Nikita Krylov (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: Combate 21, FNG 87 and Pancrase 296

Every week, Combat Press takes a look at three regional, developmental and 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…

Combate 21: México vs. El Mundo
Auditorio Municipal Fausto Gutierrez Moreno in Tijuana, Mexico
Event Date: May 18
Watch Event: Univision Deportes
Twitter: @CombateAmericas


Spotlight Fight:
Christian Quiñonez (10-2) vs. Vinicius de Oliveira (10-0)

The 21st edition of Combate Americas is dubbed “México vs. El Mundo,” which translates to Mexico versus the world. The lineup is littered with match-ups pitting Mexican fighters against combatants from other parts of the world, including the United States, Brazil, Chile and Spain. One of the most intriguing bouts of the night pairs Mexican bantamweight Christian Quiñonez against undefeated Brazilian Vinicius de Oliveira.

Quiñonez, 22, is a bright, young prospect for the host nation. “El Taylon” made his pro debut in 2013 and won his first three fights by stoppage. He encountered a setback when he was knocked out by Jose Guadalupe Ruelas Soto, a fighter who has gone on to post a sub-.500 record through nine pro outings. The Delincuentes MMA export rebounded with six straight wins, including four finishes, against varied levels of competition. His most notable victory in this stretch came against Ahmed Faress, who entered his fight with Quiñonez while boasting a 13-1 mark. Cristiano Souza, who now sits at 7-1, ended Quiñonez’s streak with a knockout finish. Quiñonez once again bounced back and scored another stoppage victory, this time under the Xtreme Fighters Latino banner in 2017. This will be the Jungle Fight veteran’s first appearance in the Combate cage.

De Oliveira also checks in at 22 years old. “Prego” made his pro debut in late 2015 with a first-round knockout of Michael Teixeira, a fighter well below the .500 mark. The Brazilian continued to steamroll through opponents, including Teixeira in a rematch, en route to 10 straight stoppage victories. He’s recorded a submission win, but the remainder of his fights ended by way of knockout. The youngster is a member of the Sombra Team. This is also his first stop in Combate Americas.

De Oliveira’s record can be very misleading. He seems like an unstoppable up-and-comer with terrifying striking abilities. However, this is a fighter whose opponents currently hold a combined record of 15-38-1, which does not include any winning marks. The Brazilian was also defeated via submission in an amateur outing in 2013. Quiñonez will represent, by leaps and bounds, the best fighter de Oliveira has ever encountered in pro action.

Quiñonez, despite two losses, is a far more proven fighter. His last three victories came against opponents who held winning records that combined for a 30-6 mark when they met the Mexican prospect. In those contests, Quiñonez was able to take victories by split decision once and knockout twice. His recent loss came against a 6-1 fighter.

The only recent loss suffered by Quiñonez wasn’t exactly a one-sided drubbing. Instead, Quiñonez controlled his opponent, the aforementioned Souza, for stretches against the fence and on the ground before the tide started to turn when a head kick from Souza glanced the back of his head. Quiñonez was even more dominant in the clinch and on the ground against Faress.

De Oliveira is a very wild fighter who takes a ton of risks. His style is reminiscent of fighters like Anthony Pettis and Alex Caceres. However, the Brazilian’s tendency to take on scrubs casts a lot of doubt on his perfect record. Quiñonez is susceptible to the knockout, so de Oliveira does have a chance to win this fight in the blink of an eye with a few perfectly placed strikes. However, Quiñonez is also very capable of controlling the positioning of this fight. The Mexican prospect could take down his opponent or even wait for de Oliveira to take a risk and end up on bottom. From there, Quiñonez shouldn’t find a submission too hard to come by.

Other key bouts: Andrés Quintana (13-2) vs. Marco Antonio Elpidio (7-2-1), Rodrigo Vargas (10-2) vs. Mike De La Torre (14-8), Eduardo Matias Torres (8-0) vs. Kevin Armador (10-8), Daniel Rodriguez (5-1) vs. Alex Velazco (7-2), Edgar Chairez (3-0) vs. Alan Cantu Garcia (7-4)

Fight Nights Global 87
KSK Express in Rostov-on-Don, Russia
Event Date: May 19
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Twitter: @fngmma

Spotlight Fight:
Nikita Krylov (24-5) vs. Fabio Maldonado (24-11)

One of the big changes out of Zuffa’s sale of the UFC to WME-IMG is that now successful UFC fighters sometimes get away in free agency, whereas Zuffa would rarely let such a thing happen. The UFC’s loss is Fight Night Global’s gain. The Russian promotion has inked Nikita Krylov, a 25-year-old light heavyweight prospect who posted a 5-1 record over his final six UFC outings. Now, the organization pits Krylov against fellow UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado in a battle for the light heavyweight title as one of the featured fights at its 87th show..

Krylov, whose overall record sits at 24-5, had become something of a fan-favorite during his stay in the UFC. He debuted in 2012 and rattled off 12 straight stoppage victories before hitting the first bump in the road. Following a 3-2 stint in which he twice lost to Vladimir Mishchenko but otherwise scored finishes, “The Miner” was signed by the UFC. His first two Octagon outings took place in the heavyweight division, where he engaged in a stinker with Soa Palelei before returning with a vengeance to score a 25-second knockout of Walt Harris. Krylov then transitioned to the light heavyweight division, where he was submitted by Ovince St. Preux. The Ukrainian responded with a string of five straight stoppage victories with a list of victims that included Cody Donovan, Stanislav Nedkov, Marcos Rogério de Lima, Francimar Barroso and Ed Herman. At UFC 206, Krylov was submitted by Misha Cirkunov and subsequently departed the organization. He has gone on to post finishes in each of his three post-UFC bouts, which came against veteran competitors Stjepan Bekavac, Maro Perak and Emanuel Newton.

The 38-year-old Maldonado reigns as the FNG light heavyweight champion. The Brazilian defeated Kurban Omarov for the vacant title in September. A professional boxer turned mixed martial artist, Maldonado is best known for his role on the wrong side of many light heavyweight beatings and brawls in the UFC. He has shared the Octagon with Glover Teixeira, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Corey Anderson in losing efforts, and he even stepped up to face future UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in a bout that lasted all of 35 seconds. Maldonado wasn’t always on the losing end of the outcome while in the UFC. He did defeat James McSweeney, Roger Hollett, Joey Beltran, Gian Villante and Hans Stringer. After leaving the UFC, the Brazilian has gone on to suffer losses to the legendary Fedor Emelianenko and Mikhail Mokhnatkin. However, he’s now won two straight.

It’s somewhat obvious where Maldonado’s ceiling lies. He is a powerful striker who has 14 knockout victories and only four submission finishes. He doesn’t get stopped often, either, but he has suffered seven decision losses. As he’s aged, he’s become a punching bag for some of the better fighters in the world.

Krylov registers as a borderline top-15 light heavyweight right now. He did lose to Cirkunov in his last UFC bout, but he was on a pretty good run before that setback, and he’s always capable of putting his opponent to sleep with a few well-placed strikes.

Maldonado can take a beating, and Krylov is certainly able to deliver one. If Krylov can’t finish his older opponent, then he’ll have to settle for a dominant decision victory instead.

Other key bouts: David Khachatryan (24-3) vs. Peter Queally (10-4-1), Adriano Martins (28-9) vs. Alexandr Shabliy (17-3), Mike Graves (6-1-1) vs. Murat Khasanov (6-6), Elias Silvério (13-3-1) vs. Saygid Izagakhmaev (8-0), Vladimir Egoyan (17-6) vs. Alexander Yanyshev (3-1-1), Chermen Kobesov (2-0) vs. David Gladun (4-2-1), Khalid Murtazaliev (10-2) vs. Aleksey Sidorenko (6-3)

Pancrase 296
Shinkiba Studio Coast in Tokyo
Event Date: May 20
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @_PANCRASE_

Spotlight Fight:
Masakatsu Ueda (26-5-2) vs. Rafael Silva (28-6)

Just a little under two years ago, Masakatsu Ueda and Rafael Silva were in this same spot. The two bantamweight fighters squared off at Pancrase 279, where Silva claimed a unanimous decision. Now, the stakes are higher. At Pancrase 296, the interim bantamweight King of Pancrase crown will be on the line when the pair meets once again.

The 40-year-old Ueda’s stock took a tumble with his losses to Bibiano Fernandes and Victor Henry a few years ago, but he has climbed back up the ladder with an 8-1 stretch in which his only loss came to Silva. Ueda rose to the level of Shooto 132-pound champion during his lengthy run as a top 135-pounder. Along the way, he topped Eduardo Dantas, Kyoji Horiguchi and Kevin Belingon. His only losses came by way of a brabo choke submission against Shuichiro Katsumura and a unanimous decision against Travis Marx in Ueda’s lone Bellator outing. Following the defeats at the hands of Fernandes and Henry, Ueda added six decision wins while avenging the loss to Henry. He also picked up submission victories against prospects José Alday and Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha. Ueda is a grinding decision machine who has rallied to 18 wins on the scorecards, while also posting three decision losses and two draws. The Paraestra Tokyo product has delivered eight stoppage wins.

Silva’s name might sound familiar to North American fans who’ve paid attention to the Bellator organization. After accumulating a 19-3 record on the regional circuit, the Brazilian defeated Rodrigo Lima and Anthony Leone to win a Bellator tournament. He went on to challenge Joe Warren for the promotion’s bantamweight title in 2014. “Morcego” came up short in a five-round battle with Warren and then went on to score just one win in his subsequent two Bellator outings. The Astra Fight Team product kicked off a new winning streak when he opted to test the international waters across three continents and four different promotions. Along the way, the 33-year-old claimed Aspera featherweight gold and defeated scored three victories under the Pancrase banner before coming up short in a title challenge against Shintaro Ishiwatari in his most recent appearance. Silva has been inactive for nearly a year now after breaking his hand.

The previous meeting between these two men offers a good blueprint for what we can expect. Ueda is nearing the end of his career, but he’s still winning fights against solid opponents. Silva has youth on his side, and he, too, continues to rack up wins against notable opponents. While Ueda is a legend among lower-weight Japanese fighters, he’s past his prime and not quite up to par with Silva. This should be another war that goes the distance before Silva emerges with the judges’ nod.

Other key bouts: Akihiro Murayama (19-8-9) vs. Takaaki Nara (3-1), Shunichi Shimizu (32-19-11) vs. Taiyo Hayashi (5-5), Keisuke Kamei (1-0) vs. Katsushi Kojima (6-3), Daichi Kitakata (18-8-1) vs. Hiroaki Ijima (12-10-3), Nobuki Fujii (17-8-3) vs. Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha (14-6-4), Hiroshige Tanaka (12-5) vs. Hiroto Uesako (13-7), Emi Fujino (21-10) vs. Sharon Jacobson (5-2)

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Chris Barnett vs. Alexandru Lungu at Road FC 47 Barnett by knockout Barnett by knockout
Alex Silva vs. Yoshitaka Naito at ONE Championship Silva by decision Naito by split decision
Alex Lohore vs. Ion Pascu at BAMMA 35 Pascu by decision Pascu by decision