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…
Miles Johns (7-0) vs. Adrian Yanez (7-2)
The 55th event from Legacy Fighting Alliance takes the promotion to Dallas for a lineup that features two intriguing title fights at 135 pounds. On the women’s side, Sarah Alpar and Joselyne Edwards vie for the vacant women’s bantamweight championship. Meanwhile, Miles Johns and Adrian Yanez clash over the equally vacant men’s crown.
Johns is the one undefeated fighter among the title hopefuls. The 24-year-old Kansas native went 4-1 as an amateur before turning pro in 2014 and reeling off seven straight wins. After three victories in smaller promotions, he was picked up by Legacy Fighting Championship. Johns won his lone Legacy FC fight by technical knockout and then transitioned to the LFA, where he has decisioned Levi Mowles and Caio Machado. He earned his first finish with the organization earlier this year when he submitted the formerly undefeated Eric Ellington. “Chapo” trains out of Fortis MMA in Texas.
Yanez, who is also 24, went undefeated through six ammy bouts before he, too, made his professional debut in 2014. Unlike Johns, Yanez has had a few setbacks as a pro. The Houston-based fighter won his debut outing, but then he dropped a decision to the aforementioned Mowles in Mowles’ own pro debut at Legacy FC 37. The Metro Fight Club product bounced back with four straight wins, including a decision over veteran Ryan Hollis at Bellator 149 and a submission of Colin Wright at Legacy FC 59. Yanez stumbled again when he made his LFA debut, but it was by the tiniest of margins. Yanez came out on the wrong side of a split verdict against Domingo Pilarte. He rebounded once more with two wins, but his competition, even under the LFA banner, has been mediocre during this stretch.
The one common trend for Yanez has been his inability to get past the truly tough competition he has faced. Mowles, who will also see action at this event, is now 10-3 and an established member of the LFA roster. Pilarte is now 8-1 and scored a UFC contract after beating Vince Morales on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Meanwhile, Yanez’s victories came over a trio of fighters who now hold a 1-5 pro mark and a series of veterans who sit at or slightly above the .500 mark.
Johns has succeeded where Yanez has failed. He defeated the aforementioned Mowles, for one. He also landed a decision nod over an 11-3 foe and recently added the first blemish to the record of a man who had been perfect through five fights. Now, this isn’t to say that he’ll breeze past Yanez. The Houston-based fighter is a tough out, and he almost snuck past Pilarte, which would have counted as a true signature win for him. Johns can expect a tough fight that makes it to the final bell, but he’ll emerge with the hard-fought victory.
Other key bouts: Sarah Alpar (7-4) vs. Joselyne Edwards (8-1) for the women’s bantamweight title, Levi Mowles (10-3) vs. Raufeon Stots (10-1), Ramiz Brahimaj (7-1) vs. Justin Patterson (10-4), Austin Lingo (4-0) vs. Aaron Webb (2-2), Victor Altamirano (3-0) vs. Isaiah Gutierrez (4-1)
Mina Kurobe (12-4) vs. Tomo Maesawa (11-8)
Sometimes, the top tier of the women’s atomweight division in Japan can seem like a round-robin between just a handful of fighters. Over the course of her 16-fight career, current Deep Jewels titleholder Mina Kurobe has already met her upcoming opponent, Tomo Maesawa, twice. She’s also met fellow Deep Jewels 22 participant Satomi Takano twice, and Maesawa and Takano have locked horns three times. In this case, Kurobe will put her title on the line against a woman she has had little trouble handling in the past.
Kurobe, 41, is a late bloomer as an MMA fighter. The Master Japan product, who has a background in grappling, debuted in December 2012 at the age of 35. She won her first five fights, including three by way of rear-naked choke submission. Her victories, however, came primarily against opponents who currently reside under the .500 mark, with the exception of Maesawa. When she stepped up to face Mei Yamaguchi, Kurobe fell on the scorecards. Her next fight, which came against Naho Sugiyama, also ended in disappointment when the scorecards were read. Kurobe regained her confidence with wins over MMA newcomers Hana and Renju Date, who had a combined 1-0 mark when they clashed with Kurobe. The Deep Jewels mainstay then stepped it up and scored significant wins over Maesawa and Saori Ishioka, another fixture of the division. She then rematched and defeated Sugiyama for the Deep atomweight strap. After a time-limit draw with fellow MMA fighter Emi Tomimatsu in a grappling match, Kurobe was knocked out by Seo Hee Ham in a Road FC title bid in South Korea. She returned to the Deep and Deep Jewels organizations to add victories over Jung Eun Park and Takano, but her most recent affair, which took place at Rizin 13, ended in a submission loss to Ayaka Hamasaki.
Maesawa, now 30, was thrown into the deep waters immediately upon making her pro debut. She lost her first three fights to Mika Nagano, Kikuyo Ishikawa and Kurobe, respectively. She won five of her next six, but was the victim of a 39-second finish at the hands of current UFC fighter Cortney Casey. Then, she suffered her first loss to Takano. She rebounded with a win over Karei Date and then took another loss against Kurobe before beating Tomimatsu by submission. After her second loss to Takano, Maesawa claimed back-to-back victories over middling competition. Yet again, she lost to Takano, only to recover with victories over Yuko Saito and the aforementioned Park.
Despite her grappling acumen, Kurobe has scored just three submissions, all early in her career. She has gone the distance in eight of her victories. Her defeats have come at the hands of top-10 atomweight fixtures Yamaguchi, Sugiyama, Ham and Hamasaki. Beyond a victory over Sugiyama in the pair’s rematch — it was also Sugiyama’s farewell bout — Kurobe’s most notable wins have come against fringe top-15 atomweights like Maesawa (twice), Takano (twice), Tomimatsu, Ishioka and Park.
Maesawa’s struggles are far greater, though. She was a victim of one of Kurobe’s submissions, and she also dropped a decision to Kurobe in the pair’s rematch. She’s been defeated a ridiculous three times by Takano, too. While Maesawa floats around at the edge of the top-15, she’s clearly behind both Kurobe and Takano. This isn’t good news for her going into her third fight with the reigning champ. Maesawa has been a grinder, and she did last until the final bell in the pair’s last fight, so odds are that this fight lands on the scorecards. Kurobe, much like Takano, seems to have Maesawa’s number. Look for another decision nod for the champ.
Other key bouts: Reina Miura (10-2) vs. Judith Ruis (4-3), Satomi Takano (11-11) vs. Yuko Saito (2-1), Mika Nagano (16-10) vs. Tanja Hoffman (7-4)
Mateusz Gamrot (14-0) vs. Kleber Koike Erbst (24-4-1)
As if two UFC events and a pair of Bellator shows wasn’t enough to crowd the weekend’s MMA calendar, along comes a remarkable card from KSW. The Polish organization’s 46th event features a rematch between Mamed Khalidov and the man who finally ended Khalidov’s eight-year undefeated streak, Tomasz Narkun. Several other prospects, including Salahdine Parnasse and Roberto Soldić, also take to the cage at the event. Yet, it’s impossible not to throw the spotlight on Mateusz Gamrot, KSW’s undefeated longtime lightweight champion who now attempts to claim gold at 145 pounds as well. Gamrot puts his perfect record on the line against Kleber Koike Erbst, KSW’s former featherweight champion.
The 27-year-old Gamrot debuted in 2012 and won his first three fights before joining KSW. The shift in organizations meant an upgrade in Gamrot’s competition. He kept winning despite facing the likes of Mateusz Zawadzki, Tim Newman, Łukasz Chlewicki, Rodrigo Cavalheiro, Marif Piraev, Mansour Barnaoui, Renato Gomes and UFC veterans Andre Winner and Norman Parke. This long list of adversaries sported a combined mark of 138-34-5 when they fought Gamrot. The “Gamer” has just four knockouts and four submissions, but he’s been a very effective fighter. After defeating the aforementioned Parke in his most recent title defense in front of his countrymen, he rematched the UFC vet in a fight that resulted in a no-contest. Gamrot’s only outing so far in 2018 came against Grzegorz Szulakowski, a challenger with a 9-1 mark heading into their contest. Gamrot submitted Szulakowski in the fourth round of their showdown.
Erbst debuted in 2008 and got off to an underwhelming 4-3-1 start, though one of his losses came via disqualification. In late 2010, things finally clicked for the Japanese fighter. He won his next 14 fights, including submission victories over veterans Hideki Kadowaki and Miguel Torres. In his streak, Erbst tallied nine first-round finishes. He finally stumbled again when he challenged Artur Sowiński for the KSW featherweight belt. Erbst responded with three victories, including a submission of Yusuke Yachi, to earn another crack at the championship. This time, Erbst was successful in taking the belt by way of decision over Marcin Wrzosek. The Bonsai Jiu Jitsu export was to defend his title against the aforementioned Sowiński, but the crown was vacated when Erbst missed weight. He picked up another win, this time in a catchweight contest, before entering into this “superfight.” The decorated grappler has a total of 20 submission wins in his career.
Gamrot has seen the scorecards in nearly half of his fights, but he has brought an early end to the night for such notables as the previously undefeated Piraev and veterans Newman, Cavalheiro and Gomes. Meanwhile, he’s gone the distance against Winner, Chlewicki and Barnaoui. He’s seen a lot of tough opponents, and Erbst adds to that list.
Erbst is an elite ground specialist. He can be tentative and awkward at times with his striking, but his winging punches can be effective — just ask Anzor Azhiev, who was on the receiving end of plenty of jaw-rattling blows before falling victim to Erbst’s submission game. If Erbst can continue to develop his striking arsenal to complement his jiu-jitsu, he’s going to be an even more dangerous foe.
Nobody has cracked the code to beat Gamrot yet. This includes an 18-0-1 Piraev and The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes winner Parke. Erbst brings an incredible submission arsenal to the table for this match-up, but it’s hard to say if that will be enough. Gamrot, who has primarily competed at lightweight, is likely to be the bigger fighter, but Erbst can be dangerous anytime this fight hits the canvas, whether he’s on top or bottom. Gamrot has to focus on keeping this bout in the stand-up realm, where Erbst doesn’t quite have the same polished set of weapons. Even then, the Japanese fighter can make life difficult.
For attentive fans who wander outside of the UFC and Bellator for their MMA fix, this could be the best fight of the weekend. Given Gamrot’s willingness to go the distance, the Polish fighter will give Erbst plenty of time to hunt for submissions. Yet, it’s difficult to see Gamrot dropping this fight. The lightweight kingpin should grab a title in the featherweight division by the time the dust settles.
Other key bouts: Tomasz Narkun (15-2) vs. Mamed Khalidov (34-5-2), Marcin Wrzosek (13-4) vs. Salahdine Parnasse (11-0-1), Kamil Szymuszowski (16-5) vs. Artur Sowiński (18-10), Marian Ziółkowski (19-7) vs. Grzegorz Szulakowski (9-2), Roberto Soldić (14-3) vs. Vinicius Bohrer (16-6), Krystian Kaszubowski (6-0) vs. Michał Michalski (6-3), Antun Račić (21-8-1) vs. Sebastian Przybysz (4-1)
Last Week’s Scorecard
Pavel Gordeev vs. Arthur Lima at RCC Intro 2
Lima by submission
Gordeev by decision
Alexander Butenko vs. Zaur Isaev at KPF: Selection 2
Butenko by decision
Isaev by knockout
Maxim Radu vs. Joel Alvarez at AFL 17
Radu by knockout
Alvarez by submission
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