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…
Hamalir Sport Complex in Yerevan, Armenia Event Date: July 6 Website:mma63.ru Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Zhora Ayvazyan (7-0) vs. Julio Cesar Alves (16-11)
The Fourth of July weekend may be a big one for the UFC, but it’s vacation time for many of the smaller U.S. promotions. This gives us a chance for a deep dive into a trio of international organizations that don’t receive a lot of play around these parts. We begin with Gorilla Fighting Championship and Mix Fight Events. The two organizations combine on July 6 to host an event in Armenia that will be available for viewing right here on Combat Press, via FITE TV. The lineup features a couple of undefeated prospects, including Zhora Ayvazyan, who clashes with veteran Julio Cesar Alves in a 165-pound catchweight affair.
The 24-year-old Ayvazyan has quietly compiled a perfect mark through seven fights while bouncing around between several Russian organizations and other promotions in the region. His biggest stop thus far has been in the Battle on Volga series, run by the Federation of MMA of Samara, which also has a hand in this current show. Ayvazyan, who debuted in 2018, has already tallied five stoppages, including several in the first frame. His competition has mostly consisted of inexperienced and sub-.500 fighters, but his appearance at Battle on Volga 10 ended in a decision nod over formerly undefeated Abdurakhman Gitinovasov.
Alves is a seasoned veteran of 27 fights who has been active in the sport since 1997. Despite his lengthy run, he has only made a handful of appearances in larger promotions, beginning with a 2003 loss to future UFCer Luiz Dutra Jr. under the Shooto Brazil banner and also including a stop with M-1 Challenge for a loss to Albert Duraev. If you’re sensing a theme of defeat here, you’d be spot on. Alves has a winning record overall, but he’s experienced some very rough stretches, including a four-fight skid in 2012-13. The Brazilian has also suffered losses to eventual UFC veteran Lucio Linhares, longtime journeymen Enoc Solves Torres and Ali Arish, and current UFC fighters Joaquim Silva and Joel Alvarez. “Girino” doesn’t have many equally notable victories, unfortunately. In fact, his most recent winning streak came against a trio of fighters who all held losing records at the time.
Surprisingly, there is plenty of quality footage of Ayvazyan’s fights on YouTube. Based on his performances, it’s great to finally see him taking on actual challenges. He completely demolished the likes of Vyacheslav Sonkin and Bakhtobar Naimov with powerful takedowns and vicious ground-and-pound flurries. He didn’t find quite as much easy lifting in his outing against the aforementioned Gitinovasov, who stymied most of the Armenian’s takedown attempts, especially early in the fight. Admirably, Ayvazyan was able to make adjustments and shift from a focus only on scoring the takedown into a strategy where he’d use those attempts to put his opponent in a defensive posture against the cage and exposed to heavy shots from the prospect.
Alves, despite his many misfortunes, can still be considered a huge step up for Ayvazyan. However, the aging Brazilian has offered very little evidence to suggest he can beat anyone above the lower tiers of the sport. Ayvazyan appears to be a very solid fighter with a strong wrestling game, an insane ground-and-pound attack, an instinct for making transitions to dominant positions, and an adequate ability to hang on the feet. The Armenian should turn in a quality showing and send Alves packing via TKO.
Other key bouts: Armen Gulyan (7-0) vs. Aliston Cordeiro (7-7), Migran Arutyunyan (2-0) vs. Wesley de Jesus (5-8), Moris Boleian (1-0) vs. Hovhannes Ghazaryan (1-1), Arkadiy Osipyan (4-0) vs. Mher Merjanyan (0-0), Koryun Hayrapetyan (3-0) vs. Nika Khelaidze (1-0), Nair Melikyan (2-0) vs. Shahin Najafi (4-4)
Standout Fighting Tournament 13: Mexico
Nave 2 Parque Tabasco in Villa Hermosa, Tabasco, Mexico Event Date: July 6 Website:sftmma.com Twitter:@sftmma
Nayib Lopez (10-0) vs. Marcus Vinicius (8-5)
If your combat-sports leanings include masked Luta Livre competition, then Standout Fighting Tournament’s 13th event might just be your thing. The card includes plenty of offerings from both the theatrical Luta Livre realm and the standard MMA world. Among the latter, we have another fight in which an underperforming veteran is tasked with handing a prospect their first pro defeat. The vet in this case is middleweight Marcus “Jon Jones” Vinicius, and the prospect is Nayib Lopez, who is perfect through 10 fights.
The 26-year-old Vinicius holds a lackluster 8-5 mark through 13 professional bouts. He stumbled out of the gates to two losses, and he won just three of his next five fights. The Brazilian finally reeled off a five-fight winning streak over 2017-18, but it came to an end when he was finished by Cleber Souza at SFT 10. Vinicius can end fights with his fists, but he also has an affinity for the anaconda choke. However, he is also vulnerable to stoppage losses.
Lopez is a rising prospect in his native Mexico. “El Cachorro” made his debut in 2012 but vanished from the scene after just two victories. He returned to action in 2017 and quickly built a strong resume, including a one-night tournament win in a Jasaji Fighting League grand prix. Lopez has often seen the scorecards, but three of his last four fights have ended in first-round finishes. The Mexican Pride Gym product has encountered a couple of mediocre veterans on his journey, but many of his opponents have been below-average fighters, including an 0-6 foe he met in the aforementioned tournament.
Vinicius is by no means a juggernaut, but he’s a savvy veteran who can score the quick finish if his opponent makes a mistake. He holds stoppage victories over several fighters with records ranging from 3-1 to 5-2 or 5-1. Lopez can be a bit wild, chasing down his opponent while throwing haymakers. It’s a great way to get inside, get the clinch and score a throw takedown, but it’s also an equally great way to get caught by a punch or submitted during a scramble.
As his nickname suggests, Vinicius resembles UFC light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones in appearance and in some of his mannerisms inside the cage. He fights long and paws at his opponent with opened hands. However, this is where the comparisons end. Unlike the far more accomplished “Bones,” Vinicius doesn’t show much creativity with his striking, instead opting to load up on his punches and often telegraph them. He can score takedowns, but he’s nothing special on the ground and quite open to ground-and-pound when on his back.
Lopez may be a bit wild at times, but this approach can work well against the more measured Vinicius. The Brazilian is likely to get walloped by his Mexican counterpart’s aggressive blitz before he can load up and release one of his roundhouses. As long as Lopez doesn’t get coaxed into a fight at range, he should overwhelm Vinicius for the knockout victory.
Other key bouts: Ana Segura (1-0) vs. Isabella de Pádua (3-1), Daniel Vega (9-2) vs. Fabio Bispo (9-6-3), Assis Sousa (5-1) vs. Angel Rodriguez (6-2)
Mauro Mastromarini (6-0) vs. Ariel Ibarra (8-1-1)
Argentina’s Power Fight MMA provides us with probably the purest prospect-against-prospect affair of the week. In one of the featured bouts of La Batalla Del Puente 5, undefeated bantamweight Mauro Mastromarini tangles with Ariel Ibarra.
Team Fenix’s Mastromarini has turned into a regular source of finishes since debuting as a pro in May 2018. “Dinamita” has scored four knockouts through six pro fights. He has two victories over rookie opponents, another three against sub-.500 fighters, and just one win — a stoppage — over an adversary with a winning mark.
Ibarra close to doubles his opponent’s pro experience. The 10-fight veteran has been competing at this level since 2010, but he’s also a world-class taekwondo practitioner. “Duende” fought to a majority draw in his initial foray into MMA. He then went off for seven straight wins, including several against experienced fighters with winning records. His streak came to an end when he suffered a loss to Carlos Eduardo in the second half of 2018. The 38-year-old returned to his winning ways later in the year with a finish of Cristobal Gonzalez.
Mastromarini has a good sprawl and doesn’t give up when he’s put on his back. He’s able to scramble up to his feet or reverse positions. His best attribute, however, is his ability to put together a combination that includes both punches and kicks. One of these flurries ended with a glancing kick that dropped Jonathan Gabriel Martinez, his most accomplished opponent. The Argentine’s biggest weakness is his inability to protect his chin from straight punches. The aforementioned Martinez tagged him several times in their fight, but Mastromarini just absorbed the shots. He might not be so lucky against a more powerful foe.
Whether Ibarra is that man is yet to be seen. He does pack one-punch knockout power — just ask Martin Romero, Ibarra’s first knockout victim. However, the taekwondo specialist even looked old in that fight, which came nearly seven years ago when he was in his early 30s. He also didn’t exactly dominate in the moments leading up to the punch that separated Romero from consciousness. Plenty of champions from a single martial art find it much harder to succeed when faced with a combination of disciplines. Ibarra’s taekwondo accolades don’t guarantee much in the way of MMA success.
Mastromarini’s opponent carries some name value and plenty of power, but the younger prospect’s athleticism should be the difference. Ibarra looked better, but still far from a true force in a more recent fight against Carlos Azerrad, who was 1-2 at the time. Most of Ibarra’s success came on the mat, but he won’t be able to drag Mastromarini down. He’ll pay for it when they separate and the undefeated up-and-comer tees off with a combination for the knockout win.
Other key bouts: Jesus Ru (1-0) vs. Bruno Conti (9-4), Luciano Ros (1-0) vs. Juan Lapuente (0-0)
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