Kevin Holland (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: XKO 39 and Reality Fighting

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…

Xtreme Knockout 39
Gas Monkey Live in Dallas
Event Date: Jan. 6


Spotlight Fight:
Kevin Holland (10-3) vs. Hayward Charles (15-9)

Kevin “Trail Blazer” Holland is a highly skilled striker training out of Phalanx Martial Arts and Fitness and the Powerhouse Training Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The 25-year-old prospect a former two-division XFO champion and a Legacy Fighting Alliance veteran. Holland holds 10 wins in his 13-fight pro career with victories over UFC fighter Geoffrey Neal, Bellator veteran David Gomez and Combate Americas fighter Victor Reyna. Holland is a finisher with all 10 of his victories ending in a finish, including six by way of knockout and four by submission. Holland won three of his four MMA bouts in 2017 with his lone defeat coming against Curtis Millender, the only time Holland has been the 15-minute distance. Holland also picked up two knockout wins under Muay Thai rules against former UFC fighter Bubba McDaniel and Titan FC veteran Matt Foster.

Fellow Texan Hayward Charles, 28, recently started his own gym in Avon, Colo., Hybrid Nation MMA. Formerly fighting out of Ironside MMA with UFC fighter James Vick and Sparta Essen in Germany, Charles has built a resume of 15 wins and nine losses. Like Holland, Charles is a finisher with all 15 of his wins coming by way of stoppage with 14 submissions. Charles got back in the win column against Jeremiah Talley at Sparta Combat League 62 in October of 2017 following three straight losses against Kris Hocum, Ian Heinisch and Derrick Krantz. The eight-year MMA veteran is also a credentialed black-belt grappler with championship belts in NAGA and Fight to Win.

Kevin Holland is a slick striker who is well versed in all areas on the feet, including on the outside, inside the pocket, and in the clinch. Holland’s deadly power and explosive attacks have earned him knockouts in various ways including elbows inside, high kicks and brutal ground and pound. Holland is a solid counter wrestler who uses his physical advantages to power out off disadvantageous situations and get back to his feet where he shines. Charles is primarily a submission specialist, but he won’t shy away from a back-and-forth battle like in his LFA 4 bout with former welterweight champion Derrick Krantz. Charles is dangerous in the clinch with the potential for tie-ups leading to takedowns and submission attempts. Holland doesn’t want to get his neck caught in Charles’ stellar guillotine. However, Holland could potentially use the attempt to get into top position and rain down punches.

Holland is a fighter that has been trending toward the UFC over the past two years and a big win over an experienced fighter like Charles could be the next step. Prior to Holland’s defeat against another top prospect, Millender, he was submitted by Rafael Lovato Jr. in only his second pro fight. Will Charles be able to put a road block in Holland’s UFC dream? It’s possible. However, Holland should be able to avoid the danger on the ground and supply another highlight-reel knockout.

Other key bouts: Fernie Garcia (2-0) vs. Josh Nealy (2-4), Elijah Johns (2-0) vs. Josh Foster (1-2)

Reality Fighting
Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Event Date: Jan. 6
Website: Facebook/RealityFighting

Spotlight Fight:
Joe Giannetti (6-0) vs. Dan Dubuque (4-2)

Joseph “Skeletor” Giannetti, 22, is an undefeated fighter, both in amateur and the professional ranks, with an overall record of 13 wins. The lightweight holds six wins in his professional career with five submission wins, including four in the first round. Giannetti trains under head coach Bill Mahoney at South Shore Sportfighting in Norwell, Mass. Giannetti made his way to MMA following a wrestling career in high school, a career that he admitted wasn’t the most successful, but led him to find his next endeavor in combat sports through his coach Justin Burril. Giannetti turned being bullied as a 230-pound kid during his freshman year in high school into the motivation to strive for victory in MMA.

Giannetti has four victories in 2017 with his most recent coming over judoka Keenan Raymond at Cage Titans 35 in August. Giannetti came into the fight as the heavy favorite, but it didn’t look like it as Raymond dominated the first round by taking the back on a reversal and controlling much of the round with submission attempts. Raymond took Giannetti down again in the second round, but he made an amateur mistake while on top and Giannetti locked up an arm-in guillotine choke from the bottom. Giannetti had trouble against professional record-padder Jay Ellis, who has 73 losses in his MMA career. Giannetti was put into a number of deep submission attempts, but Ellis didn’t have the technical ability or squeeze to make the undefeated fighter tap. Giannetti once again took advantage of a mental lapse from his opponent and locked up the submission. Those two bouts are a microcosm of Giannetti’s underwhelming level of competition to date. Giannetti has yet to face a fighter with a winning record.

Until he steps into the cage against Dan Dubuque, who has won four of his six professional bouts with all four ending by way of decision. Dubuque trains under former Shooto and Cage Rage fighter Danilo Cherman at the Cage in Rocky Hill, Conn. Dubuque is coming off of a loss against Ring of Combat title challenger Tim Dooling in his most recent outing just under one year ago. Prior to his loss, Dubuque won an all-out war against New England prospect Max Barrett at CES MMA 39 and defeated Puerto Rico’s Erick Rodriguez at Premier FC 20. Dubuque’s only other professional loss came against undefeated prospect Manny Bermudez, who is Giannetti’s training partner.

Dubuque is an aggressive striker who has an amateur Muay Thai background. Dubuque likes to throw his attacks in bunches, which could be Giannetti’s kryptonite should the fight stay on the feet. Dubuque won’t back away from exchanges on the feet despite being vulnerable during exchanges. He carries his hands low, but uses his high volume output to force his opponents back during the exchanges. Dubuque throws a large variety of attacks and does a good job of flowing well between his combinations of kicks and punches. Gianetti will be in trouble if he gives Dubuque the time and space to unload three and four strikes.

Giannetti is a southpaw fighter who also likes to throw his kicks, especially the left high kick and lead leg right low kick. Giannetti tries to bounce around and stay loose on his feet, but often times when met with opposition he is left standing still or waiting on his opponent in a defensive posture. Dubuque will be the much smaller fighter heading into the contest, however. Giannetti has been exploited in the grappling exchanges against short, compact fighters. Giannetti has won fights from the bottom, but his guard game is confusing at times despite having the long limbs to control his opponent’s posture. If Dubuque can push Giannetti on the feet, expect the Massachusetts native to take the fight down. Giannetti has easily taken down some of his past opponents, but his wrestling success has largely come against inexperienced grapplers.

Giannetti’s hope for a win in this fight is a flashy left high kick or a submission in transition. Dubuque does keep his right arm low enough where the left kick could come into play, but he’s proven his durability in the striking exchanges. If things start to go bad for Giannetti, expect him to jump in to get the fight down to the ground. Dubuque is skilled enough on the ground to not put himself into a sloppy submission. This fight reads as the toughest fight in Giannetti’s career and potentially his first career loss.

Other key bouts: Danielle Hindley (1-0) vs. Destiny Quinones (0-0)

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Joe Vedepo vs. Daniel Vizcaya at RCC 14 Vedepo by submission Vizcaya by submission
Magomed Ismailov vs. Dyego Roberto at GTC 2 Ismailov by knockout Fight canceled due to Ismailov illness
Estefani Almeida vs. Deize de Lima at Mr. Cage 32 Almeida by knockout de Lima