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…
Event Date: Dec. 14
Ivan Shtyrkov (17-0-1) vs. Yasubey Enomoto (19-11)
Ivan Shtyrkov is one of the most successful prospects outside of the UFC. He almost made it into the Octagon in 2019, but a failed drug test led to a parting of ways between the Russian fighter and the world’s largest MMA promotion. Instead, Shtyrkov has returned to his roots. After a brief stop with Rizin, he’s back under the Russian Cagefighting Championship banner for RCC 7, where he’ll meet fellow middleweight Yasubey Enomoto.
Shtyrkov’s career has been spent competing primarily under the German Titov Boxing Promotions and RCC Boxing Promotions banners in Russia. He’s faced several notable names along the way. After stopping his first five low-level foes since turning pro in mid-2015, “Ural Hulk,” then a heavyweight, encountered UFC veteran Jeff Monson. The Russian fighter landed a blow that sent Monson to the mat, where Shtyrkov finished the experienced grappler with an armbar in 31 seconds of the very first round. However, Monson has gone on record stating that he expected an exhibition fight and entered the contest with an injured arm that Shtyrkov eventually targeted for the finish. Shtyrkov topped his next two opponents, including former UFC champ Ricco Rodriguez, via first-round TKO. This led to a meeting with UFC vet Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The 31-year-old couldn’t stop Bigfoot, but he did earn the victory on the scorecards. Shtyrkov added UFC veterans Rodney Wallace and Phil De Fries to his list of victims. Then, he used his fists to pummel veteran Japanese fighter Satoshi Ishii for another stoppage victory. Late in 2017, he turned his focus toward the light heavyweight division and decisioned former Bellator champ Christian M’Pumbu and European veteran Marcin Łazarz. In a shift back to heavyweight, Shtyrkov fought to a draw with 60-fight journeyman Gerônimo dos Santos. He tilted the scales at 215 pounds for a catchweight contest against UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado, who succumbed to strikes in the second round, and then returned to light heavyweight for a submission victory over UFC veteran Thiago Silva and a TKO of Rizin foe Hoon Kim. This will be Shtyrkov’s first foray into the middleweight division.
Enomoto is a well-rounded fighter with a background in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is decorated in both sports, with an IKBO Thaiboxing championship and a slew of European grappling medals among the highlights of his resume. The Swiss fighter has been toiling around the European, Japanese and Russian MMA scenes since 2006, but he has struggled to put together an extensive winning streak. The former M-1 welterweight champion and Sengoku veteran has never won more than three fights in a row, and his longest streaks all came earlier in his career. Since his 2013 loss to Albert Tumenov, who vaulted to the UFC with the victory, Enomoto has scored eight victories and suffered six losses. The 35-year-old was able to submit Shamil Zavurov and decision Igor Svirid, but he also stumbled against Alexander Shlemenko, Aslambek Saidov, Vladimir Mineev, Nikolay Aleksakhin, Aliaskhab Khizriev and Roman Kopylov. Most recently, he squeaked past Mikhail Ragozin via split decision. Enomoto has notched five submissions and three knockout wins, but he has also suffered three knockout losses and two submission defeats.
The RCC has been finding ways to get Shtyrkov high-profile wins. The company has lined up UFC and Bellator veterans, and Shtyrkov has passed each test. His only setback came in the draw to dos Santos. Unfortunately, the results of his drug tests prior to a UFC debut against Devin Clark returned irregularities that prompted Shtyrkov to request his release. Now, the RCC has booked him against a solid veteran of the Russian circuit.
Enomoto has become something of a default gatekeeper who can occasionally post a surprise win over a rising star. He does have a dangerous grappling game that has led to his submission victories and contributed to an additional 11 decision nods. He has a solid striking arsenal, too, that has seen an uptick in usage recently and accounted for two of his more recent wins. His biggest asset may be his experience against high-level competition. Enomoto has faced the likes of former Bellator champ Shlemenko, former KSW titleholder Saidov, Strikeforce and Bellator vet Tyler Stinson, M-1 titleist Zavurov (four times) and UFC vets Tumenov, Rashid Magomedov, Sanae Kikuta, Rashid Magomedov and Keita Nakamura. The win over the rising Ragozin only cements his status as a fighter who should never be underestimated.
Shtyrkov does have some questionable wins, most notably the finish of the aforementioned Monson, but he’s demonstrated an ability to get past the likes of Maldonado and even Bigfoot. The recent drug-test mishap could fuel speculation as to the validity of those wins, though. Shtyrkov feasts on declining UFC veterans, but his move to 185 pounds could be an attempt to course correct and make another run at the UFC’s present-day roster. Enomoto won’t make this easy on him, however.
The Swiss fighter doesn’t always win, but he’s certainly no cakewalk. Enomoto absolutely victimized Zavurov, one of the better fighters in the Russian circuit, and he’s gone the distance with plenty of very good opponents, including Ragozin. Shtyrkov might be pushed to his best performance yet if he’s to beat Enomoto. Size could be the difference here — Shtyrkov should enjoy a five-inch reach advantage — and it might just carry the Russian to another knockout finish.
Other key bouts: Alexander Shlemenko (59-13) vs. David Branch (22-6), Tiago Varejão (28-7-1) vs. Sergei Martynov (11-3), Armen Gulyan (8-0) vs. Aleksandr Osetrov (5-1-1), Anton Vyazigin (13-3) vs. Josh Copeland (18-6-1), Pavel Gordeev (14-2) vs. Alisson Barbosa (18-5), David Kozma (26-10) vs. Roman Mukhamedshin (7-2), Arseniy Smirnov (6-1) vs. Wagner dos Santos (6-2), Matt Dwyer (11-6) vs. Mikhail Ragozin (14-4), Viktor Kolesnik (16-4-1) vs. Thiago Silva (16-7), Georgiy Kichigin (21-6) vs. Cleber Souza (19-8)
Event Date: Dec. 14
Watch Event: Live main card on kwesesports.com (Sub-Saharan Africa), Kwesé Free Sports 1 (Africa), SABC 3 (South Africa), TV Player (United Kingdom), Fight Sports (Europe and Asia) and efcworldwide.tv (worldwide).
Brendan Lesar (3-0) vs. Dricus Du Plessis (13-2)
EFC Worldwide’s 83rd event marks the return of one of the league’s most successful fighters. Dricus Du Plessis is back, and he’s out to unify the championship belts in the middleweight division. In his way stands interim champ Brendan Lesar.
Du Plessis, a former WAKO world champion kickboxer, failed in his bid to become the youngest champion in EFC Africa history when, at age 20, he was submitted by Garreth McLellan in a middleweight title bout. He rebounded from the loss with a first-round submission win over Darren Daniel in a 185-pound bout and then started flirting with a move to welterweight. Over the course of his next three fights, Du Plessis dropped to 170 pounds, fought in a catchweight bout at 176 pounds, and captured the vacant EFC Worldwide welterweight crown with a submission victory over Martin van Staden. He then returned to middleweight and notched another submission win when he defeated Rafał Haratyk in the main event of EFC Worldwide 56. He returned to welterweight and made a title defense against Mauricio de Rocha Jr. at EFC Worldwide 59 and then shifted back to middleweight once more at EFC Worldwide 62, where he topped Yannick Bahati to become a two-division titleholder. Du Plessis, who has only been competing professionally in MMA since 2013, then leaped to Poland’s KSW organization and stunned Roberto Soldić for the company’s welterweight crown. The Team CIT fighter relinquished the belt when he was finished via strikes in an immediate rematch with Soldić. After adding another knockout win under the KSW banner in September, the 25-year-old “Stilknocks” is back in EFC Worldwide to reassert himself as the undisputed champion. He now has five wins by some form of knockout and eight victories via submission. He has never gone the distance in any of his 15 fights.
Tapout Academy’s Lesar is still very green to the sport of MMA. After posting a perfect mark through four amateur contests, he turned pro with a debut win over fellow rookie Jean-Marie Kabeya at 2016’s EFC Worldwide 47. Lesar then became a contestant on the first season of The Fighter, where he topped three opponents to land in the finals. At EFC Worldwide 66, he won the competition with a decision nod over Ibrahim Mané. This led to a June showdown with the aforementioned McLellan for the middleweight title. The 35-year-old Lesar scored a huge upset with a first-round finish of McLellan.
With his victory over McLellan at EFC Worldwide 80, Lesar demonstrated the old MMA cliche that anything is possible in this sport. Since rolling into the finals of The Fighter, he has now topped the formerly undefeated Mané and a former champ who holds a previous win over his upcoming opponent. Not too shabby. It’s no fluke, either. Lesar packs a lot of power in his punches, and he has decent wrestling abilities and excellent top control.
Du Plessis has been a two-division killer throughout his career. His loss to McLellan came early in his career via guillotine choke, and only Soldić has been able to add another loss to his record. He’s a threat to finish fights anywhere, and he’ll enjoy more than five inches in reach over his opponent.
Lesar has a tendency to get reckless. He’s always hunting for the knockout blow, but he tends to throw single strikes and leave himself open for counters. He also drops his hands as he pursues his opponent, which could leave the proven finisher Du Plessis with plenty of opportunities for a knockdown or knockout. Lesar will also have to be careful if he does change levels or ends up on the ground with Du Plessis, who is pretty successful on the mat for a kickboxer.
After his last two wins, it’s impossible to completely count out Lesar. However, Du Plessis appears to be the better fighter in every realm of the game. Lesar will get tagged when he attempts to surge forward with a haymaker. That’ll be the beginning of the end, with a Du Plessis TKO of Lesar as the most likely outcome.
Other key bouts: Asiashu Tshitamba (4-1) vs. Sylvester Chipfumbu (5-3), Amanda Lino (4-1) vs. Manon Fiorot (1-1), Devon Cronje (4-1) vs. Marino Cutendana (6-3), Roedie Roets (5-1) vs. Serge Kasanda (4-3)
Event Date: Dec. 14
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass, CANAL+
Ildemar Alcântara (26-13) vs. Laurynas Urbonavicius (12-1)
Francis Ngannou’s coach, Fernand Lopez, has a new promotion, aimed primarily at fans in France and Africa. ARES Fighting Championship holds its inaugural event this weekend and features a fairly stacked lineup for a league that’s just getting started. Furthermore, ARES FC will benefit from a live stream available to UFC Fight Pass subscribers. The headliners for the show are light-heavyweight prospect Laurynas Urbonavicius and UFC veteran Ildemar Alcântara.
The 31-year-old Urbonavicius debuted in 2016 and quickly started piling up the wins. The Lithuanian fighter went on a six-fight winning streak before finally facing a setback when he was submitted by Vladimir Filipović. “Captain Lithuania” brushed off the loss and went on another six-fight winning spree. Urbonavicius usually claims his wins via knockout — he has eight total — but he has also submitted two foes. His most notable opponent thus far, outside of the aforementioned Filipović, is Matej Batinić. Urbonavicius was able to submit Batinić in the second round of their encounter in late 2018.
Alcântara, 37, is set to make his 30th pro appearance when he locks horns with Urbonavicius. The Brazilian, who prepared for this fight at the Marajo Brothers academy, is now more than four years removed from his UFC stint. He’s been on the pro circuit since 2005 and had met the likes of Luis “Sapo” Santos, Fabio Maldonado, Gerônimo Dos Santos, Antonio Mendes and Edilberto de Oliveira prior to joining the UFC. Alcântara made his first appearance inside the Octagon at UFC on FX 7, where he defeated Wagner Prado. The Brazilian won three of his next five UFC outings, but a decision loss to Kevin Casey spelled the end of his stay with the promotion. Alcântara’s loss to Casey also marked the beginning of a five-fight skid in which he also suffered losses to future UFCers Luis Henrique da Silva and Markus Perez. He finally righted the ship with a split verdict over Artur Alibulatov, only to falter again in a first-round knockout loss to Magomed Ismailov. Alcântara has since scaled back the level of opposition he’s faced and has picked up four straight wins. His best opponent in this stretch was Maico Machado, who checked in with an undefeated record through four fights.
Alcântara’s recent choice to pad his record with victories over fighters with such unspectacular marks as 2-2, 0-1 and 3-8 is unfortunate. It also signals that the Brazilian might be biting off more than he can chew against his Lithuanian counterpart. Of course, it makes sense that Alcântara would need a boost in confidence following a stretch in which he lost six of seven contests, but the lack of challenges could make Alcântara soft heading into this fight.
Urbonavicius hasn’t exactly feasted on killers himself. The up-and-comer’s last six fights have featured a set of opponents with respective records of 15-13, 2-1, 10-11-3, 0-3, 15-4 and 6-4. Even the one prospect he defeated in that stretch hasn’t exactly impressed lately, with losses in four of his last five and only a victory over a winless foe. Alcântara needed to take a step back up in competition, and this might be the perfect choice for that move. The Brazilian has struggled lately, but he’s fighting an opponent who is likely a tad overrated. Alcântara should become the second fighter to submit Urbonavicius.
Other key bouts: Marcos Breno (12-1) vs. Taylor Lapilus (15-3), Glenn Sparv (21-6) vs. Gregory Babene (19-11), Łukasz Sajewski (14-4) vs. Damien Lapilus (16-12-2), Joanderson Brito (11-2-1) vs. Asikerbai Jinensibieke (19-8), Jonathan Meunier (9-1) vs. Nassourdine Imavov (7-2), Jamila Sandora (5-0) vs. Rizlen Zouak (3-1), Josh Parisian (10-3) vs. Matunga Djikasa (3-1), Baba Boundjou Nadjombe (7-1) vs. Mairon Santos (7-0), Djati Melan (6-0) vs. Eslam Abdul Baset (9-1)
Road Fighting Championship 57: Jung Eun Park (6-6-1) vs. Yuri Shim (5-2) Watch Event: DAZN
Krepost Fighting Championship: Magomed Yunisulau (7-0) vs. Marcos Rodrigues (16-4)
Deep 93 Impact: Koji Takeda (9-1) vs. Juri Ohara (25-17-3) for the lightweight title
Real Xtreme Fighting 37: All Stars: Ion Surdu (8-0) vs. Farzad Ghaderi (15-8) for the welterweight title
|Elias Theodorou vs. Hernani Perpétuo at PFC 12||Theodorou by decision||Theodorou by knockout|
|Scott Askham vs. Mamed Khalidov at KSW 52||Askham by knockout||Askham by decision|
|Tito Ortiz vs. Alberto “Del Rio” Rodriguez at Combate Americas 51||Ortiz by knockout||Ortiz by submission|