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: Dec. 15
Watch Event: DAZN
Seo Hee Ham (19-8) vs. Jung Eun Park (4-4-1)
Road FC, spurred on by Seo Hee Ham’s recent run with the promotion, has found an interest in the women’s atomweight division. It’s even noticeable in the name of its 51st event, dubbed “XX.” That just happens to be the typical chromosomes for someone of the female gender. Who better to lead a card stacked with 105-pound women than Ham herself? The Road FC champion will put her title on the line against Jung Eun Park, who returns to the South Korean organization after a few appearances elsewhere.
At 19-8, Ham has a very misleading record. Her resume consists of a mix of atomweight and strawweight affairs, and she’s only managed to find mixed success outside of the atomweight division. At 106 pounds, however, the South Korean fighter has posted a win over Naho Sugiyama to claimed the Deep atomweight strap and then defended the title with wins over Sadae Suzumura and Saori Ishioka. Ham had cracked the atomweight top 10 before shifting her focus back to the strawweight division. The Busan Team MAD export lost her UFC debut to Joanne Calderwood. Ham rebounded with a win over Cortney Casey, but then lost back-to-back fights to Bec Rawlings and Danielle Taylor. The 31-year-old Ham, a veteran of the kickboxing and shoot boxing circuits, departed the UFC and signed with Road FC, where she quickly became the atomweight champion with a win over Mina Kurobe. Ham made her first defense of the strap with a finish of reigning Invicta atomweight titleholder Jinh Yu Frey. Ham tends to claim victory on the scorecards, but both of her Road FC bouts ended in some form of knockout.
Park, meanwhile, went 3-0 as an amateur under the Road FC Central League banner before stumbling to losses in her first two pro bouts against veterans Emi Fujino and Satomi Takano. Park, a sambo practitioner who competed as a member the Sambo National Team and claimed bronze at the 2014 Asian Games, rebounded with three wins over rookie competition and a draw against veteran Hisae Watanabe. Park ventured outside of Road FC beginning in late 2017. Her three-fight stint with Deep and Deep Jewels resulted in a decision loss to the aforementioned Kurobe, a decision win over Emi Tomimatsu and a decision loss to Tomo Maesawa.
Park has joined the group consisting of Takano, Maesawa and Tomimatsu as a fringe top-15 atomweight. However, that’s a far cry from Ham’s status as a top-fiver in the division. Ham has struggled at 115 pounds, but she definitely qualifies as a member of the elite when fighting at 105 or 106 pounds.
Park has a respectable record, but a .500 mark wouldn’t even sniff the top 15 in a deeper division. Furthermore, most of her victories have come against rookie competition. Fujino, Takano, Kurobe and Maesawa were all able to edge her on the scorecards. That’s hardly a good sign as she heads into the toughest fight of her career.
Ham’s recent habit of finishing opponents is encouraging. She might even continue the streak against Park. However, Park is a grinder, which suggests that this one might be bound to go the distance. Either way, Ham should find the victory here.
Other key bouts: Ye Ji Lee (3-4) vs. Soo Yeon Lee (0-0), Michel Pereira (20-9) vs. Won Jun Choi (3-2), Je Woo Yeo (1-0) vs. Nandin-Erdene Munguntsooj (7-4), Jung Hyak Jang (1-0-1) vs. Max Handanagič (3-4)
Event Date: Dec. 15
Ivan Shtyrkov (15-0-1) vs. Thiago Silva (21-7)
Do not adjust your computer monitors. We have not traveled back in time to the year 2013. Instead, Russian Cagefighting Championship has gathered Alexander Shlemenko, Thiago Silva, Francimar Barroso, Diego Brandão and Rousimar Palhares for a card that takes place in the year 2018. It may be at least five years past the high point in the careers of these former Bellator and UFC fighters, but they still combine to bring plenty of name recognition to RCC’s fifth show. The disgraced Silva, who struggled to obey laws and regulations both inside the sport and in the world as a whole, gets perhaps the biggest assignment of the UFC castoffs in the lineup. Silva faces RCC golden boy Ivan Shtyrkov in a light heavyweight scrap.
Shtyrkov’s career has been spent competing under the German Titov Boxing Promotions and RCC Boxing Promotions banners in Russia. He’s faced several notable names along the way. After stopping his first five low-level foes since turning pro in mid-2015, “Ural Hulk” encountered UFC veteran Jeff Monson. The Russian fighter landed a blow that sent Monson to the mat, where Shtyrkov finished the experienced grappler with an armbar in 31 seconds of the very first round. However, Monson has gone on record stating that he expected an exhibition fight and entered the contest with an injured arm that Shtyrkov eventually targeted for the finish. Shtyrkov topped his next two opponents, including former UFC champ Ricco Rodriguez, via first-round TKO. This led to a meeting with UFC vet Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The 30-year-old couldn’t stop Bigfoot, but he did earn the victory on the scorecards. Shtyrkov added UFC veterans Rodney Wallace and Phil De Fries to his list of victims. Then, he used his fists to pummel veteran Japanese fighter Satoshi Ishii for another stoppage victory. Late in 2017, he turned his focus toward the light heavyweight division and decisioned former Bellator champ Christian M’Pumbu and European veteran Marcin Łazarz. In a shift back to heavyweight, Shtyrkov fought to a draw with 60-fight journeyman Gerônimo dos Santos. Most recently, though, he tilted the scales at 215 pounds for a catchweight contest against UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado, who succumbed to strikes in the second round.
Silva should be a familiar name to UFC fans. The Brazilian landed in the UFC just two years after his 2005 pro debut. Silva sported a 9-0 mark at the time and appeared poised to become a force inside the Octagon. He destroyed his first four UFC foes, but he couldn’t get past Lyoto Machida. After a rebound win against Keith Jardine, Silva lost to Rashad Evans. Injuries, cheating and run-ins with the law plagued his next three years with the promotion. Silva fought just five times in this stretch, and two of those bouts were eventually ruled as no-contests. The Brazilian did, however, end his UFC tenure with two wins before receiving his release as a result of an arrest. He finally returned to a more active schedule of fights in 2015, but he’s had his ups and downs while jumping from organization to organization. He has notched recent notable wins over Stav Economou, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and James McSweeney, but he has also suffered losses to Teddy Holder, Marcus Sursa, Batraz Agnaev and Mikhail Kolobegov.
The RCC has been finding ways to get Shtyrkov high-profile wins. The company has lined up UFC and Bellator veterans, and Shtyrkov has passed each test. His only setback came in the draw to dos Santos. Now, the RCC has booked yet another fight against a former UFC star whose name power far outweighs his recent performances inside the cage.
The Silva of 2008 or 2009— or maybe even 2013 — would have been an intimidating match-up for Shtyrkov. The Silva of 2018? Far less so. Silva is 5-4 over his last nine fights, but many of his wins have come against subpar veterans who couldn’t cut it at the sport’s highest level. Shtyrkov does have some questionable wins, most notably the finish of the aforementioned Monson, but he’s demonstrated an ability to get past the likes of Maldonado and even Bigfoot. Shtyrkov feasts on declining UFC veterans, and he’s likely to do the same with Silva. The Russian blue-chipper should end the Brazilian’s night with a knockout.
Other key bouts: Alexander Shlemenko (57-12) vs. Jonas Billstein (20-5-1), Francimar Barroso (21-7-1) vs. Mikhail Mokhnatkin (11-2-2), Vener Galiev (31-10) vs. Diego Brandão (23-13), Geronimo Dos Santos (41-20-1) vs. Anton Vyazigin (11-3), Mikhail Ragozin (12-3) vs. Kleber Silva (15-9), Nikolay Aleksakhin (22-5) vs. Rodrigo Cavalheiro (23-8), Victor Henry (15-4) vs. Denis Lavrentyev (6-1), Rousimar Palhares (19-9-1) vs. Georgiy Kichigin (19-5), Denis Kanakov (9-1) vs. Egor Golubtsov (17-6), Aleksandr Grozin (10-2-1) vs. Alexander Matmuratov (9-3), Magomedsaygid Alibekov (9-1) vs. Shane Campbell (14-6), Vasiliy Zubkov (14-8) vs. Artur Karavaev (7-6)
Event Date: Dec. 15
Daniel Pineda (24-13) vs. Elias Rodriguez (6-0)
It may not register at the same level as the RCC bout between Shtyrkov and Silva, but Fury Fighting Championship is using a similar strategy to its Russian counterpart as it builds up the resume of prospect Elias Rodriguez. The promotion’s 28th event features the undefeated Rodriguez in a showdown against UFC and Bellator veteran Daniel Pineda for the league’s interim lightweight title, which currently resides around Pineda’s waist.
The 31-year-old Rodriguez made his professional debut in 2011, but he didn’t return for his sophomore effort until 2016. The Legacy Fight Gym product picked up where he left off, adding four more wins to his record. After a number of scrapped bouts, Rodriguez landed in a Fury FC 26 contest opposite Rey Trujillo, a journeyman who had made short stops in both Strikeforce and Bellator. It was easily Rodriguez’s toughest test to date, and he passed with flying colors. It took Rodriguez, who has a background in high school wrestling, just 38 seconds to tap Trujillo with a kneebar.
Pineda, 33, has been bouncing around at the pro level since 2007. He went 10-7 across the regional scene and two Bellator stops before finally sticking with Legacy Fighting Championship in 2010. His Legacy debut, oddly enough, was a first-round submission finish of the aforementioned Trujillo. After five wins and a featherweight championship under the Legacy banner, Pineda joined the UFC. He went just 3-4 during his time inside the Octagon. After his stint with the UFC, Pineda returned to Legacy and won three straight fights. His next stop was Bellator, where he only managed one win over the span of three fights. Pineda has since made another return to Legacy, this time in the form of the Legacy Fighting Alliance, and captured the Fury FC interim belt with a 70-second submission finish of Dimitre Ivy.
Pineda is the epitome of a fighter who just can’t manage when he moves up to the next level. His regional run included losses to Johnny Bedford and Chas Skelly. His UFC tenure included defeats at the hands of Mike Brown, Antonio Carvalho, Diego Brandão and Robert Whiteford. His Bellator stay featured setbacks from Emmanuel Sanchez and Georgi Karakhanyan. Meanwhile, his biggest wins arguably came against Bedford, Pat Schilling, Mackens Semerzier, Justin Lawrence, Leonard Garcia and Mark Dickman. This is a fighter who has settled in as a very low-level gatekeeper.
So, can Rodriguez pass this test? It would seem so. The undefeated up-and-comer has an aggressive submission game, and Pineda has suffered six submission losses. Furthermore, this fight is a 155-pound bout, and Pineda figures to be the smaller fighter. Rodriguez should pick up a big win that draws the attention of bigger promotions.
Other key bouts: Manny Lozoya (2-0) vs. Warren Stewart (11-27)
|Killys Mota vs. Austin Hubbard at LFA 56||Mota by submission||Hubbard by knockout|
|Andres Quintana vs. Marlon Gonzales at Combate 27||Quintana by decision||Quintana by decision
(Quintana went on to win the one-night tournament)
|Jack Shore vs. Mike Ekundayo at Cage Warriors 100||Shore by knockout||Shore by knockout|