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…
Event Date: May 25
Watch Event: AXS TV
Kevin Aguilar (13-1) vs. Thanh Le (8-1)
When Legacy Fighting Alliance featherweight champion Kevin Aguilar broke his hand in a successful title defense against Justin Rader, the developmental organization chose to crown an interim champ. That led to a fight between Thanh Le and Bobby Moffett that Le won with a second-round stoppage. Now, Aguilar is healthy, which means the LFA has a title-unification bout set for LFA 40. Aguilar and Le both enter as champions, but only one man will leave with the belt.
Aguilar’s only career loss came in a Legacy Fighting Championship featherweight title showdown. On that occasion, Aguilar, already a Legacy and Bellator veteran, squared off with UFC and WEC mainstay Leonard Garcia. Garcia squashed Aguilar’s title aspirations with a first-round TKO finish. The loss halted a run that was highlighted by a decision win over veteran Nick Gonzalez and a submission finish of the previously undefeated Hunter Tucker. Aguilar rebounded from the defeat to score a pair of victories under the Legacy banner. He finally captured the Legacy belt in his last appearance with the promotion when he edged Tony Kelley by split decision. Once Legacy merged with the Resurrection Fighting Alliance, Aguilar became the LFA champ and defended his belt with a third-round knockout of Damon Jackson and the decision nod over the aforementioned Rader. Overall, the 29-year-old has eight finishes by some form of knockout and two victories via submission. He has only seen the scorecards three times in his pro career, which kicked off in 2010. He had no combat-sports experience prior to training in MMA.
The 32-year-old Le has made the rounds. After a debut loss in 2013, he scored four first-round finishes en route to a spot in The Ultimate Fighter 22 house. The striker scored a knockout over Andrés Quintana in his first fight on the show, but he came up short in his next outing against Martin Svensson. Le, who’d been competing as a lightweight throughout his career, made one more appearance in the weight class after his TUF tenure, but he’s since shifted his focus to featherweight. He needed less than two minutes to destroy Alex Black at LFA 3. Le went on to add a third straight knockout finish at the second edition of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series when he stopped Lazar Stojadinovic in the second round of their fight. His next fight was the knockout of Moffett to claim LFA interim gold. Overall, Le has seven knockout victories. His only official pro loss and his exhibition loss on TUF both came via submission.
These two men love to knock out opponents. That makes for what could be the most exciting fight outside of the UFC or Bellator on this Memorial Day weekend. Aguilar did struggle tremendously against the onslaught of strikes delivered by Garcia in his only career loss. Le, on the other hand, has obvious holes when the fight goes to the ground. Yet, Aguilar’s lack of a wrestling or grappling background really makes it a fairly close fight if the two men do opt to hunt for submissions instead of trading punches and kicks.
Le holds the edge in reach by just half an inch, but he does stand two inches taller than the 5-foot-7 Aguilar. Le has often made quick work of his opponents, too. Garcia decimated Aguilar in under three minutes, but Le might be able to beat that mark. No matter who wins, the UFC should come calling for the new champ in the very near future.
Other key bouts: Damon Jackson (14-2-1) vs. Jeremy Spoon (21-3), Ramiz Brahimaj (6-0) vs. Evan Cutts (8-3), Miles Johns (6-0) vs. Eric Ellington (5-0), Devin Miller (2-0) vs. Carlos Vergara (4-1-1), Kennedy Nzechukwu (4-0) vs. Corey Johnson (0-0), Victor Altamirano (2-0) vs. Osiris Ayala (0-0), Austin Lingo (3-0) vs. Phil Gonzalez (2-1)
Event Date: May 26
Watch Event: Live main card on kwesesports.com (Sub-Saharan Africa), Kwesé Free Sports 1 (Africa), SABC 3 (South Africa), TV Player (United Kingdom), Fight Sports (Europe and Asia) and efcworldwide.tv (worldwide).
Amanda Lino (3-1) vs. Rizlen Zouak (3-0)
South Africa isn’t exactly the capital of women’s MMA. That means we’re looking at two fairly raw prospects vying for a vacant championship when EFC Worldwide touches down in Durban for its 70th event. Rizlen Zouak meets Amanda Lino in the night’s headliner for an EFC card that’s astonishingly devoid of the promotion’s big stars.
The 32-year-old Zouak is the undefeated up-and-comer of the pair. The French fighter has only been at the pro level for 11 months, but she has already recorded three victories. Her professional debut came under the Cage Warriors banner, where she ended the night via strikes against fellow rookie Leah McCourt. “The Lioness of the Atlas” jumped to the EFC Worldwide promotion for her next fight, another knockout finish. In her third fight, the MMA Factory product finally encountered an opponent with a few fights under her belt. The result? Zouak scored the quickest finish of her career by putting Jaqualine Trosee Feddersen away in just 27 seconds.
Lino, 27, checks in as the younger combatant. The “Mad Dog” established her own tendency for the knockout as an amateur. She won ammy titles in 2014 at the featherweight level at the IMMAF World Championships and in African Fight League competition. Lino turned pro in 2015 and destroyed fellow rookie Stephanie Quaile in 62 seconds in the EFC cage. The South African athlete stumbled in her sophomore outing and was submitted in 62 seconds by Isabelle Pare. She then met the aforementioned Feddersen, whom she dropped in just 10 seconds. Lino and Feddersen met for a second time in a battle for the EFC Worldwide women’s flyweight title, and this time Lino resorted to armbar submission in the second stanza to secure the victory.
These ladies have an obvious affinity for the quick knockout finish. Zouak has a background in judo, but Lino has the only submission finish between the two ladies. Lino also looks far more comfortable on the ground and can control position with more confidence. However, we can hardly expect this fight to go to the ground and play out as a grappling affair. Instead, someone’s likely to get pummeled.
Lino has the experience edge, but this fight really boils down to who can land the first significant strike and rattle their opponent. In that regard, Zouak cannot be counted out. She can place a counter well for the knockout. However, Lino tends to bring more power even in her shorter punches and charges forward with relentless aggression. Lino’s swarming approach might be more than Zouak can handle.
This one ends in a knockout. That’s easy to predict. What’s more difficult is determining who gets the knockout. The slightest of edges goes to Lino.
Other key bouts: Quinton Roussow (2-0) vs. Steve Nwosu (0-2)
Event Date: May 26
Watch Event: KLF
Tuerxun Jumabieke (20-5-1) vs. Boris Fedorov (7-1)
Kunlun Fight is most known for its kickboxing shows in its home country of China, but the organization has also hosted MMA fights. Now, it’s teaming up with the Modern Fighting Pankration organization for a Russian event. The card was initially even stronger when it included a lightweight title tilt between COdy Pfister and Arman Tsarukyan, but that fight has reportedly been scrapped. There are still several strong offerings in the lineup, including the featherweight battle between China’s Tuerxun Jumabieke and Russia’s Boris Fedorov.
American fans should be familiar with Jumabieke. He entered the UFC after a 15-0 run on the regional circuit in Asia. The results were disappointing for the heralded prospect. He dropped a decision to Mark Eddiva in his Octagon debut. His next fight ended in a submission loss to Leandro Issa. Finally, following a first-round stoppage loss to Marcus Brimage, Tuerxun was shown the door and headed back to his homeland. The Xian Sports University product fought to a draw in his first post-UFC fight, but he has gone on to post a 5-2 mark over his seven most recent outings. His most notable victory in this stretch came against Paata Robakidze, while the rest of his wins came against inexperienced or sub-.500 competition. Meanwhile, his losses came against seasoned and successful veterans Soo Chul Kim and Aliyar Sarkerov. The 32-year-old’s grinding style has led to just four submission victories and six striking wins to accompany 10 decisions. In addition to his spot on the Kunlun Fight roster, Jumabieke is expected to compete in the first season of the Professional Fighters League.
Fedorov is far less known outside of his homeland and nearby China. The Tiger Muay Thai and Sakha Wrestling Club fighter debuted in 2013 and won his first two fights by knockout before going the distance in his third outing, which resulted in another victory. He finally tasted defeat when he met Evgeniy Ryazanov at MFP 207 in early 2017. Fedorov bounced back to post three straight decisions and then a knockout victory. Along the way, he scored two wins over Honggang Yao, who entered their first fight with a 21-6-1 record. Outside of Yao and Ryazanov, Fedorov has not seen much high-level competition.
Jumabieke looked like the potential Chinese star the UFC craved when he first showed up inside the Octagon sporting that 15-0 mark, but he has failed to live up to the hype. Even in his post-UFC stint, he hasn’t been perfect. He tends to lose to any truly skilled non-Chinese fighter he meets.
Fedorov could be the next man to put a loss on Jumabieke’s record, but that’s no sure thing. After all, the Russian has been handed a setback by a less accomplished veteran in the past and can really only boast the two victories over Yao. Yao, like Jumabieke, has managed very little outside of his native land, so that’s hardly a big honor for Fedorov. Jumabieke has also faced Yao, but he barely squeaked by with a split-decision victory.\
Fedorov has to avoid getting caught up in Jumabieke’s heavy clinch and top-control game. The Russian did post some knockouts early in his career, but he isn’t exactly a big finisher. Still, his style might allow him to find openings and rock the UFC veteran. However, the bigger likelihood is that this turns into a war of attrition. Jumabieke’s experience should come in hand as he edges Fedorov in a close fight.
Other key bouts: Zhenhong Lu (15-5) vs. Evgeniy Ryazanov (18-12) for the bantamweight title, Lipeng Zhang (28-10-1) vs. Elnur Agaev (13-8), Aygul Khabirova (4-0) vs. Mei Huang (1-1), Shaqueme Rock (2-0) vs. Kang Kang Fu (3-2), Balajin (4-1) vs. Muhsin Corbbrey (14-9), Musu Nuertiebieke (12-3) vs. Naoto Shimizu (0-3), Mateusz Piskorz (12-4) vs. Kurbanjiang Tuluosibake (14-8)
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