Every Monday, the Combat Press staff gathers its thoughts on the previous weekend’s fights and fight news. This feature isn’t a recap and it isn’t an editorial, but rather a bit of both worlds. We’ll scour the best from the combat-sports landscape and deliver it, with some commentary, right here. Let’s get started…
The UFC’s trip to China produced a strong night of fights at UFC Fight Night 122. Of course, the biggest highlight of the evening was Kelvin Gastelum’s first-round finish of former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping. Bisping’s career is nearing its end, whereas Gastelum’s stock continues to rise. The Ultimate Fighter 17 middleweight winner did lose to Chris Weidman and also had a knockout win erased when he was flagged for marijuana use following his fight with Vitor Belfort. However, the 26-year-old could use this win over Bisping to springboard back into the mix at 185 pounds. The main key for Gastelum is to string some victories together without running into trouble on the scales or with the USADA.
The Chinese contingent at this weekend’s UFC put on a strong overall showing. Jingliang Li took a stoppage victory over Zak Ottow in the co-headliner, and Guan Wang impressed in a split-decision nod over Alex Caceres. Kenan Song, Yadong Song and Xiaonan Yan posted victories during the prelims.
The prelim headliner between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Sheymon Moraes was an entertaining fight. Both men could eventually climb into the title mix in the UFC’s featherweight division, but Magomedsharipov made the biggest statement this weekend when he submitted Moraes in the third round to move his record to 14-1.
Ben Askren supposedly ended his MMA career this weekend on the heels of a 57-second finish of Shinya Aoki at ONE Championship: Immortal Pursuit. If Askren never returns to action, he’ll leave the sport with an undefeated mark through 18 fights. Yet, the UFC’s refusal to sign him and Bellator’s decision to not re-sign Askren when the wrestler was still the promotion’s welterweight champion was largely fueled by Askren’s lay-and-pray approach earlier in his career. Since coming to ONE, Askren has gone the distance just once while adding two submissions and three knockouts to his resume. He said he’d return to fight the greatest — presumably a call for the UFC to bring him in against the recently returned Georges St-Pierre — and the promotion really should consider extending Askren as offer at this point.
While the men topped the lineup at ONE’s event, the other most notably results from the card came from the women. Tiffany Teo maintained her unblemished mark while picking up her seventh pro victory via an armbar finish of Puja Tomar. Meanwhile, Mei Yamaguchi picked up a victory over Gina Iniong while competing as a strawweight.
On the regional scene, elite kickboxer Israel Adesanya continued his rampage through the pro MMA ranks with a middleweight-title victory at Hex Fight Series 12. Adesanya moved to 11-0 with a first-round knockout of Stu Dare via question-mark kick.
M-1 featherweight titleist Ivan Buchinger wasn’t quite so fortunate. Buchinger was decimated by punches courtesy of Khamzat Dalgiev in the M-1 Challenge 86 headliner. Dalgiev claimed the title in impressive fashion while moving his career mark to 10-1. Meanwhile, UFC veteran Joseph Henle fell victim to a knockout in the evening’s co-main event, where he was put away by Mikhail Ragozin.
At ZST’s 15th anniversary event, Go Kashiwazaki added his second victory in less than a month when he defeated veteran Shunichi Shimizu on the scorecards.
However, the biggest win of the weekend came when GLORY 47 contender tournament winner Abdellah Ezbiri took out No. 2-ranked featherweight Masaaki Noiri by decision. The upset victory is Ezbiri’s third win in less than a month. The victory will likely push him up the Combat Press kickboxing rankings despite a busy month of action in the featherweight division.
Elsewhere on the card, top-10 heavyweight Roman Kryklia re-entered the win column with a decision victory over France’s Nordine Mahieddine and GLORY veteran Eddy Nait-Slimani picked up a big win over Karim Bennoui.
The Muay Thai and Khmer Boxing veterans took out their foriegn foes with the likes of Sensatarn, Sudsakorn and PTT Petchrungrueng picking up decision victories over Thiago Goulate, Oleksandr Moisa and Gokhan Boran, respectively.
Japanese superstar Tenshin Nasukawa remained unbeaten in his professional combat sports career. Tenshin scored three body-shot knockdowns in the third-round of his bout with Argentina’s Ignacio Capllonch to win his 25th overall fight regardless of the rule set. He pushed his kickboxing and Muay Thai record to 20-0 with 16 knockouts. After another win over a high-level opponent, the 19-year-old looks to be molding into one of the greatest Japanese kickboxing prospects since the great K-1 MAX champion Masato.
Daiki Naito conquered three opponents in one night to win the 57-kilogram tournament. Naito took out Ken Haraguchi in the opening round, bested Masahisa Kudo in the semifinals, and needed an extra round to dispatch of Momotaro in the finals. Naito landed a devastating left hook that put his opponent away just one minute into the fourth round.
K-1 crowned their first heavyweight champion since 2010. The inaugural K-1 World GP Heavyweight Championship Tournament took place on Thanksgiving day from Tokyo, Japan. Antonio Plazibat defeated three opponents to win the K-1 heavyweight title. The Croatian fighter knocked out K-Jee in the opening round, landed a beautiful flying, switch knee knockout against Japan’s Makoto Uehara in the semifinals, and went to war with top-10 light heavyweight Ibrahim El Bouni in the final.
K-1 super bantamweight champion Yoshiki Takei defended his belt with a incredible knockout of Lion Fight veteran Victor Saravia. Takei landed a spinning back kick to the body and threw a fight-ending hook that crumbled his American opponent.
In the night’s main card action, Minoru Kimura finally returned to his top-10 form against 2017 K-1 super welterweight tournament runner-up Yasuhiro Kido. Former K-1 super featherweight champion Koya Urabe scored a decision victory over Romanian slugger Cristian Spetcu, former WBC and Lion Fight champion Tetsuya Yamato knocked out rising Krush champion Jun Nakazawa in the first round, and 19-year-old Ren Hiramoto took it to former Krush champ Daizo Sasaki to win a lopsided decision.
No. 1-ranked welterweight Artur Kyshenko knocked out Constantino Nanga in the first round at Rumble of the Kings: Uprising in Sweden.
At the same event, Sweden’s own Sofia Olofsson picked up the biggest win of her pro career, upsetting top-10 pound-for-pound fighter Iman Barlow.
Following back-to-back losses to undefeated pound-for-pound boxing great Andre Ward – the only setbacks in his career – Sergey Kovalev returned to his winning ways with an impressive second-round knockout of overmatched opponent Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. Kovalev won the vacant WBO world light heavyweight title, the same belt he lost to Andre Ward in November of 2016. Ward vacated the title following his retirement this year.
The night was not without controversy as Yuriorkis Gamboa picked up a questionable majority decision victory over Jason Sosa.
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