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…
Evers Anderson (3-0) vs. Isaiah Gutierrez (5-1)
It’s always slim pickings around the holiday season. Most organizations take the time off to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s rather than promote a fight card. The action is just starting to ramp up once again now, more than a week into 2020, but the lack of many major cards gives us a chance to take a look at some prospects who are still in the very early stages of their careers. This brings us to the 48th edition of Xtreme Knockout and a set of bantamweight title hopefuls in Evers Anderson and Isaiah Gutierrez.
Anderson is getting a late jump on his professional run. He spent nearly four years in the amateur circuit, where he compiled a 7-1 mark. He finally transitioned to the pro ranks in 2018 with a debut victory over winless two-fight veteran James Bruner. “The Mauler,” who is already 34 years old, then made an appearance with the Legacy Fighting Alliance, where he eked out a split decision over the formerly undefeated Devin Miller. The Texas-based bantamweight then returned to XKO in July and earned another split verdict, this time against sub-.500 fighter Omar Benjar. He fights out of Guy Mezger’s Combat Sports Club.
Gutierrez, 27, put together a 4-1 campaign at the amateur level before turning pro in 2014. He’s gone on to register five wins and just one loss, but he has struggled to stay busy, in part due to a number of fights that fell through. His debut victory was a third-round finish of Phat Chau. More than a year later, he slipped past the formerly undefeated Alonzo Jordan via split decision. Another year later, he added his first submission win with a rear-naked choke of David Waters. Another year later, he knocked out Ben Cothran in the first round. The gap between his victories over Waters and Cothran should have been filled with an appearance at the first LFA card, but the fight was scrapped. Instead, Gutierrez finally made his LFA debut in early 2018 with a loss to Kevin Wirth via a third-round head kick. After yet another year away from action, the Travis Lutter protege jumped to Bellator in early 2019 and posted a decision nod over Aaron Vickers. It’s now been roughly 10 months since his last fight.
This is one odd pair. Anderson didn’t jump to the pro level until he was 33. Meanwhile, Gutierrez is maintaining a one-fight-per-year pace. Neither of those routes suggests a quick rise to the UFC, but perhaps one of these two 135-pounders can have a breakthrough year in 2020. Gutierrez has already glimpsed the LFA and Bellator stages, and he’s only suffered one loss along the way. Anderson is still undefeated, and he, too, has made an LFA appearance.
Anderson is a strong wrestler and a very slippery fighter when he ends up on his back. His striking game isn’t overwhelming, but he can hold his own against his current level of competition. The concern here is his tendency to keep fights close. He’s been fortunate to emerge with two split decisions as an amateur and another two as a pro. He needs to polish up his game and focus on showing a clear upper hand in his fights. If not, his good fortunes could run out soon.
Gutierrez was caught off guard by the head kick from Wirth, who has gone on to raise his record to 8-1. Otherwise, the 27-year-old has been perfect at the professional level. He’s also challenged himself with a steady stream of fellow prospects, unlike Anderson, who has seen foes with 0-2 and 3-4 marks. It would be nice to see him fight more often, but his stints with Bellator and the LFA are a good start to increasing his presence within the MMA world.
Gutierrez has a much better finishing rate than Anderson. Anderson can’t even run away with the decision on a regular basis, which is troublesome. Gutierrez is the more proven fighter here, and he should come away with the knockout victory.
Other key bouts: Rainn Guerrero (1-0) vs. Jennifer Hauss Nixon (0-0)
Ayub Gimbatov (9-1) vs. Steven Kennedy (27-10)
The 10th event from Rebel Fighting Championship is by far the biggest regional or international show of the weekend. Several of the fighters from this lineup could be worth a look, but we’ll focus on the middleweight clash between Ayub Gimbatov and Steven Kennedy.
The 29-year-old Gimbatov made his pro debut in 2012 and quickly picked up two victories, but the majority of his resume was compiled between 2015 and 2017. In those years, the Russian added seven wins, suffered one loss, and fought to a no-contest with Musa Conteh. His lone setback came against Artem Frolov, who was still several fights away from becoming an M-1 champion and almost joining the UFC. Gimbatov recovered nicely and was starting to make waves with Fight Nights Global before sitting on the sidelines for all of 2018-19. He’s on a four-fight winning streak that includes first-round finishes in his three most recent outings. His most notable victory came in his most recent fight, a November 2017 affair, where he knocked out UFC castoff Maiquel Falcão. He also holds victories over veterans Pavel Katrunov and Artem Shokalo.
Kennedy, a 36-year-old veteran of 37 fights, steps in to replace Adriano Rodrigues as Gimbatov’s opponent. The Australian fighter has a resume that dates back to a 2008 debut loss to Brett Fitzpatrick. It’s been a roller-coaster ride ever since. Kennedy would win several fights in a row, only to stumble and have his winning streaks come to an end. However, he eventually put together a 22-6 record that prompted a call from the UFC. He made two appearances inside the Octagon in 2015, but both ended in defeat. His most notable wins all came once he departed the UFC. In his first post-UFC bout, he decisioned Brian Ebersole. Next, he submitted Ben Kelleher. In 2019, he added a submission over Ben Alloway. Despite those highlights, Kennedy’s total numbers since his UFC stint are a modest 5-2.
Kennedy is about as grizzled as a veteran comes. “The Steamrolla” has knocked out eight opponents and submitted 13 fighters, but he’s also been tapped on six occasions and suffered two knockout losses of his own. Yet, he’s still a veteran test in line with Gimbatov’s other recent opponents. His recent wins over Ebersole, Kelleher and Alloway also prove that he’s not someone who should be overlooked.
It took a fighter the caliber of Frolov to hand Gimbatov a loss, and it was hardly a runaway win for Frolov. Instead, Gimbatov made it a close contest for the better part of two rounds. Late in the second frame, Frolov found a home for a left hand that dropped Gimbatov. The future M-1 champ then pounced on his opponent and threw a heavy barrage of ground-and-pound for the finish. In every other fight, Gimbatov has been the superior man.
Kennedy is no Frolov. In his most recent outing, a November fight under the UAE Warriors banner, Kennedy was submitted by an opponent who entered the bout with an 8-6 mark. While there’s always a chance that he catches Gimbatov in a mistake and locks in a submission for the finish, it’s far more likely that Kennedy will be outclassed here. Gimbatov has made a habit of stopping opponents early, and another first-round knockout could be in the cards this weekend.
Other key bouts: Abdul Gayirbegov (12-2-1) vs. Italo Ribeiro (8-3-1), Kamil Magomedov (12-2) vs. Asikerbai Jinensibieke (19-8), Shuo Wang (10-3) vs. Aydin Kodekov (6-1) for the bantamweight title, Abusupyan Alikhanov (11-3) vs. Leonardo Sinis (9-4-1), Ali Magomedkhanov (7-0) vs. Ilya Gladkiy (3-2), Glenn Sparv (21-7) vs. Shannon Ritch (57-88), Anvar Alizhanov (8-2) vs. Zaka Fatullazade (14-9)
T.J. Rigel (3-0) vs. Damonte Robinson (5-1-1)
The Iron Tiger Fight Series has established itself as perhaps the best regional promotion in Ohio, and it looks to build on that success in 2020, beginning with its 91st event. The organization serves as a launching pad for emerging talent, and lightweights T.J. Rigel and Damonte Robinson are among the featured set for the first card of the year.
After posting a 6-1 record as an amateur, Rigel turned pro in early 2018. By the end of his first year, he had two decision victories under his belt. In his lone fight of 2019, the 29-year-old added his first stoppage win as a professional. The victory came in his Iron Tiger debut against Jose Martinez, who was undefeated through four fights at the time. Rigel was able to find the rear-naked choke for a submission finish in just 77 seconds.
Robinson is a 24-year-old up-and-comer out of CJT MMA. He was perfect through five amateur contests before making the shift to the pro level in 2016. He debuted at Bayfront Brawl 1 with a second-round submission of sub-.500 fighter Mike Wiseman. Robinson added three more victories, including two finishes, before finally running into a setback. In his third fight with the IT Fight Series, Robinson was submitted via a triangle choke by Devonte Smith, who has since gone on to compete in the UFC. In his next fight, Robinson fought to a draw with Aaron Mitchell. He finally returned to the win column in August when he submitted sub-.500 fighter Travis Hussey in the first round of their IT Fight Series 89 bout.
These two lightweights have shown early promise with solid ammy marks and a strong start to their pro careers. Robinson can’t be faulted for a loss to a future UFCer who is now 2-1 in the Octagon. The draw with Mitchell and a set of wins against opponents with a combined 10-15 record is more troubling. Robinson excels against lesser talent, but he has thus far struggled when confronted with tough tests.
Rigel has plenty of question marks too. He’s still in the very early stages of his career and hasn’t fought any significant opponents at the pro level. As an amateur, he was submitted by Kellen VanCamp, who is now just 3-2 as a pro. Robinson is a great litmus test for Rigel. If the 29-year-old tops Robinson, it could be a sign that he’s one to watch. However, Robinson is no easy out and could slam the gates shut on his less-experienced foe. Robinson has several submissions to his credit already, and Rigel could turn out to be his next victim.
Other key bouts: Mark Martin (3-1) vs. Aaron Highbaugh (8-3), Jacob Miller (5-1) vs. Yemi Oduwole (5-2)
The Best of the Rest
Front Street Fights 21: Elmar Umarov (2-0) vs. William Dunkle (2-1)
Attitude MMA Fights 20: Joshua Weems (5-1) vs. Reginald Adams (5-2) Watch Event: pay-per-view stream on attitudemma.com
Honor Fighting Championship 12: A New Years Revolution: Josh Rohler (6-2) vs. John de Jesus (11-8) Watch Event: Fite TV pay-per-view stream via Combat Press
Last Week’s Scorecard
[Editor’s Note: There was not an Out of Obscurity feature the last two weeks due to a lack of relevant fights. These results are for the Dec. 18 edition of Out of Obscurity.]
Audrey Wolfe vs. Courtney King at Fury FC 41
King by knockout
King by submission
Lucas Corbage vs. Jose Luis Verdugo at Combate 53
Corbage by knockout
Verdugo by knockout
Irwin Rivera vs. Danny Sabatello at Titan FC 58
Sabatello by decision
Rivera by knockout
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