Jamall Emmers (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Out of Obscurity: UAE Warriors 10, LFA 81 and CFFC 81

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…


UAE Warriors 10
Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Event Date: Jan. 31
Website: uaewarriors.com
Twitter: @uae_warriors

Spotlight Fight:
Alan Omer (22-5) vs. Reydon Romero (12-8)

The Professional Fighters League recently announced the launch of an “International Qualifier Series” in which it will award PFL contracts to winners of one-night tournaments held in cooperation with regional organizations. One of those organizations is UAE Warriors. However, that tournament doesn’t come to fruition until March. For the Middle Eastern promotion’s 10th effort, the focus is on a number of veteran combatants. Perhaps the best of these fighters is lightweight Alan Omer, who is set to meet Reydon Romero this weekend.

With 27 fights and a UFC stint under his belt, Omer can hardly be called a prospect anymore. The German fighter debuted way back in 2006, but he’s still just 31 years old. After toiling around the European circuit for years — BAMMA was his biggest stop — the Iraqi-born upstart earned his chance with the UFC. He entered the Octagon with an 18-3 mark, but he exited with two more losses on his record. First, Omer dropped a split verdict to Jim Alers. He was then unfortunate enough to serve as the first UFC opponent for Arnold Allen, who is now undefeated through seven UFC outings. By 2016, Omer was back on the regional circuit, where he has taken on several notable foes. His first post-UFC appearance came with EuroFC and ended in a decision nod over Japanese veteran Hiroyuki Takaya. Omer’s next stop was the Brave Combat Federation, where he submitted fellow UFC castoff Robbie Peralta and knocked out Strikeforce vet Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante. In October, he made his UAE Warriors debut with a 96-second finish of Aidan Aguilera. Omer is a solid finisher with 11 submission and eight knockouts in his career.

Romero has been far less successful overall, but he is a veteran of 20 fights. The Filipino fighter has been competing at the professional level since 2010, when he kicked off his career by winning two contests out of the gates before getting his first taste of defeat. The longtime URCC mainstay has yet to string together more than three consecutive victories. He has shared the ring with the likes of Will Chope, Yojiro Uchimura and PFL veteran Yincang Bao, but he lost all of those fights. Romero, who is currently on a two-fight skid, has six knockouts and four submissions to his name, but his chin has failed him on six occasions.

Omer arguably was short-changed in his UFC tenure. He almost squeaked past Alers and then had to fight a UFC newcomer who is now a legitimate threat in the featherweight division. His post-UFC run is a good indication that he could be a competitive mid-tier fighter with a major organization. As it stands, he’s trying to climb back to the big leagues in a new weight class after spending much of his career at 145 pounds. His last three wins have come at lightweight, and this could be his key to a second chance.

The pairing here certainly doesn’t hurt Omer’s prospects. Romero has failed to notch a win when taking any significant step up in competition. His most notable victories came early in his career against a pair of prospects who quickly flamed out. Further adding to his uphill climb, Romero seems to have a weak chin and an unfortunate knack for taking a beating when on the ground. Omer has the skills to win on his feet or on the mat, but the most obvious path against Romero will be the knockout. Omer should add another win to his current streak.

Other key bouts: Austin Arnett (16-6) vs. Elias Boudegzdame (15-6), Alexandru Lungu (18-5) vs. Roman Wehbe (7-7), Juho Valamaa (15-6) vs. Ahmad Labban (9-3), Cornelia Holm (4-1) vs. Corinne Laframboise (4-3), Isaac Pimentel (16-9) vs. Delfin Nawen (5-1), Omar Hussein (5-1) vs. Vitaliy Stoyan (6-3), Piotr Kuberski (5-1) vs. Ahmed Saeb (3-3)

Legacy Fighting Alliance 81
The Hangar at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Event Date: Jan. 31
Website: lfafighting.com
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @LFAfighting

Spotlight Fight:
Jamall Emmers (16-4) vs. Rafael Barbosa (12-2)

How is Jamall Emmers not already on the UFC or Bellator roster? Well, the answer could lie in his 2018 loss to Julian Erosa on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Barbosa, while never a Contenders Series participant, also seemed quite close to a big-league gig before his most recent fight ended in a split-decision loss to Luis Nogueira. Now, these two featherweight prospects get another chance to make their case for a call-up when they meet in the headlining bout of the Legacy Fighting Alliance’s 81st show.

Emmers made his pro debut in 2012 and went 1-1 through his first two fights before finding his groove and piling up six straight wins. During his streak, Emmers topped Ernest De La Cruz at Legacy FC 17 and took victories at three Best of the Best events to maintain a grasp on the promotion’s featherweight crown. His second career loss came against veteran Rey Trujillo at the fourth Best of the Best show. Trujillo, a Legacy and Strikeforce vet, submitted Emmers in the second round. The 30-year-old then moved to Tachi Palace Fights, where he picked up two victories before joining the Resurrection Fighting Alliance. The Pinnacle MMA product, a natural featherweight, stumbled in his RFA debut, a lightweight title fight against Thiago Moisés. He bounced back upon returning to 145 pounds and fighting Rivaldo Junior at RFA 41. He tacked on a decision nod over current UFC fighter Cory Sandhagen at his first LFA event. After an additional two wins, Emmers suffered the Contender Series setback to Erosa. “Pretty Boy” has rebounded with three additional wins, but he continues to bounce around among a number of organizations between LFA appearances.

Barbosa is just 22 years old, but he has already won 12 pro fights in 14 total appearances. The Brazilian had his first pro fight in 2016 and quickly racked up five wins. His first defeat came in his sixth fight, when he met the far more experienced Max Coga and suffered a submission loss. “Coxinha” bounced back with another seven wins, including notable victories over veteran Carlos Alexandre and fellow up-and-comer Nate Jennerman. He has a somewhat balanced resume that includes five finishes via strikes and three by way of submission. The young fighter is a karate specialist who trains with the Machida brothers.

Emmers, despite nine stoppage victories, tends to be a grinder. His win over Sandhagen, now the No. 4-ranked bantamweight in the UFC, is certainly significant, but it also came against a fighter who does his best work a division below where Emmers resides. A bigger takeaway from Emmers’ resume is his lack of consistency. Every time he gets some momentum going, he runs into a formidable opponent and suffers a setback. His earliest loss came to an 0-1 fighter, but his subsequent defeats have all been registered against solid, veteran competition. Of course, the loss to Erosa had to be the most devastating, given the immediate stakes. Erosa is hardly a scrub, but he fumbled the chance he earned with the victory over Emmers by losing three straight in the UFC.

Barbosa has been a puzzling fighter as well. The Brazilian rolled through Jennerman, a talented fighter in his own right, but then flailed against Nogueira, who was 0-4-1 over his previous five affairs. He’s also had a few golden opportunities slip through his hands via fight cancelations, including an LFA title shot last fall when Barbosa was supposed to fight Tyler Diamond. The close nature of his loss to Nogueira makes it a forgivable stumble that could be somewhat erased with a strong showing against Emmers.

These guys have to be hungry for a shot at the big time. Emmers has put together a solid campaign of recent victories, but that just raises the fear that he might be due for another loss. Barbosa raised expectations with his big win over Jennerman, but he doesn’t have the history to suggest he can plow through Emmers too.

On paper, this is a very competitive fight. Emmers has increased his finishing rate lately, but he also has to be wary of an opponent who can stop the fight with either his fists or a solid grappling attack. Barbosa’s move to train with the Machida brothers has definitely made him into a better fighter, but the recent loss to Nogueira creates some doubts. It’s tough to pick against either fighter, but this might finally be Emmers’ time. He’ll score the TKO over Barbosa.

Other key bouts: Salaiman Ahmadyar (7-1) vs. Jacob Rosales (11-5), Christian Aguilera (12-6) vs. Gláucio Eliziário (9-4), Sam Hughes (3-0) vs. Lisa Mauldin (3-1), Loveth Young (1-0-1) vs. Vanessa Demopoulos (3-1)

Cage Fury Fighting Championships 81
Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pa.
Event Date: Feb. 1
Website: cffc.tv
Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass
Twitter: @CFFCMMA

Spotlight Fight:
Alexander Keshtov (9-0) vs. Herbeth “Índio” Sousa (14-1)

While this week’s featured fighters are a solid group, only one of them is undefeated. Cage Fury bantamweight champion Alexander Keshtov has yet to lose through nine career appearances. Now, at the organization’s 81st event, he’s set to defend his title against Herbeth “Índio” Sousa, who only sports one loss through 15 pro bouts.

Nine fights, nine wins, and almost 11 years as an MMA fighter. Keshtov’s biggest issue is obviously his lack of activity since debuting in 2009. However, the Russian fighter is still perfect, and he hasn’t exactly been fighting tomato cans when he does compete. “AK-47” has an odd career for a Russian fighter. He won his first two pro bouts on the Russian regional circuit, but then hopped to Arkansas for his next victory. After two more wins in his homeland, he traveled to China and then the United States to accumulate his four most recent victories. While he only averages one fight per year, this has more to do with a lengthy hiatus between his two 2009 bouts and his return to the sport in 2014. The K-Dojo Warrior Tribe fighter has made one appearance each in Kunlun Fight, World Series of Fighting Global, Global Proving Ground, Ring of Combat and Cage Fury. He won bantamweight titles under the GPG and ROC banners before grabbing gold in his Cage Fury debut. The 32-year-old has four knockouts and one submission victory. He’s scored wins over Caleb Lally, Billy Giovanella, James Quigg and Andre Bernardo.

Índio debuted in 2012 and worked the smaller shows in the regional circuit of Brazil for the first two years of his career. The 25-year-old took a significant step up when he joined the Jungle Fight organization in 2015. He reeled off three straight wins to earn a shot at the vacant flyweight belt. Sousa stumbled, though, in a decision loss to Paulo Oliveira, who was a mediocre 5-4 at the time and now possesses a 9-5 mark. After a rebound win on the regional circuit and a successful stop with Shooto Brazil, Índio moved up to the bantamweight division for his Future FC debut. The Constrictor Team product scored a first-round submission finish of Glyan Alves and then added another first-round stoppage when he returned at Future FC 7 against Taigro Costa. Sousa has just two knockouts to his credit, but he also possesses an impressive 10 submission victories.

Keshtov has shown promise, but he hasn’t quite taken the next step up in competition. He was set to do exactly that with a November contest against Raufeon Stots, but the bout was scrapped. This makes Índio far and away the toughest opponent yet for the Russian. The Brazilian also excels in an area where Keshtov is perhaps the most vulnerable. Keshtov’s success has been based mostly on his striking, whereas Índio loves to seek out submissions. This fight could be decided by who can dictate where it takes place.

Keshtov still has a lot to prove, and he could finally see him perfect streak snapped against Índio. The Brazilian will target the champ’s neck, and eventually he’ll cinch up the choke to coax the tap and earn the title.

Other key bouts: Pat Sabatini (11-2) vs. James Gonzalez (5-3) for the featherweight title, Kyle Daukaus (8-0) vs. Nolan Norwood (12-5) for the middleweight title, Jasmine Jasudavicius (3-0) vs. Gabriella Gulfin (2-1)

The Best of the Rest

Naiza Fighter Championship 22: Askarbek Khabibullaev (3-0) vs. Nikolay Samusev (4-0)

Road to M-1 USA 4: Michael Lombardo (9-2) vs. Jose Caceres (15-9) Watch Event: UFC Fight Pass

Mongol Fighting Championship 3: Batsumberel Dagvadorj (7-0) vs. Takashi Yamashita (6-5)

HRMMA 114: Nathan Maness (10-1) vs. Kellen VanCamp (3-2) for the featherweight title

Last Week’s Scorecard
Fight Prediction Outcome
Chris Curtis vs. Darren Smith Jr. at Z Promotions Curtis by knockout Curtis by knockout
Koha Minowa vs. Yohei Komaki at Shooto Minowa by submission Minowa by submission
Tatsuki Saomoto vs. Toshihiro Shimizu at ZST 67 Saomoto by decision Shimizu by decision