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…
Road Fighting Championship 56
Jinnam Gymnasium in Yeosu, South Korea Event Date: Nov. 9 Website:roadfc.com Watch Event: Ameba TV (Japan), free stream on YouTube Twitter:@ROADFC
Shamil Zavurov (35-6-1) vs. A Sol Kwon (21-11)
It’s been a tough road for Shamil Zavurov since he came up short in the league’s $1 million lightweight tournament. The Russian veteran has had several opponents fall through and just one bout since the February loss to Mansour Barnaoui. Now, he makes his first appearance with the South Korean promotion since that loss. In his return, Zavurov will fight Sengoku veteran and Road FC staple A Sol Kwon.
The 35-year-old Zavurov, the cousin and training partner of current UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, is an International Master of Sports in sambo and a Master of Sports in freestyle wrestling. He’s a three-time world champion in combat sambo, too. He holds five wins by submission and 11 via knockout, but Zavurov’s resume shows a move away from grappling and toward the striking aspect of his game. His last submission win came in October 2010, and he’s relied more heavily on the TKO finish in the time since. His last nine victories have come on the scorecards. The Russian both won and lost his M-1 welterweight strap against Yasubey Enomoto, and he has been unable to beat Enomoto in their two subsequent meetings. After blazing a path to the finals of Road FC’s tournament with wins over Won Gi Kim (in the international trials to qualify for the bracket), Leo Kuntz, Khuukhenkhuu Amartuvshin and Ronys Torres, Zavurov was dropped in the third round by a Barnaoui knee. The Russian then joined the Gorilla Fighting Championship organization, where he had a number of fights that fizzled, including a booking against UFC veteran Phil Baroni. Ultimately, Zavurov only saw action on one occasion, when he decisioned Matias Juarez.
The 33-year-old Kwon challenged Barnaoui for the Road FC lightweight title in May, but he, too, fell to the French fighter. The South Korean veteran has been a part of the professional circuit since 2005. After starting off his career with a four-fight winning streak, Kwon went through a shaky stretch in which he couldn’t string together more than two consecutive victories. This changed in late 2010, when the Apgujeong Gym product went on a six-fight run. He then appeared at the first numbered event for ONE Championship, back in its ONE FC days, but he lost to Eduard Folayang. Two years later, he returned to action with Road FC. Kwon lost his promotional debut to Koji Nakamura, but then went on a four-fight winning streak. He was handed another setback in 2016 when he was knocked out in just 18 seconds by Kiyoshi Kuwabara. Kwon added a stoppage win of his own just seven months later, but he then went inactive for two and a half years before returning against Barnaoui.
Kwon is severely lacking in consistency. It doesn’t help that he’ll sometimes take a year or two off as well. While he has picked up notable wins against the likes of Do Hyung Kim, Takasuke Kume and Shinji Sasaki, he tends to struggle against the better talent he meets. Kwon has suffered losses to Daisuke Nakamura, Eiji Ishikawa and the aforementioned duo of Folayang and Barnaoui. He’s even lost to mediocre talents such as Koji Nakamura and Kiyoshi Kuwabara. The South Korean fighter has been prone to the knockout — he’s been finished five times with strikes — and not exactly invincible on the ground.
Zavurov’s base of sambo and wrestling is already a huge advantage over someone of Kwon’s caliber, but the Russian has also worked to improve his striking and become a more well-rounded fighter over the years. He will have to watch his own chin against Kwon, who has tallied 11 career knockouts, but Zavurov appears to be the superior man in this pairing. He’s likely to use takedowns and top control to ride out a decision in this fight.
Other key bouts: Henrique Shiguemoto (12-3-1) vs. Won Jun Choi (4-3), Min Woo Kim (9-2) vs. Ik Hwan Jang (8-2) for the bantamweight title
Attila Vegh (32-9-2) vs. Karlos Vemola (27-5)
Attila Vegh and Karlos Vemola are certain to be the most recognized names of this week’s bunch. The two light heavyweights have spent time in the spotlight with major promotions in the United States, but those days are far behind them. Now, they’re seeking to re-establish themselves while fighting overseas. In this case, the venue is the Czech Republic’s Oktagon promotion, where Vegh and Vemola will serve as headliners for Oktagon 15.
It’s somewhat fitting that Vemola, whose moniker is “The Terminator,” is set to return to action just one week after the release of the latest film in The Terminator franchise. Perhaps he’ll find better results than the movie found at the opening-weekend box office. The 34-year-old put together a spectacular run early in his career to punch his ticket to the UFC. He was perfect through seven fights, including a huge victory over Stav Economou, prior to joining the roster. Once in the world’s largest promotion, the holes in his game were exposed by the likes of Jon Madsen, Ronny Markes, Francis Carmont and Caio Magalhães — hardly the best of the best — while Vemola was only able to get the better of Seth Petruzelli and Mike Massenzio. The London Shootfighters disciple was explosive, but he was short on cardio and far too sloppy in the cage. Yet, following his UFC tenure, Vemola returned to his winning ways with a decision nod over Denniston Sutherland that kicked off an 18-1 stretch. His recent double-digit win total includes nods over Piotr Strus, Moise Rimbon, Prince Aounallah and Luis Henrique da Silva. His only post-UFC loss came to current UFC fighter Jack Hermansson via first-round armbar.
Vegh, who debuted in 2008, hasn’t found quite the same level of good fortune since dropping the Bellator light-heavyweight crown to Emanuel Newton in a 2014 split-decision loss. He went to KSW, where he was edged out by Goran Reljić. His next stop was M-1 Challenge, where he was destroyed by current UFC heavyweight Alexander Volkov and decisioned by Professional Fighters League 2019 roster member Viktor Nemkov. He has since jumped to Oktagon, where he has notched three wins and suffered just one defeat, which came by first-round knockout against Virgil Zwicker.
Vegh ruled over a very weak at the time Bellator light-heavyweight division. He’d fare much worse in the current environment of that same promotion. His recent loss to Zwicker, a striker who had won just two of his previous seven fights, had to be embarrassing for the former Bellator champ. However, it’s also telling of where he stands overall. Vegh was a grinder who never really blew the socks off fans in his Bellator tenure, and he’s lost to every truly good fighter he’s met since then.
Vemola, meanwhile, looks like he could land in a major promotion any day now based on his spectacular run. He hasn’t exactly been fighting the best of the best — outside of Hermansson, of course — but Vemola’s been putting opponents away before the final bell with quite a bit of regularity. If Zwicker, who appears to be way past his prime, could drop Vegh, Vemola should have a field day.
Other key bouts: Michal Martinek (7-1) vs. Viktor Pešta (15-5) for the heavyweight title, Gábor Boráros (17-6-1) vs. Kaik Brito (12-2), Miloš Petrášek (11-5) vs. Joachim Christensen (14-8), Mateusz Legierski (4-0) vs. Jakub Bahnik (5-3), David Dvořák (17-3) vs. Kayck Alencar (10-1), Vojto Barborik (10-1) vs. Sasha Belov (4-3), Robert Bryczek (10-2) vs. Leandro Silva (23-8-1)
Cezary Kęsik (9-0) vs. Aleksandar Ilić (12-2)
It’s not easy to pick one “spotlight”-worthy fight from the KSW 51 lineup. The Polish league’s trip to Croatia features strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski in the main event of the card, which can be seen right here on Combat Press via FITE TV. Damian Stasiak and Antun Račić tangle for the bantamweight strap. Heavyweights Denis Stojnić and Ante Delija collide, too. However, the sleeper fight of the evening might belong to middleweights Cezary Kęsik and Aleksandar Ilić.
Poland’s Kęsik is a former Thunderstrike Fight League champion who has made just one KSW appearance thus far. The 29-year-old happened to win that fight in the first round when he used elbows to stop Jakub Kamieniarz. Kęsik kept his perfect record intact with the win, which also gave him eight stoppages through nine professional fights. “Lubelski Czołg,” who fights out of Cross Fight Radom, debuted in 2015. He has registered seven knockouts and just one submission win. Only his sophomore appearance resulted in a decision.
Ilić, who fights out of Switzerland, should enjoy somewhat of a home advantage as a Serbian-born athlete fighting in Croatia. The 30-year-old “Joker” stumbled out of the gates in his 2014 pro debut, but he quickly rebounded to the tune of seven straight victories, including a doctor’s stoppage of Vladimir Filipović. His streak came to an end with a 2016 loss to UFC veteran Amilcar Alves. UFD Gym Dusseldorf export sparked another streak in 2017, though, and is now up to five straight wins, including one in his KSW debut against Damian Janikowski in March.
Fun fact: Alves’ win over Ilić snapped a six-fight skid for the Brazilian fighter and accounted for his only win in a stretch of 11 fights. A deep dive into the Serbian’s record reveals a number of low-level opponents, including several with losing records. Ilić has eight knockouts and two submissions, but Filipović and Janikowski are his most notable wins.
Despite Ilić’s iffy record, this is still an interesting fight. Ilić’s 12-2 overall mark and his finishing abilities put him on the radar. Kęsik is also a proven finisher who has seen light competition, culminating in his most recent victories over Mikhail Bureshkin, who entered the fight at 9-8, and the aforementioned Kamieniarz, who was just 7-5 before he was stopped by the Polish prospect. We can expect a lot of head-hunting here. Ilić could land a knockout blow, but his previous setbacks make him a tough pick here. Kęsik should win an all-out war with a big finish.
Other key bouts: Mariusz Pudzianowski (12-7) vs. Erko Jun (3-0), Borys Mańkowski (19-8-1) vs. Vaso Bakočević (39-18-1), Damian Stasiak (11-6) vs. Antun Račić (23-8-1) for the bantamweight title, Ivan Erslan (7-0) vs. Darwin Rodriguez (8-4), Miloš Janičić (11-2) vs. Roman Szymański (11-5), Denis Stojnić (13-3) vs. Ante Delija (16-3), Filip Pejić (14-2-2) vs. Daniel Torres (8-4), Lemmy Krušič (20-6) vs. Sebastian Przybysz (5-2), Aleksandar Rakas (16-7) vs. Krystian Kaszubowski (7-1)
The Best of the Rest
Combate Americas 49: San Antonio: Jason Norwood (18-6) vs. Jose Caceres (14-9) Watch Event: Univision, UDN
Teofista: Fight for the Troops: Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz (7-0) vs. Guilherme Miranda (18-8)
Pancrase 310: Adam Antolin (14-5) vs. Hiroaki Ijima (12-12-3) Watch Event:UFC Fight Pass
Last Week’s Scorecard
Michael Tobin vs. Diego Pereira at Eternal MMA 49
Tobin by submission
Pereira by knockout
Ben Parrish vs. Chauncey Foxworth at Summit FC 33
Parrish by submission
Maiquel Falcão vs. Evgeny Erokhin at Parus FC
Erokhin by knockout
Erokhin by knockout
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