Yuki Motoya (Taro Irei/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: Deep Jewels 23, Deep 88 Impact, RCC Intro 3 and Cage Warriors 103

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…


Deep Jewels 23
Korakuen Hall in Tokyo
Event Date: March 8
Website: deepjewels.com
Watch Event: online pay-per-view on Ustream

Spotlight Fight:
Kanna Asakura (13-3) vs. Tomo Maesawa (12-8)

When it comes to the Japanese women’s atomweight scene, there are a few common names that keep popping up. It seems like this same handful of women are involved in a never-ending round robin of fights. Tomo Maesawa is a part of this group. She’s fought both Mina Kurobe and Satomi Takano three times. However, at Deep Jewels’ 23rd show, she finally gets her first encounter with up-and-comer Kanna Asakura.

Maesawa, now 31, 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 Emi 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 Jung Eun Park. She added a huge win to her resume most recently when she finally defeated Kurobe, albeit only via a split verdict.

The 21-year-old Asakura, a Paraestra Matsudo fighter, has come a long way since she debuted as a pro just a week shy of her 17th birthday in 2014. She defeated rookies in her first two bouts before taking a unanimous nod over veteran competitor Yasuko Tamada in her third outing. Syuri Kondo, another rookie to the pro ranks, ended up handing Asakura her first pro loss by way of decision. She responded with two more wins over inexperienced competition before dropping a decision to Alyssa Garcia at Rizin’s 2016 end-of-year event. Asakura added two more wins, once more against inexperienced foes, and fought to a majority draw in a grappling bout with Mika Nagano. Then, she shifted her focus to tougher fights. She claimed decisions over veterans Saori Ishioka and Sylwia Juśkiewicz, submitted Maria Oliveira and Rena Kubota, and then added decision nods over Melissa Karagianis and Kubota. She brought an eight-fight winning streak into her Rizin 14 contest against Ayaka Hamasaki, but Hamasaki, an all-time great, was able to submit the young star.

Maesawa is a grinder, but not a dominant one. She tends to lose almost as much as she wins. She’s shared the ring with a number of fellow high-level atomweights during her career, but she’s also suffered stoppage losses via submission and knockout. Maesawa brings a ton of experience to this fight, but it might not be enough.

Asakura has a couple of troubling losses on her record, most notably the decision she dropped to Garcia, but her recent winning streak is a sign of her progress. She’s the only person to hold MMA victories over the aforementioned Kubota, and she also claimed a win over Ishioka. The loss to Hamasaki was a letdown, but definitely not a shock, given Hamasaki’s own standing within the weight class. Asakura’s improved skill set and grappling acumen should give her the edge in a close fight with Maesawa. The young fighter will emerge with the decision victory.

Other key bouts: Emi Tomimatsu (13-14) vs. Hikaru Aono (3-1), Reina Miura (10-2) vs. Mao Ueda (0-0), Kana Watanabe (5-0-1) vs. Soo Min Kang (0-0), Yasuko Tamada (15-10-3) vs. Madoka Ishibashi (1-3)

Deep 88 Impact
Korakuen Hall in Tokyo
Event Date: March 9
Website: deep2001.com
Twitter: @deep_official

Spotlight Fight:
Yuki Motoya (23-5) vs. Victor Henry (16-4)

Deep is essentially running a doubleheader this weekend. Right on the heels of the Jewels show, the male portion of the roster takes to the ring for Deep 88 Impact. It’s a strong lineup that features title fights at the heavyweight, bantamweight and strawweight levels. The best of these fights is arguably the showdown between Deep bantamweight champion Yuki Motoya and challenger Victor Henry.

After a 2010 pro debut loss on the Japanese regional circuit, Motoya entered the Deep promotion. He ended up going 3-3 over his first six pro fights, but he’s 20-2 over his 22 most recent affairs. He battled his way up the ladder and became Deep’s inaugural flyweight titleholder. The Club Barbarian Impact fighter dropped the belt to Tatsumitsu Wada, but eventually avenged the loss and reclaimed the title. The 29-year-old went on to post stoppage wins in his next two fights and then made a successful title defense against Sota Kojima. Motoya lost his Rizin 2015 bout to Felipe Efrain, but the outcome was changed to a no-contest because Efrain had missed weight. He resumed his winning ways over his next three affairs, but he fell again when he met Kyoji Horiguchi in a 2017 bout under the Rizin banner. After adding another three wins, Motoya landed in a fight for the vacant Deep bantamweight crown. He submitted Makoto Kamaya for the strap and then jumped back to Rizin, where he added a victory over UFC veteran Justin Scoggins. Overall, Motoya has nine submission victories and six knockouts.

After a rocky amateur career in which he dropped two fights, Henry also turned pro in 2010. He started training with Josh Barnett and the CSW crew. Henry 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 Pancrase bantamweight title held by Shintaro Ishiwatari. This signalled the beginning of a rough patch for Henry. He picked 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. He has continued to jump from promotion to promotion since then while picking up three more wins, including a third-round finish of Takafumi Otsuka. 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 four stoppages via strikes. Henry has only been stopped once, via submission, and that was during his amateur run.

Motoya is a fiercely aggressive fighter who will eat punches just to throw flurries. His fight with Yoshiro Maeda was a highly entertaining flyweight affair where Motoya landed in volume during an all-out slugfest, made a slick reversal to take Maeda’s back, and eventually finished the veteran fighter with an armbar. He’s not a fighter content to settle for a decision, and he’s on a streak of four submission finishes, including one against a UFC vet.

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 this same magic again. However, he has at least found some rhythm with his recent winning streak. That said, his best win in this stretch came against Otsuka, a veteran who entered the contest with a 24-14-1 mark and a loss to the aforementioned Ishiwatari in his previous outing.

Motoya is higher up the ladder than any of Henry’s recent foes. He’s climbing back into the territory he was in during his rough patch, though, by fighting better opponents. Motoya can be one hell of a headache for any opponent. It might be difficult for the Japanese fighter to tap his American counterpart, but Motoya should outwork Henry for the decision.

Other key bouts: Roque Martinez (12-4-2) vs. Ryo Sakai (8-8) for the heavyweight title, Haruo Ochi (18-7-2) vs. Namiki Kawahara (5-1-2) for the strawweight title, Koichi Ishizuka (15-4-1) vs. Shoji Maruyama (16-10-1), Yuta Watanabe (20-9-4) vs. Yoshitomo Watanabe (15-15-3), Yoichiro Sato (20-9-2) vs. Nao Yoneda (5-3-1), Makoto Takahashi (7-1-1) vs. Chikara Shimabukuro (14-12-6), Taito Kubota (11-2) vs. Kyosuke Yokoyama (9-6)

Russian Cagefighting Championship Intro 3
KRK Uralets in Ekaterinburg, Russia
Event Date: March 9
Website: Facebook/rccboxing

Spotlight Fight:
Pavel Gordeev (13-1) vs. Godofredo Pepey (14-6)

Often, the best test for an up-and-coming prospect comes in the form of a fight against someone who has been to the big show. The Russian Cagefighting Championship organization has regularly found such match-ups for its rising stars. It’s usually heavyweight and light heavyweight stud Ivan Shtyrkov in the spotlight, but the RCC also houses talented lightweight Pavel Gordeev. Gordeev’s biggest challenge yet awaits him when he clashes with The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 1 finalist Godofredo Pepey.

Gordeev made his debut in 2013 and won his first seven fights. His level of competition gradually increased until he met 18-fight veteran Elnur Agaev, who handed Gordeev his lone professional loss via a unanimous decision. Gordeev answered the setback by reeling off another six wins. Again, his level of competition increased, with fights against the likes of Michel Silva and UFC veteran Mickael Lebout. He passed these tests and also served up the first career losses to formerly undefeated Alik Albogachiev and Arthur Lima. Gordeev is effective on the ground, where he has picked up five submission wins. These days, though, he often goes the distance.

Pepey marched through the competition on his season of TUF, but he was edged in the finals by Rony Jason. It was the Brazilian’s first pro loss. Pepey continued to experience a number of ups and downs during his UFC stay. He squeaked by Milton Vieira via split decision, but suffered knockout losses in his next two fights. His best stretch came when he won three straight, all in the first round. His victims during this run included the previously unbeaten Noad Lahat and fellow prospect Andre Fili. His success came to a halt when he encountered Darren Elkins and dropped a decision. The Evolução Thai MMA export won his next affair, but back-to-back losses to Shane Burgos and Mirsad Bektic brought a close to his UFC tenure. The 31-year-old landed on the regional scene, where he picked up a win over Alexander Torres, a nine-fight veteran who fell to the .500 mark with the loss.

Gordeev is a solid ground fighter, but he has dropped a decision. Furthermore, his fights against Lebout and Albogachiev ended in split verdicts. He tends to take an aggressive approach to his fights. The Russian will use kicks or wild, looping punches as a means to close distance and tie up his opponent. His punches pack plenty of power, and he can be strong in his takedown attempts. However, his wild nature also leaves him open to level changes and takedowns from his opponents. He can also empty his gas tank in fights where he gets an early knockdown. His fight with the aforementioned Silva is a prime example. Gordeev rocked Silva early and put everything he had into an attempted finish, but Silva survived and Gordeev slowed in the subsequent rounds en route to the decision win.

Pepey is such an inconsistent fighter, though. His first-round finishes of Lahat and Fili are flashes of his potential, but he couldn’t follow suit against Burgos and Bektic. Yet, those same bursts of offense, combined with his experience inside the Octagon, should give him a tremendous edge in this contest.

Gordeev still has a lot to prove, but he might not get a chance if Pepey is firing on all cylinders. Even if Gordeev gets the takedown, Pepey has the ability to find submissions from the bottom. Gordeev didn’t seem like a sure bet against Lima, so he’s definitely not a lock to beat Pepey. The Brazilian has a good chance at finding the submission finish in this one.

Other key bouts: Anthony Leone (17-8) vs. Denis Lavrentyev (6-2), Viscardi Andrade (19-7) vs. Sergei Martynov (11-2), Stepan Gorshechnikov (5-1) vs. Oleg Olenichev (11-6), Rashad Galaychiev (3-0) vs. Vladimir Palchenkov (8-2-1), Pavel Vitruk (11-3) vs. Cleverson Silva (11-2), Vasiliy Zubkov (14-9) vs. Arseniy Smirnov (4-1)

Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 103
K.B. Hallen in Copenhagen, Denmark
Event Date: March 9
Website: cagewarriors.com
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @CageWarriors

Spotlight Fight:
Nicolas Dalby (16-3-1) vs. Alex Lohore (17-3)

It was too difficult to narrow down this week’s docket to just three fights, so we’re giving you a bonus, kiddos. Cage Warriors lands in Denmark for its 103rd show, and the lineup features a showdown for the vacant welterweight championship. The title hopefuls are Nicolas Dalby and Alex Lohore.

Dalby will be the more familiar name to UFC fans. The 34-year-old had a four-fight stint with the company in 2015-16. He was dropped after going winless in his final three Octagon appearances. Now, Dalby, a Cage Warriors veteran, seeks another championship and his third straight promotional win while returning to his homeland. The welterweight debuted in 2010 and compiled a perfect mark through 11 fights before entering Cage Warriors. He posted victories over Glenn Sparv and Ivica Trušček (twice) during this run. He won the Cage Warriors welterweight crown in his promotional debut and made one successful defense before departing for the UFC. Inside the Octagon, Dalby posted a very deceptive 1-2-1 record. His victory came over Elizeu Zaleski, who now resides inside the UFC’s top 15 as a welterweight. He fought to a majority draw with future title challenger Darren Till, but dropped off a cliff with decision losses to Zak Cummings and Peter Sobotta. Once he departed the UFC, Dalby returned to Cage Warriors and suffered a third straight loss in a split verdict against future UFCer Carlo Pedersoli. He has gone on to right the ship with wins over Roberto Allegretti and Philip Mulpeter.

Now sitting at 17-3, Lohore is in the position Dalby enjoyed prior to his UFC contract. “Da Kid” is a rising star in the British promotion who won his first four pro fights after debuting in 2014. His first stumble came in his fifth outing against Carl Booth, who put away Lohore with strikes in just 38 seconds. The British fighter responded by reeling off 10 straight wins. He defeated UFC veteran Colin Fletcher, Dan “Vinni” Edwards, Nathan Jones and previously undefeated upstart Richard Kiely before losing a split decision to Terry Brazier. The Fletcher and Edwards fights came in Bellator MMA when the American promotion visited Britain. The fight with Jones secured Lohore the BAMMA welterweight title, which he successfully defending against Kiely. The MMA Factory export went on to suffer a second straight loss on the scorecards when he met Ion Pascu. Lohore has added three recent victories to his resume, including two under the Cage Warriors banner.

The defeats these men have suffered are telling of where they fall in the welterweight mix. Dalby only lost to Cummings, Sobotta and Pedersoli, all of whom either fought or still fight for the UFC. Lohore, meanwhile, had trouble with Brazier and Pascu. Brazier, while viewed as a decent prospect, lost his only subsequent Bellator fight. Pascu, a solid veteran, failed in three Bellator appearances, with the Lohore win sandwiched in between.

It seems that there’s definitely a big difference between these two men. One is just shy of the UFC, whereas the other might struggle as even a Bellator gatekeeper. Dalby disappointed in his first UFC stay, but he should resume his place as the Cage Warriors welterweight titleholder with a decision nod over Lohore.

Other key bouts: Soren Bak (12-1) vs. Morgan Charriere (13-6-1) for the featherweight title, Mark O. Madsen (6-0) vs. Thibaud Larchet (12-4-1), Ahmed Vila (7-1) vs. Mads Burnell (10-3), Manolo Zecchini (7-1) vs. Danny Mathiasen (4-0)

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Cally Gibrainn de Oliveira vs. Satoshi Ishii at Heat 44 Ishii by submission Ishii by submission
James Webb vs. Thomas Robertsen at Cage Warriors 102 Robertsen by submission Webb by submission
Ediane Gomes vs. Roberta Samad at Atlas Fights Gomes by decision Fight canceled