Richard LeRoy (Dave Mandel/Combat Press)

Out of Obscurity: M-1 Challenge 96, CXF 14 and Deep 85 Impact

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…


M-1 Challenge 96
M1 Arena in St. Petersburg, Russia
Event Date: Aug. 25
Watch Event: Russia 2 (Russia),, Fite TV free preliminary-card and pay-per-view main-card stream via Combat Press
Twitter: @M1GlobalNews

Spotlight Fight:
Aleksey Ilyenko (8-0) vs. Michel Silva (19-7-1)

Russia’s M-1 Challenge promotion has been the home to many strong talents in this sport. Perhaps Aleksey Ilyenko will be the next in line to make a name for himself. Undefeated through eight professional bouts, the lightweight fighter is out to add another win to his resume when he meets veteran Michel Silva at M-1 Challenge 96.

Ilyenko is rightfully nicknamed “Phenom.” At just 20 years of age, he’s already put up eight wins with one no-contest since turning pro in 2016. His first seven victories came on the regional circuit, where he destroyed opponents with strikes in the first round. His opposition was not always of the highest level during this stretch, but Ilyenko demonstrated his skills and proved himself against Helson Henriques in his M-1 debut in May. It was Ilyenko’s longest fight, lasting into the third stanza before the youngster landed with kicks and punches to finish the 15-fight veteran.

Silva is nearing a decade in the sport. He made his debut in 2009 and won six of his first seven fights via some form of knockout. The Brazilian’s only loss in this stretch came via decision against current UFC fighter Alan Patrick. Silva has had his ups and downs since this initial surge. He went 5-1-1 over his next seven outings and then posted a 7-2 run before finally hitting a significant skid. Along the way, he registered numerous knockout finishes. He lost all three of his contests in 2017 by way of decision against established veterans, but recovered to score his first submission stoppage in an M-1 outing against Bolin Li.

The M-1 matchmakers are itching for a barnburner in this one. Silva has 14 knockout finishes. Ilyenko has eight. These guys tend to swing for the fences. If this fight doesn’t go the distance, the smart money is on a knockout finish.

Silva does have enough notable victories on his lengthy record to suggest that he’s a legitimate spoiler for someone like Ilyenko, who is still young and has largely faced outgunned opponents. Silva holds wins over the likes of Ciro Rodrigues and Diogo Cavalcanti. He’s gone the distance with the aforementioned Patrick and engaged in a losing effort against grizzled veteran Jamil Silveira that also went the distance. The problem is that the Brazilian has also faltered far too often against fighters with significant winning marks.

Ilyenko is a finisher, but this also means he lacks testing in the deep waters. Henriques took him into the third round, though, and he still prevailed against a veteran who had never been stopped via strikes in any of his previous fights. The Russian is up against a similar challenge here with Silva, who has only ever lost by decision. Perhaps the youngster can be the first to score a knockout of Silva, too.

Other key bouts: Dimitriy Mikutsa (9-4) vs. Khadis Ibragimov (4-0) for the light heavyweight title, Daniel Swain (18-8-1) vs. Viktor Kolesnik (15-2-1), Boris Medvedev (2-0) vs. Maksim Melnik (5-4), Sanzhar Adilov (3-0) vs. Vazha Tsiptauri (5-1), René Hackl (3-0) vs. Nikita Solonin (5-3), Rafał Kijańczuk (3-0) vs. Ibrahim Sagov (4-1), Filip Kovařík (1-0) vs. Artem Tarasov (2-2), Ruslan Rakhmonkulov (11-1) vs. Maksim Grabovich (8-5), Adam Borovec (3-0) vs. Akhmadkhan Bokov (3-3), Jurand Lisiecki (3-0-1) vs. Vasily Kozlov (0-0)

California Xtreme Fighting 14: Boiling Point
Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, Calif.
Event Date: Aug. 25
Twitter: @CXFMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Richard LeRoy (7-0) vs. Gabriel Green (8-2)

California Xtreme Fighting hasn’t graced this preview series in the past, but the organization finally brings some attention its way on its 14th card. This is because of the evening’s headlining lightweight title affair between undefeated prospect Richard LeRoy and 10-fight veteran Gabriel Green.

LeRoy is a 28-year-old fighter out of the Los Angeles chapter of Team Sityodtong. He marched through five amateur opponents while collecting three knockouts and one submission victory. The native Californian turned pro in 2014 and alternated between knockouts and submissions through his first five bouts. Along the way, he graduated from fighting rookies to finishing opponents with five to eight fights under their respective belts. More recently, LeRoy has settled into a trend of knockout victories. He delivered a knockout against future Legacy Fighting Alliance fighter Christian Aguilera to win a CXF lightweight tournament and then stopped EliteXC and Strikeforce veteran David Douglas via a ground-and-pound barrage.

Green had an equally strong amateur run in which he scored six victories, including four via some form of knockout and one by way of submission. The “Gifted” one made his professional debut in 2016 and scored two more submission victories before appearing inside the Bellator cage and scoring a second-round knockout of Alex Trinidad. Green, who also hails from California, suffered back-to-back knockout losses in his next two contests, including a 36-second destruction at the hands of Jalin Turner, a fighter who would go on to lose to LeRoy just two fights later in his career. Green’s loss to Turner came under the Bellator banner, but it would not be his last fight for the organization. After picking up another two submissions and one more knockout, Green returned and scored a first-round submission of Chris Padilla at Bellator 192. The 25-year-old has since added another submission finish under the Combate Estrellas banner, where he handed Javier Garcia the first loss of the upstart’s pro career.

Green isn’t a scrub by any means. He even has a winning mark inside the Bellator cage. However, his chin is a huge question mark. He lasted nearly three and a half minutes against Randon Abafo before he was dropped for the first time. He only made it 36 seconds before it was lights out against Turner. Turner is a common opponent between Green and LeRoy, but LeRoy finished Turner off with punches in the third round.

LeRoy’s two most recent fights came against solid opponents. Green’s resume looks strong, too. However, Green has defeated a few fighters recently who are either suffering through very rough patches in their careers or who fed mostly on rookie and sub-.500 opponents to build their winning records. LeRoy has the power to test Green’s chin once more and the track record to suggest that he’s a legitimate prospect that can get the job done.

Other key bouts: Cooper Gibson (8-2) vs. Samuel Alvarez (3-2), David Roberts (2-0) vs. Daniel McWilliams (18-39), Niko Ruiz (2-0) vs. Eugene Cacho (0-1)

Deep 85 Impact
Korakuen Hall in Tokyo
Event Date: Aug. 26
Twitter: @deep_official

Spotlight Fight:
Takafumi Otsuka (24-14-1) vs. Victor Henry (13-4)

Deep’s latest offering delivers several interesting match-ups. The league is crossing over a couple of its athletes from the all-women’s side of Jewels, including Satomi Takano, Alyssa Garcia and Emi Tomimatsu. On the men’s side, the most intriguing pairing involves bantamweights Takafumi Otsuka and Victor Henry.

Otsuka is a veteran and Deep mainstay who has been part of the title fray in the organization for a number of years now. The 32-year-old debuted in 2006 and lost his first two pro fights, but he was challenging for gold by 2009. Otsuka, whose Dream appearances included two losing efforts against elite bantamweight Bibiano Fernandes, captured the Deep featherweight strap with a victory over Dokonjonosuke Mishima in 2009, but lost the belt in a 2010 title defense. In 2011, he set his sights on the bantamweight strap and captured the title with a win over Hiroshi Nakamura. While he dropped the title to Yoshiro Maeda, he went on to capture the championship again in 2014 and made three successful defenses while also sprinkling in several non-title contests. The AACC product also advanced as far as the semifinals of Rizin’s bantamweight tournament with wins over UFC castoff Anthony Birchak and the formerly undefeated future UFC fighter Khalid Taha before faltering to Shintaro Ishiwatari. Otsuka has a background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and high school wrestling (in Japan). He advanced to the semifinals of the Cup of China as a high school wrestler and also placed as a runner-up in the Greco-Roman National High School Championship. He has scored wins over such notables as Leandro Issa, Masanori Kanehara, Hiroshi Nakamura and Toshiaki Kitada, but he’s tasted defeat at the hands of the Toshiaki Kitada and Fernandes, as well as former UFC champion Rafael dos Anjos, Koichiro Matsumoto, Yoshiro Maeda (twice) and Ishiwatari (twice). He’s a decision-heavy fighter who has gone the distance in 27 contests.

After a rocky amateur career in which he dropped two fights, Henry turned pro in 2010 and started training with Josh Barnett and the CSW crew. He won his first six pro contests before running into Joe Murphy. Murphy, a World Series of Fighting veteran and future Resurrection Fighting Alliance fighter, handed Henry his first pro loss by way of a closely contested split decision. Henry rebounded from the defeat in a big way. He scored a TKO victory over Dream veteran Hideo Tokoro and a first-round submission finish of Cory Vom Baur. Then, he stunned Masakatsu Ueda with a third-round kneebar submission finish. He claimed two more victories before mounting an unsuccessful challenge for the bantamweight title against the aforementioned Ishiwatari. This signalled the beginning of a rough patch at the pro level for Henry. He returned to pick up a decision win over Alan Yoshihiro Yamaniha, but then lost consecutive fights to Rafael Silva and the aforementioned Ueda. Henry departed Pancrase and headed to King of the Cage, where he righted the ship once more with a second-round finish of Anderson dos Santos. The 31-year-old is a taekwondo black belt, but his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills have accounted for six submission victories to go along with his three stoppages via strikes. Henry has only been stopped once, via submission, and that was during his amateur run.

Henry hasn’t been able to find his groove since the loss to Ishiwatari. The height of his career came in 2014-15 with his wins over Tokoro and Ueda, but he hasn’t been able to recapture that same magic. Instead, Ueda avenged the loss and Henry has only managed to tally a 2-3 mark through his last five fights. He may have left Pancrase, but he isn’t receiving an easy fight here in his Deep debut against Otsuka. The Japanese fighter doesn’t always run away with the victory, but he impressed with his Rizin tourney run. Taha was in the UFC just a couple of fights later, and Birchak was only a few fights removed from his own stint in the Octagon.

If Otsuka could hang with Taha and Birchak, in addition to going the distance with Ishiwatari, then it stands to reason that he can hold his own against Henry. If this fight took place three years ago, Henry would likely enjoy favorite status. As it stands now, however, he has a lot to prove and a scrappy veteran opponent standing in his way. Otsuka won’t run away with this one, but he should do just enough to eke out the decision.

Other key bouts: Namiki Kawahara (5-1-1) vs. Yutaro Muramoto (6-4-1), Satomi Takano (11-10) vs. Alyssa Garcia (3-5), Emi Tomimatsu (13-13) vs. Si Woo Park (0-2)

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Rick Story vs. Carlton Minus at PFL 6 Story by decision Story by submission
Joselyne Edwards Laboriel vs. Brenda Gonzales Means at The Fight Series Means by decision Event canceled by athletic commission
Szymon Kołecki vs. Michał Bobrowski at Babilon MMA 5 Kołecki by knockout Bobrowski by decision