Rafa Garcia (R) and Chase Gibson (Dave Mandel/Combat Press)

Out of Obscurity: Combate 30, Italian Cage Fighting 7 and Spartacus FC 7

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 Americas 30: Mexicali
Auditorio del Estado in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico
Event Date: Feb. 8
Website: combateamericas.com
Watch Event: DAZN (main card), Facebook/CombateAmericas (prelims)
Twitter: @CombateAmericas

Spotlight Fight:
Rafa Garcia (8-0) vs. Edgar Escarrega (5-2-1)

It’s an unusually light week of fights on the regional circuit, which means Combate Americas is the biggest organization in our lineup here. The promotion’s 30th event is more of a prospect hunt as opposed to a stacked lineup. The focus belongs on lightweight headliner Rafa Garcia. Garcia meets Edgar Escarrega at the Mexicali show.

The 24-year-old Garcia remains perfect through eight pro outings, leading to his featured spot on this show. The “Gifted” one debuted in 2014 and picked up four wins before joining the Combate roster via the league’s open tryouts. His promotional debut came in early 2017 when he needed just 64 seconds to find a heel hook for the submission victory over Raúl Najera Ocampo, who had entered the bout as a 4-1 prospect. Garcia continued his run with a second-round submission of .500 fighter Marcos Bonilla and a majority decision over Chase Gibson. Most recently, the Team Punisher fighter added a first-round knockout of Bellator and World Series of Fighting veteran LaRue Burley. Garcia was introduced to MMA at age 13 by his father. He has a background in high school and college wrestling.

Escarrega’s record is somewhat misleading. The 29-year-old debuted in 2013 and went a disappointing 1-2-1 through his first four fights. The Victory Fight Club product has since turned his fortunes around to reel off four straight wins. The “Nasty Boy” fought to a draw with Manuel Amor Sanchez and suffered his first loss by way of majority decision to Marco Vazquez. His only decisive loss came at the hands of Kamuela Kirk, who stopped Escarrega with knees in the first round. The three fighters he struggled against sported a 6-3 combined mark at the time of their encounters with Escarrega, and they now carry a combined 18-6-1 record — that’s not bad for a trio of fighters on the regional circuit in Mexico. Unfortunately, Escarrega has picked up his recent four victories against far less heralded foes, who held a combined 11-17 mark when they met him.

This is shaping up to be a showcase fight for Garcia. Escarrega has some momentum, but fights against 4-10 and 2-4 opponents will not help to prepare him for a match-up with an undefeated stud. Garcia has a plus ground game and and the wrestling skills to easily plant someone of Escarrega’s caliber on the mat. It’d be a surprise if Escarrega manages any substantial offense of his own, because he’ll be kept on the defensive by Garcia’s shots. It should lead to complete dominance for Garcia, who is likely to find a submission yet again for the finish.

Combate isn’t one to pad records, but this fight appears to be little more than a warm-up for Garcia before he goes on to bigger things. Shockingly, his only main-card appearance with the promotion prior to this fight was his finish of Burley. Now, Garcia is headlining. Next time, expect him to do so on a much bigger show for the company and against a much tougher opponent.

Other key bouts: Antonio Marquez (2-0) vs. Christopher Ortega (7-8), Ernesto Ibarra (2-0) vs. Ramon Vizcarra (1-0), Santiago Monreal (3-0) vs. Heber Castillo (3-2)

Italian Cage Fighting 7
Palazzetto Comunale in Galliate, Italy
Event Date: Feb. 9
Website: Facebook/italiancagefighting
Twitter: @italianfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Walter Cogliandro (8-0) vs. Alioune Nahaye (7-1)

Italy has become a regular stop for Bellator MMA, but it also houses some homegrown MMA organizations. Italian Cage Fighting is set for its seventh show, and the card is topped by a featherweight championship affair. The titleholder, Walter Cogliandro, puts his belt and undefeated record on the line against French challenger Alioune Nahaye.

Cogliandro has an interesting resume. He’s undefeated at the professional level, but his amateur run was much more rocky. In fact, he managed a middling 6-6 mark on the ammy circuit. Something clicked for “The Snatch” when he turned pro in 2016. The Italian fighter took finishes in four of his first five fights, and he has continued that trend by following up another decision win with two more finishes. Dive deeper, however, and you’ll find a streak that includes a lot of very inexperienced competition, a 1-6 opponent, and only a single win over an established veteran. That veteran, Souk Khampasath, only sported an 11-9-1 mark when he collided with Cogliandro for the vacant featherweight belt.

Nahaye has had a similarly solid run as a professional. He debuted in 2012 with a victory over a fellow rookie. His next appearance came in a one-night tournament where he won the opening bout, but then stumbled when he ran into future BAMMA fighter Damien Lapilus, who decisioned Nahaye. The Frenchman responded with three straight first-round stoppages, albeit against low-level competition. He was finally pushed into deeper waters again when he met Cedric Perruchet, whom Nahaye knocked out in the second frame of their bout. He again went past the first round in his most recent fight against Lucas Wiliam, but Nahaye scored the submission victory in round three.

These fighters sport good records for their region, but don’t expect to see them anywhere anytime soon beyond perhaps the prelims of an Italian show for Bellator MMA. Both men have a lot left to prove. Cogliandro needs a win here and then a massive step up in competition. Meanwhile, his French counterpart needs to demonstrate that he can not only beat Cogliandro, but also emerge with wins against fighters like the aforementioned Lapilus, who is no world-beater himself.

Cogliandro’s amateur stumbles raise some serious red flags for the Italian. Nahaye and Cogliandro appear to be fairly well matched in terms of their abilities, though. Both men have flashed the ability to catch kicks and make their opponent pay, and they have strong overall stand-up skills. Nahaye is lighter on the feet, but Cogliandro packs more power behind his punches. On the ground, Nahaye can end up in bad positions, but he’s also got a knack for reversals and scrambles to escape from those spots. It’s sure to be a back-and-forth battle here, and Cogliandro is likely to snatch the hard-fought decision victory.

Other key bouts: Tanio Pagliariccio (3-0) vs. Luca Panzetta (3-1), Matteo Caretti (3-0) vs. Seck Ndiobo (4-2), Teodoro Scolieri (1-0-1) vs. Marco Manovali (4-1), Alberto Ciardo (1-0) vs. Alessandro Capone (1-0)

Spartacus Fighting Championship 7: Avatars
Universiadа Hall in Sofia, Bulgaria
Event Date: May
Website: Facebook/SpartacusFightingChampionshi
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press

Spotlight Fight:
Kamen Georgiev (25-10-1) vs. Kaloyan Kolev (7-0)

The parade of undefeated continues as we move on to Bulgaria, where the Spartacus Fighting Championship organization is set to host its seventh event. Of this week’s featured shows, Spartacus FC 7 has the least depth. The only noteworthy fight is the bout we’re spotlighting here: a showdown for the vacant light heavyweight title that features longtime veteran Kamen Georgiev against undefeated up-and-comer Kaloyan Kolev.

Georgiev’s career dates back to a 2007 debut outing against Stanislav Nedkov, then just a 3-0 prospect. Nedkov, who would eventually go on to appear in the UFC’s Octagon, handed Georgiev his first loss. It was the beginning of a lengthy career for the combat-sambo expert. He went on to fight — and lose — to such notable opponents as current UFC fighter Blagoy Ivanov, Baga Agaev and Emil Zahariev (twice). His biggest wins came against Zahariev and the 12-21 (that’s not a typo) Yuri Gorbenko. The Bulgarian fighter has a balance of knockouts and submissions, but he’s also been finished on several occasions. He’s now riding a five-fight winning streak, but this will be his first appearance since 2016.

Kolev’s pro debut came just three months before Georgiev had his most recent outing. He topped fellow rookie Plamen Petkov, who towered over him and yet lost in just 55 seconds as a result of a cut, and continued by plowing through Adnan Alic in just 43 seconds. His third fight, against Darian Marinov, almost made it a full round before Kolev scored the TKO, and his fourth fight did hit the five-minute mark before ending when his opponent came up limping at the break. He added a first-round submission finish in his fifth pro appearance, but his next fight, against Milan Bodonji, actually went the distance. He returned to first-round finishes in his most recent affair, where Felix Polianidis bowed out with an injury at roughly the halfway point of the first frame.

Georgiev has a suspiciously high number of fights against rookie opponents, even deep into his career. His current streak of wins includes a rookie victim and an 0-1 fighter, as well as Gorbenko and another sub-.500 adversary. The grizzled vet has engaged in battles against fighters who would go on to become successful mixed martial artists, but he never won in those scenarios.

Kolev, meanwhile, has benefitted from competing against a number of cans. The huge Petkov was little more than a European poor man’s Bob Sapp — he was tall and intimidating, but fell with ease — and Alic crumpled the moment Kolev’s punches started flying. Georgiev might be the first opponent to actually put up a real fight against Kolev. Yet, that doesn’t mean the 36-fight veteran will win. Kolev has flashed some heavy leather in past fights, and he’s also strong enough to pick up opponents for takedowns if he can’t get them via a traditional shot. Kolev has a habit of making quick work of his opponent, and it could happen again here, in a fight that’s likely to end in a submission win for Kolev.

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Carl Dieckmann vs. Emillio Trevino at FSF 18 Trevino by knockout Trevino by knockout
Steven Newell vs. Jared Gooden at LFA 59 Gooden by knockout Gooden by decision
Iony Razafiarison vs. Clara Ricignuolo at European Beatdown 5 Razafiarison by submission Fight canceled; Razafiarison beat Cindy Dandois by split decision