Mike Graves (Matt Quiggins/Combat Press)

Out of Obscurity: Brave CF 22, Shooto Brazil 90 and Titan FC 53

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…


Brave Combat Federation 22: Storm of Warriors
Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Philippines
Event Date: March 15
Website: bravefights.com
Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Twitter: @bravemmaf

Spotlight Fight:
Stephen Loman (13-2) vs. Elias Boudegzdame (15-5)

The Brave Combat Federation hosted 12 events in 2018. This show, the promotion’s 22nd overall, marks the first card of 2019. It has a solid headliner, too, in the form of the bantamweight title showdown between champion Stephen Loman and challenger Elias Boudegzdame.

The 27-year-old titleholder has had perhaps the most successful Brave CF reign in the promotion’s history. The Team Lakay fighter won the vacant championship at the company’s ninth event, where he beat Gurdarshan Mangat via TKO. “The Sniper” then defended the belt with decision nods over Frans Mlambo and Felipe Efrain. The Filipino prospect has also competed under the URCC and Pacific X-treme Combat banners since making his pro debut in 2012. His record is a bit odd, as several fighter databases list either one or two of his 2015 appearances as amateur outings.

Boudegzdame has also held gold with Brave CF, but he did so as a featherweight. The French-Algerian fighter claimed the crown at Brave CF 4, where he submitted Masio Fullen in the first round. The 25-year-old defended the strap with a fourth-round submission finish of Jakub Kowalkiewicz, but he was bested on the scorecards in his next defense against Bellator veteran Bubba Jenkins. The LaBonne Ecole export debuted in 2012 and had an up-and-down career prior to his title reign. He suffered four prior losses to varying levels of competition, but he did make appearances with the Desert Force and M-1 Challenge promotions. He does hold a victory over UFC washout Walel Watson.

This fight marks a return to the bantamweight division for Boudegzdame. The Algerian fighter has spent a majority of his career at 145 pounds, but he has dipped into the 135-pound waters before. However, even most of his “bantamweight” appearances came at 139 pounds. In his one documented drop to 135, “Smile” suffered a stoppage loss to Evgeny Lazukov.

For a Team Lakay fighter, Loman has an unusually large number of fights that went the distance. The Filipino camp is known for a number of regional stars who’ve decimated their opponents with strikes, but Loman hasn’t shown the same finishing ability. This could work against him in a fight with an adversary who has 13 submission victories on his resume.

Boudegzdame stands three inches taller than the champ and is sure to enjoy an overall size advantage as a former featherweight. However, Loman, a very compact fighter, has demonstrated his ability to overcome any disadvantages in reach by chopping away at his opponent with quick, low leg kicks and speedy level changes for takedowns. He’s a surprisingly solid wrestler for a Team Lakay fighter. Loman also works well in the clinch.

Loman’s wrestling tendencies could work against him, though. Boudegzdame welcomes a ground battle. He’ll often pull guard or fall to the mat in an attempt to coax his opponent to follow him into his world. The Algerian fighter has a very active guard and will throw up submission attempts endlessly while on his back. He’s very dangerous from top position, too, as he demonstrated with his fourth-round finish of Kowalkiewicz.

Loman will score takedowns all day if he so chooses. He might even be aided by Boudegzdame’s habit of jumping into guard while pressed against the cage in the clinch. If Loman follows this game plan, he could doom himself. He needs to keep the distance and play a conservative game of outpointing his opponent, but even this strategy may ultimately fail, given Boudegzdame’s reach and knockdown power. Either way, it seems likely that this fight hits the canvas. That’s where the challenger will eventually find a submission for the finish.

Other key bouts: Rolando Dy (10-7) vs. Mehmosh Raza (9-3), Mark Alcoba (6-1) vs. Jeremy Pacatiw (8-3), Satya Behuria (1-0) vs. Jomar Pa-ac (5-2)

Shooto Brazil 90
Upper Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Event Date: March 15
Website: Facebook/BrasilShooto
Watch Event: Combate (Brazil)
Twitter: @ShootoMMABrasil

Spotlight Fight:
Adriano Rodrigues (11-3) vs. Adriano Martins (28-10)

Shooto Brazil has often served as the launching pad for Brazilian prospects on the way up, but it can also serve as the fallback for a veteran who has hit a rough patch in the big show. Such is the case for Adriano Martins. Two straight losses in the UFC was enough to send Martins packing. Now, the 36-year-old returns to his homeland in a 163-pound catchweight contest against Adriano Rodrigues as part of the promotion’s 90th event.

Martins is a true veteran of the game. He made his pro debut in 2004 and won his first three fights. He stumbled in back-to-back efforts, including an encounter with future UFCer Gleison Tibau, but eventually righted the ship for an eight-fight winning streak. He stepped up in competition, but lost to Ronys Torres and Keita Nakamura. Again, the Brazilian rebounded, this time to the tune of a 12-2 run in which he avenged the loss to Torres and only stumbled against Jamil Silveira and future UFC fighter Francisco Trinaldo. His success landed him in Strikeforce, where he decisioned Jorge Gurgel. Martins then moved on to the UFC, where he went 4-3 over seven appearances. His victims included notables Daron Cruickshank, Rustam Khabilov and Islam Makhachev, but Martins fell short against Donald Cerrone, Leonardo Santos and Kajan Johnson. In his only fight of 2018, the 36-year-old landed in the Fight Nights Global organization for a losing effort against Alexander Shabliy.

While Martins appears to be on the way down, Rodrigues is trying to convince the big shows that he’s on his way up. “El Brigador” won three of his first six fights, beginning with his pro debut in 2013. He’s ramped things up more recently with an 8-1 run in which his lone defeat came against 31-fight veteran Sergey Khandozhko. Unfortunately, his wins in this stretch came against subpar competition, ranging from rookies on the low end to opponents with 6-4 and 3-1 marks on the high end. The 26-year-old has seven knockout finishes.

Martins, who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has been knocked out on three occasions. However, these knockouts were delivered by the aforementioned Torres, Cerrone and Johnson, all of whom have competed at the highest levels of the sport. The American Top Team fighter was just barely edged on the scorecards by Santos and Trinaldo, and he was good enough to squeak by Khabilov and Luis “Sapo” Santos via split verdicts. Even at age 36 and on the decline, Martins is no joke.

This means Rodrigues has the test of a lifetime on his hands. In addition to the loss to Khandozhko and his biggest wins coming against Luan Duarte (now 8-7 in his career) and Leandro Couto (now 3-2), “El Brigador” padded his current mark with victories over Vagner Oliveira (1-6), Daniel de Freitas (0-4), Matias Adrover (1-4) and Matheus de Sousa Nunes (2-3). He even collected two wins over Adrover.

Rodrigues always has a puncher’s chance, but he’s hardly done anything to prove he should share a cage with Martins. If anything, this seems like the perfect pairing to give Martins, now on a three-fight skid, a chance to rebuild his confidence. Martins has a solid all-around skill set, but he loves to score the knockout finish. He should find one here against Rodrigues.

Other key bouts: Pacceli Afonso (3-0) vs. Junior Monteiro (8-3-1), Andrey Augusto (5-1-1) vs. Luciano Benicio (12-4), Felipe Pereira (6-1-1) vs. Tarcizio Gomes (6-2)

Titan Fighting Championship 53
Xtreme Action Park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Event Date: March 15
Website: titanfighting.com
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @titanfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Juan Puerta (16-6) vs. Gustavo Belart (8-1)

Titan Fighting Championship is back with only its second card of 2019. The company’s 53rd event is a good one, though. It’s capped off by a pair of title fights, including a welterweight showdown between Mike Graves and Jared Gooden. Our attention goes to the headliner, however. Juan Puerta returns to the Titan cage in an attempt to defend his flyweight crown in a rematch against Gustavo Belart.

The 31-year-old Puerta made his pro debut in a losing effort in 2011, and he ultimately went just 3-3 through his first six fights. Of course, the American Top Team Atlanta product’s record has improved since then. He reeled off five straight wins before suffering a knockout loss courtesy of Johnny Campbell. Another three victories followed, but then Puerta hit a rough patch in which he dropped back-to-back fights against Darren Mima and Jared Scoggins. Yet again, he has gotten back on track with five consecutive wins, including a finish of Balart in their first meeting and a title victory over Kazbek Ashimov in his most recent bout. Overall, “Leadfeather” has nine submission finishes.

Balart entered his first fight with Puerta with a lot more consistency behind him. The ATT Kendall fighter debuted in 2015 and joined the Titan roster by his second fight. He racked up six wins, including split nods over Jorge Calvo Martin and Bruno Mesquita, prior to his clash with Puerta. After suffering the stunning loss to the future Titan champ, “El Gladiador” returned to the win column against Victor Dias. In his most recent affair, the 32-year-old former Cuban Olympic wrestler needed just 20 seconds to run through Wascar Cruz.

The pair’s first battle came to an explosive end. This was a bit of a shock, given that Puerta is adept at turning his opponents into pretzels rather than flattening them. The fight-ending flying knee was perfectly timed, though, to coincide with a level change from Balart, and it demonstrated Puerta’s intelligence in employing a stand-up attack against a stout wrestler.

It would be amazing if Puerta could repeat this feat in the rematch. Yet, there is a chance it happens. Why? Well, Balart is just 4-foot-11, whereas Puerta towers over him at 5-foot-6. The short, stocky Balart will give up nine inches in reach, too. Puerta stuck to the outside and picked away at Balart in the first fight, and the flying knee put a punctuation mark on how effective this game plan was for the American fighter. Balart can score with huge takedowns when he gets inside, but he will struggle to overcome the punches, kicks and knees that Puerta implements as a counter to Balart’s size and wrestling tendencies.

Even a few seconds of the footage from their first fight makes it clear that Balart has an uphill battle on his hands. It looked like Puerta was fighting a kid, not a fellow flyweight. Puerta maximized his size advantage by throwing long, rangy kicks and mixing in knees that landed with ease against his incredibly short opponent. In order to be successful once more, all he needs to do is replicate this game plan and avoid takedowns. Another perfectly timed flying knee might be a stretch, but Puerta doesn’t even need to get air time to connect with a knockout blow against the ultra-short Balart.

Other key bouts: Mike Graves (7-1-2) vs. Jared Gooden (13-2) for the welterweight title, Gilbert Burns vs. Gleison Tibau in a grappling bout, Lazar Stojadinovic (12-6) vs. Irwin Rivera (6-4), Mohammed Usman (3-1) vs. Frank Tate (6-6), Collin Lubberts (3-0) vs. Eric Alequin (2-0), Giannis Simeonidis (1-0) vs. Jason Santana (2-2), Danny Sabatello (3-0) vs. Raymond Ramos (3-3)

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Kanna Asakura vs. Tomo Maesawa at Deep Jewels 23 Asakura by decision Asakura by decision
Yuki Motoya vs. Victor Henry at Deep 88 Impact Motoya by decision Henry by decision
Pavel Gordeev vs. Godofredo Pepey at RCC Intro 3 Pepey by submission Fight ended in a no-contest
Nicolas Dalby vs. Alex Lohore at Cage Warriors 103 Dalby by decision Dalby by knockout