walton (5-0), Isidro Rodriguez (3-0) vs. Michael Cora (4-2), Gustavo Balart (4-0) vs. Marcelo Castaneda (2-2), Jorge Calvo Martin (10-2) vs. Juan Puerta (13-6), Askar Askar (6-0) vs. Nesaw Merriweather (1-0), Beibit Nazarov (13-2) vs. Yoislandy Izquierdo (10-4)
Sparta Combat League 64: Combat Sports Spectacular
Justin Gonzales (5-0) vs. Derek Brenon (6-0)
Believe it or not, this is the first time the Sparta Combat League has made an appearance in this feature’s run here on Combat Press. The 64th event from the promotion earned the honor thanks to a featherweight title showdown between undefeated champion Justin Gonzales and undefeated challenger Derek Brenon.
Gonzales, a native of Greely, Colo., doesn’t have quite as extensive of an amateur career as Titan FC’s Jose Torres, but he’s definitely in the ballpark. The “J-Train” went unscathed through nine amateur appearances. Many of those fights came under the SCL banner, but he also had an amateur fight on a World Series of Fighting card. Regardless of the setting, Gonzales clobbered his opponent to take a TKO or knockout. He turned pro in July 2016 and finally ran into someone he couldn’t stop when he met Jordan Titoni at SCL 50. The fight went the distance, but Gonzales still picked up the win. He scored his only pro finish in his sophomore outing when he submitted Trevor Massey. Since then, he’s added three more decision victories, including a July nod over Nick Rhoads for the league’s featherweight title.
Brenon, a 28-year-old training out of Factory X Muay Thai in Colorado, has a black belt in judo and was an NCAA Division III All-American wrestler. He topped six amateur opponents, all via stoppage, before making his pro debut in September 2014. Unlike Gonzales, Brenon kept his stoppage streak rolling with a first-round submission of Evan Scott and first-round knockouts of Don Magboo and Thad Frick. Brenon finally went the distance in his fourth pro outing when he faced and defeated Myron Baker. He tacked on a 24-second submission finish of Jesse O’Rullian before jumping to the Legacy Fighting Alliance, where he decisioned Boimah Karmo in September. This will mark Brenon’s SCL debut.
Gonzales and Brenon are exciting finishers. While Brenon has a much better finishing rate in the pros, Gonzales can never be counted out from scoring a knockout. However, the champ’s best asset isn’t his stand-up game. He does more damage with ground-and-pound, and he excels at changing levels to score the takedown. Gonzales succeeds in gaining dominant positions on the mat, and he can move around and maintain control for long stretches.
While Gonzales applies a more measured and composed approach to his fights, Brenon opts for aggression, pressure and, quite frankly, chaos. Brenon tends to throw more haymakers than Gonzales, and he also mixes in elbows, knees and forward movement with a lot more regularity. His approach can lead to more scrambles and wild exchanges, but it’s been a very effective style for the 28-year-old. He doesn’t tend to land on the bottom, and his wrestling background should allow him to stuff Gonzales’ more straightforward double-leg takedowns. However, his heavy forward movement could also cause him to walk right into the champ’s level change and fall victim to the takedown.
This is definitely a fight for the UFC and Bellator scouts. These two men have the ability to move up to a bigger promotion and showcase their wares. Brenon appears to be the stronger fighter, but Gonzales fights a very smart fight. That more cautious approach has led to more decisions as a pro, and it also gives Brenon more time to find a finish of his own. Yet, Gonzales has the confidence of a veteran and the ability to control position. Brenon’s been lucky to not find himself in bad spots after he gets wild. Gonzales is going to test him. This should be a very competitive back-and-forth fight, but it’ll go the distance and end in a close verdict for the champ.
Other key bouts: Josh Copeland (15-4) vs. Jared Torgeson (18-17), Tony Darling (1-0) vs. Kevin Sears (8-4)
Sergey Pavlovich (11-0) vs. Kirill Sidelnikov (11-4)
Fight Nights Global doesn’t have a deep lineup for its 79th show, but the headliner is definitely a noteworthy affair. The promotion will trot out its heavyweight champion, Sergey Pavlovich, against “Baby Fedor” Kirill Sidelnikov for Pavlovich’s first title defense.
Pavlovich has already made his mark as a top Russian heavyweight with wins over Baga Agaev, the formerly undefeated Magomed Akhmedshaikh Gelegaev, Alexei Kudin and, in a fight for the FNG title, Mikhail Mokhnatkin. He’s an aggressive striker with a background in Greco-Roman wrestling. Pavlovich debuted in 2014 and scored a first-round knockout in each of his first six fights. He has gone on to add two more knockout finishes and three decision wins to his resume.
“Baby Fedor” was once viewed as the next coming of his moniker’s namesake, Fedor Emelianenko. The Russian trains out of the same camp as Emelianenko, but he has found little of the same success. In fact, after debuting with a 19-second finish of Dong Woo Shin under the M-1 banner in 2007, Sidelnikov lost two of his next six fights. However, all four wins in this stretch came by some form of knockout. The Alexander Nevsky protege then moved to Affliction, where he suffered a technical-knockout loss to Paul Buentello. His rocky road continued from there. He went 2-1 across M-1 and Russian regionals before making two successful stops with the Japanese Rizin Fighting Federation. He then moved to FNG, where he’s decisioned Ruben Wolf and the aforementioned Agaev, a pair of opponents he shares in common with his current adversary.
Sidelnikov hasn’t quite lived up to earlier expectations, but he has been more consistent since his return to action in 2015 following a five-year hiatus from the sport. “Baby Fedor” is capable of wrecking opponents, but he’s always been prone to entering fights looking a tad bit out of shape, and his chin can be a weak point for him.
Pavlovich has been a beast thus far on his undefeated run. He quickly marched to the top of the FNG mountain, and he has the potential to become one of the better prospects among heavyweight up-and-comers. Pavlovich’s aggressive approach is going to be a lot for Sidelnikov to handle. “Baby Fedor” probably won’t last to the final bell in this one, instead falling victim to a barrage of strikes from the champ.
Other key bouts: Viktor Pešta (11-4) vs. Alexei Kudin (23-10-1), Marat Magomedov (9-1-1) vs. Rashad Muradov (3-3), Ramil Mustapayev (8-1) vs. Vagif Askerov (4-5)
Last Week’s Scorecard
Adriano Moraes vs. Danny Kingad at ONE Championship
Moraes by decision
Moraes by submission
Ivan Shtyrkov vs. Christian M’Pumbu at RCC 1
Shtyrkov by knockout
Shtyrkov by decision
Aziz Pahrudinov vs. Kenichiro Togashi at Pancrase 291
Pahrudinov by knockout
Pahrudinov by decision
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